How to Make the Holidays Even More Enjoyable for Your Dogs

How to Make the Holidays Even More Enjoyable for Your Dogs

As humans we often think of the holidays as a chance to see family members that we don’t see often, go to parties and eat festive food. For us this time can be very fun and exciting but it is also typically more hectic. As you celebrate the holiday season, take moment to consider the holidays from your dog’s point of view.

Although we love to invite friends and family we rarely see to our homes during the holidays, many dogs do not share the same enthusiasm for the new visitors. Some dogs are quite social and like to go from person to person to get a quick pet or scratch, but many do not. We often confuse anxiety with “happiness”. If your dog’s face is relaxed and his tail is wagging in a relaxed manner, he may be happy. If your dog’s ears are back, he is panting excessively, licking his lips or seemingly “over excited, your dog may be stressed.

The holidays are not the time to force your dog to interact with new people (unless it is one on one and not overwhelming and done in a calm manner), instead consider leaving your dog in a room that no visitors will enter or sending him to a trusted boarding center. Not only will it be one less thing you have to monitor during the visit, your dog will thank you for helping him avoid unwanted stress.

If you are hosting a party, consider the same thoughts as above but if you plan to attend party or holiday event, consider leaving your pup at home. Once again, there are some dogs that truly enjoy being surrounded by new people (just like some people do), but there are many that get overwhelmed and stressed in this situation.

When I attend a holiday street fair or holiday event where people bring their dogs, 9 out of every ten are showing signs of stress. Sometimes, this stress is mild but other times, the dogs appear to be on the brink of a panic attack and the people that brought them are oblivious! Just imagine that you had to walk through a crowd at a party or street fair and the only thing you could see was feet, knees, trash and anything else that is only a few feet from the ground! These events are not meant for dogs, please leave yours at home.

If nothing else, we LOVE holiday food! The cookies, egg nog, meats and cheeses, pies, rich food… (the list is endless) are one of the best things we enjoy during the holidays. Often, people want to share these delectable foods with their dogs but this can be a very dangerous practice! Obviously there are food that are dangerous for dogs (onions, chocolate, grapes, etc.) but the rich food we eat can send them to the hospital.

As humans, we often experience stomach aches and discomfort when we eat food our body is not used to or when we indulge and eat too much. For your dog, these foods can cause physical illnesses. One example is when dogs eat high fat, extremely rich foods, it can cause pancreatitis which can be mild but can also lead to death. Dogs may also ingest things that can cause a “block” in their digestive tract, which can lead to a surgery or death.

This holiday season, show your dog that you love them by letting them be stress free.

Don’t make them socialize with people they don’t know, let them relax instead of attend and party and keep the festive food treats to a minimum. Not only will your dog thank you for it, you can also avoid taking your dog to the vet on Christmas Eve!

Shannon Coyner

Shannon has been a pet lover all her life and a dog trainer for over 20 years. She has spent her life observing, caring for and training animals of all kinds. She has worked in the Bird Department at Marine World Africa USA, and worked as an handler and trainer for an African Serval Cat at Safari West, a private zoo in Santa Rosa, California. She has participated in behavior studies including observations of bald eagles and addax antelope through the San Francisco Zoo and Safari West.

Her education includes a Biology Degree, specializing in Zoology from Sonoma State. She is a Registered Veterinary Technician, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

Shannon is currently serving as President for the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.

Shannon’s dog training philosophy revolves around force free, positive reinforcement, however, her ultimate goal is for healthy happy relationship between pets and their people. Diet, exercise, environment and training all play a significant role in achieving this goal.

Shannon is currently the owner of Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, CA where she works with anxious and fearful dogs privately as well as teaching agility classes ( Shannon has also started a training website called Truly Force Free Animal Training (

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