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.
Don’t Force Your Dog to Socialize
With all of the dogs and people I have worked with, I have never met a bad dog, and I have never met a bad person. I have met many dogs that exhibit bad or inappropriate behavior, and I have met many people who don’t know what to do in those situations. I often compare it to a parent who has a child that had severe ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, or another brain disease. The parents are not bad because they have these children. They just need help figuring out how best to help their children. Asking for help is hard to do, but it is the best thing to do when you love your dog or child.
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, 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, but your dog will also thank you for helping him avoid unwanted stress.
Consider Leaving Your Dog Home
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 10 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.
Holiday Food Isn’t For Dogs
If nothing else, we LOVE holiday food! The cookies, eggnog, 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 foods that are dangerous for dogs (onions, chocolate, grapes, etc.) but the rich food we eat can also 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, from mild to life-threatening. 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.
Let Them Be Stress Free So You Can Be, Too
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 attending a party, and keep the festive food treats to a minimum. Not only will your dog thank you for it, but you may also avoid taking your dog to the vet on Christmas Eve!
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