Five expert tips to keep your dog happy at Christmas

Christmas is a magical time for the whole family but it can so often become a somewhat manic time full of novelty, changes of routine, fireworks and endless visits from friends and family.

While we enjoy this as just a part of the festive season, for our dogs this can be a bewildering time full of potential stress and anxiety where their predictable world changes – and their behaviour suffers as a result.

That’s why, with the help of tails behaviourist Carolyn Menteith, we have five tips to have to manage your dog’s behaviour over the festive season, so that Christmas remains a fun enjoyable holiday for you and your four-legged friend.

Keep their routine as normal as possible

Christmas can completely change not only your routine but your dog’s routine as well, so despite the festivities, it’s important to try and keep as many things as predictable as possible, to help your dog feel more secure and settled.

Dogs find comfort in a predictable routine, and so keeping meal times, exercise and other activities on the same schedule as usual, despite all the commotion, is the key to having a happy pup this Christmas.

Although our canine companions are able to adjust their routine over time such as when the clocks go back, sudden change, coupled with all the unusual sights, sounds and novel experiences Christmas brings, can cause dogs to feel stressed, worried or anxious.

If everything else in their life is usual and predictable, they are far more likely to be able to deal with the unusual.

Give them a safe space retreat away from house guests

Christmas often sees visitors to your house that your dog might not know – and might not feel comfortable with.

Even dogs that love being around new people can become overwhelmed by too much attention, too much noise or just too much environmental stimulation.

Which can lead to unwanted behaviours.

Therefore, it is important to provide a safe space away from the busy festivities that will give them a chance to relax.

Make sure that your dog can access this area wherever they please, as well as have the option to join the party again when they are feeling more comfortable.

Feeling like they are locked away from you and other people in your household could lead to anxiety, stress and frustration.

Make sure you make this sanctuary comfortable, with a supply of fresh water and home comforts including blankets and safe toys that will help them feel comfortable and fully relaxed.

Pay them plenty of attention – with parties in full swing, it is easy to get caught up in conversations or festive games with friends and family, but that doesn’t mean that your furry friend should be forgotten about.

Don’t forget that your dog is part of the family too, so take time away from your guests to spend time with your dog – whether taking them out for a walk, playing games, or just relaxing together.

When your dog is in a party mood, keep an eye on them all the time to make sure they are happy with your guests – and that your guests are behaving appropriately towards them.

If games are getting too rough or your dog looks overwhelmed, encourage them to go back to their safe space.

Make sure they get enough exercise

Making sure that your dog gets enough exercise on Christmas Day and over the festive period is important in keeping them calm and relaxed – as nothing makes for a crazy Christmas canine as too much energy and frustration.

Not only is taking your dog for a walk a great way to interact with them and have fun but the fresh air and ability to run around will also help keep their bodies and minds stimulated, which means they are more likely to stay calm around guests and take all the novelty of Christmas in their stride.

And don’t forget, an extra walk, for all the family on Boxing Day, is a great way to walk off all the excesses of Christmas Day.

Home alone at Christmas time

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you are off the hook as a dog owner.

If you are going to be out of the house for longer than usual for parties or family visits, make sure you think about your dog.

If they are unused to being left or worry about being ‘home alone’, try to find a friend or family member who can stay with them – or at least pop in to take them out and give them some company.

If they do suffer from separation-related issues, it might be better to host people at your house, as adding the stress of being left into the Christmas mix can just be all too much for your dog and their behaviour can suffer as a result.

All I want from Christmas…

While it’s tempting to buy your dog a whole host of Christmas presents, it is important to remember that what is important to your dog is you.

Make sure you make this sanctuary comfortable, with a supply of fresh water and home comforts including blankets and safe toys so they feel happy and relaxed.

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