Dog Behaviour At Christmas
Merry Christmas one and all! The festive season is well and truly upon us and this year, my tips are to help you cope with the process of juggling dog ownership with the big day!
Christmas often brings so much joy and excitement to our families, however it can also be a stressful time managing family dynamics, catering to large numbers and generally staying on top of the household chores. The change in routine can bring about unusual symptoms in your dog’s behaviour.
Here are my top tips on staying ahead of the curve to keep your pups chilled out, safe and happy this Christmas.
A no-brainer! Exercise is good for us and our dogs love it all year-round. But it’s easy to slip off the walkies wagon at Christmas when there is so much to do (and enjoy). You might find that with the jollity of Christmas your dog’s behaviour starts to slide. Ensuring your dog still receives their structured walk routines and free-running time will help keep them relaxed and responsive each day. Not to mention it will help walk off the Christmas pud and combat a few delicious treats along the way. Bonus! If you’re the chef for Christmas day or hosting a big get-together, ask your partner or relative to take over the dog walking duties.
We all love to indulge at Christmas time (pass the mince pies darling!) Most of us will go so far as to treat our pets to a prezzie and something special in their bowl on Christmas day. This is totally fine as a one- off. Make sure what they’re having is dog-safe and in moderation and you won’t go far wrong.
- New treats, overeating and over-excitement can cause your pet to have a bad tummy (worst case scenario – all over your new carpet). Avoid this by making sure family members aren’t secretly sneaking the dog bits of turkey under the table.
- Some foods like Christmas cake, stuffing, gravy, grapes, alcohol, chocolate and mince pies are highly toxic to dogs and can be fatal.
TOP TIP: pop a list on the fridge of all foods unsafe for dogs so Nana and Uncle Dave don’t forget.
BONUS TIP: ensure all chocolate or sweet gifts are well out of your dog’s reach rather than left under the tree.
Recognising Symptoms of Poisoning
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of balance
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Pale gums
- Losing consciousness
- Kidney failure
TOP TIP: ensure you have the address and out of hours emergency telephone number for the nearest vet in your phone.
Your visiting family may be very excited to be around your dog. Perhaps they have brought their own dog to stay for Christmas too. To help this go smoothly, give all dogs a quiet space to retire to. A bed in a quiet area of the house like a spare bedroom or utility room is always helpful to maintain calm behaviour at Christmas. Seasonal festivities can be a sensory and excitement overload. This can cause some pets to feel stressed. Give them an option to maintain some calm elsewhere.
TOP TIP: Encourage children to understand dog body language – “walking away” means the dog would like to be left alone and not be touched anymore.
STATS: There were 8,014 hospital admissions for dog bites or strikes in England in 2018. Hospital admissions as a result of dog bites or strikes rose by 7.4% from 2017 to 2018. Over 12% of attacks occur with children aged 9 and under.
Recognising Symptoms of Stress in Dogs
Signs of stress in dogs can include but are not limited to:
- Excessive panting
- Licking lips and nose repeatedly
- Shaking and cowering
- Looking wide eyed
- Full body shake down (as if drying off from being wet)
- Yawning frequently
- Excessive scratching
Christmas crackers, party poppers and fireworks are all Christmas favourites, but they can cause some dogs distress. Some pets will cope better being kept in a quiet space while you enjoy your Christmas dinner. Playing calming dog music or keeping a radio on for them will help disguise sounds that might be a shock to their system.
Fireworks are now popular at Christmas. Check all garden gates are secured before night time wees and poos. Keeping walks limited to the day will help avoid unexpected bangs and give you the opportunity to get some fresh air with family.
Kids and dogs make Christmas truly magical. If this is your dog’s first Christmas, you might find they experience a lot of excitement. You may see symptoms of excitable barking, zoomies or jumping up. Ask your guests to ignore the dog until they are calm, and reward quietly with a treat or gentle pat on the head. If your guests are unable to follow this instruction, you can try giving your dog some space in another room for a few minutes to relax. If your dog is really not getting the hint, pop them back on a lead. A lead will give you back control until the situation is fully calm once again. Your dog will get the message faster and you will be able to intercept any jumping up at small children or elderly relatives.
If you feel that your dog’s excited behaviours are just too much to handle or are stressing you out, it may be time to speak to a professional. Jarvis Dog Boarding hosts residential training weeks for some of Hampshire’s finest dogs to re-train manners, listening skills, calm behaviour and social skills with other dogs. Get in touch today to book a trial day and see how they get on.
Make good behaviour your dog’s new year’s’ resolution!
Read more about our tailor made residential training programmes here.
About the Author
Jarvis has been training dogs from all walks of life for over 10 years, specialising in companion dogs with poor behaviour, manners and social skills. Residential training programmes are part of the Jarvis Dog Boarding dog hotel; a luxury retreat for Hampshire’s finest hounds.