Ensure that Christmas is fun for all the family

Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year, with decorations, sparkly lights, friends, family and lots of food! But what do our dogs think of it all?

Some may enjoy the activity and helpings of turkey, whereas some may struggle, especially if they are anxious and don’t cope well with change. It is therefore really important to be fair to our dogs, especially puppies or rescue dogs that may not have experienced a Christmas in your home:

* Introduce things slowly and appreciate that your dog is likely to want to go and investigate them, even the Christmas Tree! If the item is valuable or dangerous keep it out of your dog’s reach.

* Ensure that your dog is given time and space away from the chaos. Preferably in a place where they usually go to relax.

* There may be lots of excited children who are staying for longer than usual. Baby gates can be a helpful tool, to ensure your dog is able relax, without feeling excluded from the fun. Visiting children must be given rules about how to interact safely with your dog, as it may be different from the way they interact with their own pets.

* Ask visitors to be calm on greeting your dog. Avoid high energy play in order to keep your dog's arousal levels low. Using activity feeders, Kongs or scent games (scattering your dog’s food around, so he has to find it) can help to keep your dog entertained, especially during Christmas dinner!

* A routine offers predictability and if this is lost your dog may become anxious. Try to be patient with them and stick to their usual walks and feed times where possible.

* Be sensitive to dogs who struggle with noise and ensure that bangers and party poppers (and certain toys!) are kept away from your dog.

* If your dog is struggling with any aspects of Christmas, pop them somewhere they can relax such as an upstairs bedroom or in the car. Alternatively take them for a walk. You may also enjoy a minutes peace!

* Juggling excited kids, crazy grandma and the Christmas pudding, often means that you are more anxious or frustrated than normal and your dog will pick up on this! With the extra visitors and the displacement of their usual resting places, your dog’s toleration to situations may be reduced and so watch for signs of stress and help them out. Signs of stress include:

- Not eating normally

- Loose bowels or toileting in the house

- Hiding away or being more clingy to you

- More vocal

- Yawning, lip licking, quivering

- Panting, seeming restless

If you are at all concerned about what to do in your particular circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to help.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

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