Reducing Your Dog’s Holiday Stress

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Safety

I happen to be a holiday person. My decorations go up right after Thanksgiving and I have multiple trees with different themes and colors. I love the parties, dinners, gift exchanges and get-togethers. I love baking cookies with the kids, hearing my Uncle loudly telling the same stories over and over, and the kids running in and out.

My dogs not so much.

What I have come to realize is that my dogs don’t appreciate all the chaos and hustle and bustle that I do. They just want to hide under the covers and come out in mid-January.

So I have become very in tune to their signs of stress so that the whole family – human, feline, and canine — doesn’t become overwhelmed by the holidays. Important cues you should look for include:

  • Shivering (not from cold temperatures)
  • Growling and snapping
  • Stiff wagging tail
  • Cowering or tail tucking
  • Hiding
  • Pacing

Solutions to Help Your Dog De-Stress

  • Plan ahead. You know your dog’s better than anyone. If they don’t enjoy noise or extra children, create a safe haven for them somewhere in the house with a cozy bed and their favorite toys. Many dogs like the comfort of their crates because they feel secure.
  • No temptations. Even if your dog doesn’t steal food off the counter at any other time of the year, be careful to put all holiday foods as far away from the counter edges as possible. You never know when he will take up counter surfing! Certain holiday foods such as grapes, raisins, and chocolate can be toxic. Talk to your guests about what kind of “people foods” you do or do not feed your dog’s so they don’t slip them treats under the table.
  • Know a 24/7 vet in your area. Research reports there is a 10% increase in foreign body ingestion claims over the holidays (average visit costing $1,400) and 24% more toxicity costs (average cost $400). It’s important to know a vet clinic that has emergency hours.
  • Proper Identification. In the unlikely event your dog escapes out the door in the confusion, make sure he has current identification tags.
  • Calming aids. There is a wide assortment of natural calming sprays, thunder-shirts, and pet rescue remedies that could help take the edge off your pet.
  • Exercise. Although fitting in a daily walk may be harder, your dog needs exercise and mental stimulation, especially if he is getting extra treats. Not only will walking your dog reduce his stress level–it will reduce yours, too.

A long-lasting bone or chew toy in a safe space may be just the ticket to relaxation your dog needs. Or try a dog massage – this video will give you some great tips.

Please be careful of giving a puppy as a holiday gift. There is a huge surge of dogs being given away and dumped at shelters after the holidays. Although initially a puppy may seem like a fun, they are a lot of work and responsibility.