Reducing Your Dog’s Holiday Stress
The holidays are almost here!
That means hustle and bustle. Late nights out and later mornings in. Hosting and attending parties. Fun with friends and family. Extra time off work. Shattered schedules. And your dog, being the gregarious gal that she is, is in the middle of it all.
Dogs enjoy the holidays as well. They get to spend more time with their humans. They get to meet new people, maybe spend time with some different children, and experience excitement from their humdrum days.
But for as fun as it can be for dogs, it can also be stressful. Most people follow something of a routine. Our dogs are happy to adapt to our routines. After awhile, they grow to expect their routines. And when their routines are upset—especially if the change is dramatic and/or extended—our dogs can get stressed.
If you manage just a few situations, you can reduce your dog’s stress and make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.
Keep to your dog’s schedule.
If you feed and walk your dog on a set schedule, try to keep to that schedule. Like people, some dogs are more set in their schedules than others. But if your dog is so accustomed to eating at 7:00 am, that if you forget, at 7:05 she’s she’s looking at you with an accusing glare through slit eyes wondering where her food is, then you should make it a point to feed her at 7:00 am. Get up, feed her, walk her or let her out, then go back to bed if you want to, but make her routine a priority.
Same thing with walks. If the 5:30 walk with your dog when you get home from work is a mainstay for her, it’s probably a highlight of her day and she wants that walk. She also needs that walk. Dogs are good are timing potty breaks to our convenience, but if they’re trained to know they can relieve themselves at certain intervals, you need to respect that. It’s much easier on your dog and reduces the chance of accidents.
Many people have a different schedule for days their off work than they do on workdays, and our dogs adapt to that as well. If you have one schedule 5 days per week, and a different schedule 2 days per week, dogs somehow seem to know that. Don’t keep to your off-work schedule for too many days in a row, or your dog may think that’s the “new norm” and getting her back to a workday schedule may cause problems for you both.
Give your dog a safe zone.
Dogs know when all the excitement is getting to be too much for them and they need a place to go that is familiar, quiet, and where they can be left alone. Dogs are very much creatures of habit. If the quiet environment they’re used to with you and your spouse is invaded by your children and grandchildren, your dog will enjoy it for awhile—but it will likely be too much for her long before the visit is over.
If your dog is crate-trained, put her crate in an out-of-the way place. If not, take her bed and water bowl and put them where she can have some quiet time, and make sure she knows where it is. And just as important, make sure all the people in the house know that when the dog is in her quiet place, she is not to be disturbed. She’ll come back out and join the excitement when she’s ready.
A special note about children.
Although dogs and children present a common picture and often get along well, not every dog does well with every child. If you have friends or family coming over and they’re bringing children, and your dog is not used to children, supervise the time they spend together. If the child is annoying the dog, and the child is too young (or unruly) to understand he should stop bothering the dog, put the dog in her quiet place or outside in the fenced yard (weather permitting). It may seem a little unfair since the child is the interloper in the dog’s house, but it’s better than having the situation escalate to the point the dog, the child, or both are injured.
Holiday times are special times. By taking just a couple of precautions, you and your dog can both enjoy all the magic of the holidays in a relaxed, happy way.