For many of us, Christmas is a time of joy. A time to kick back, see family and enjoy a slower pace of life. We have fun decorating our homes, eating and drinking more than we should and having a well-earned lye-in. For our dogs, it can just be confusing. If you share your life with a confident, happy go lucky sort of dog he may not seem fazed by the changes, but for sensitive dogs, problems often occur. At best he will be a little stressed, at worst it can lead to major problems for you, your family and your dog. Take care to “think canine” to lessen the likelihood of holiday dramas.
Changes in the Environment
Christmas trees, decorations and dangerous lights festoon our homes at this time of year. We have all seen and giggled at the social media posts about trees supposedly fainting or dogs who marvel at suddenly having an indoor toilet. These additions can, of course, be dangerous if not deadly to our pets. So be hazard aware and take steps to ensure your dog doesn’t ingest anything he shouldn’t like chocolates or glass baubles from the tree. Think also about the reduction of space a nervous dog now might have if your living room is further restricted by a tree and you fill the area with unfamiliar people all celebrating the Yule tide. Dogs can get very nervous of people under the influence of alcohol too as they tend to act differently.
Changes to Routine
More often than not dogs thrive on routine; some can get very distressed if there are sudden changes to this. Try as much as you can to keep meal and walk times the same throughout the Christmas period, and if that isn’t possible be empathic to his anxiety.
Visiting humans and non-humans i.e. other people’s dogs, can be extremely challenging for our pooches. Take steps to introduce everyone carefully, on neutral ground, and make provision in the house for your dog and visitors to have time apart. Get your dog used to being behind a dog gate or crate, or better still have the visiting dog spend time in their own crate. This is handy for when you can’t pay strict attention to both. Be aware of flashpoints, narrow doorways, people getting up or re-entering a room, around food and toys etc. Keep small children under tight supervision at all times when near a dog they are unfamiliar with. Things can happen in a split second so never leave your nervous dog alone in a room with anyone they don’t know well. Better to call him to you and take him with you if you have to attend to something in another room.
Not only can walk times be different but you will notice a lot more people out and about for a stroll. They can often be accompanied by unruly dogs you have never seen in your area before. These might be visiting dogs but could also be those whose owners rarely walk them. They can be excitable and disobedient so be careful to spot the signs and protect your dog from unwanted attention.
We might also be tempted to walk further than usual as we have more time. Just like us if we exercise more, dogs can become stiff and sore after increased exercise, especially if they are older or have hip or other orthopaedic issues. He might even slip and injure himself if the conditions are wet and muddy. If your dog seems out of sorts or growls at you after a long walk, don’t assume he is just being difficult; pain will most likely be a contributing factor.
We all want a happy, relaxing Christmas and with a little foresight and preparation, there is no reason this can’t happen. Planning is key, so as well as writing down your list to Santa this Christmas, why not jot down a wish list for your dog.
Animal Behaviourist, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, Real Dog Yoga Instructor & Author
Toni has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK.
In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
Over the last two decades, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust's international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and blogs. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with co-author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled HELP! My Dog is…. Titles include, HELP! My Dog's Scared of Fireworks, HELP! My Dog doesn't Travel Well in the Car, HELP! My Dog is Destroying the Garden and HELP! My Dog has a Canine Compulsive Disorder. All are available in paperback and eBook format on Amazon. Toni and Karen have many more titles planned under the banner of Skinny Dog Books – named as they both own sighthounds and the books are small and concise.