Festivities and your dog
It is nearly Christmas and my thoughts often start to dwell on dogs at this time. Christmas can be exceedingly difficult for dogs as there can be so much going on.
We all get caught up in preparations for events such as friends and relatives visiting, and become busy with parties and social occasions, we set about buying food and presents and putting up decorations as well as other general hubbub and excitement.
Think of this from your dogs’ point of view. He doesn’t know it is Christmas and this time of year is such a radical change from normal, and it must seem very alien. Change of routine is always unsettling for and stressful for dogs.
The differences include the fact that we are around the house more during holiday times and there is far more food around, and in particular really great smelling food –and lots of chocolate! People also think they are being kind by buying presents for dogs, and at Christmas more than at any other time, it is really important to take care of your dogs’ diet and wellbeing.
Here are a few pre- Christmas thoughts as we all start to prepare for this frantic and fairly stressful time of year, and a reminder to keep things a normal as possible for your dog.
If you have a new rescue dog or a puppy of a year or under, please consider the following advice. If you really want to put a tree up, then do it gradually. This allows the dog/ puppy to become accustomed to the new thing in the house. If you bring a bare tree in to your house (either real or artificial) just hold off decorating it for a day so your dog can investigate it. Then gradually put the baubles on and add the additional things over several days.
I have lost track of how many times people have told me that the dog destroyed the tree/ ate the baubles/ peed near or around the tree. This is because bringing something as obvious and new into your house that has a scent history can cause anxiety or excited reactions from a dog. If you do it slowly problems can be avoided.
As children I think we all were made to wear stuff we weren’t keen on, including things that were scratchy and uncomfortable. I know I was told that I had to wear the dress, my hair up in bunches, or the particular shoes for many reasons, but this didn’t make any difference, I hated wearing dresses for one thing (still do!) and I hated feeling stupid.
So, I used to put up with the clothes or discomfort and take them off at the earliest possible opportunity.
Our dogs are likely to feel exactly the same about costumes. If you look carefully at pictures of dogs wearing antlers or Christmas costumes, you will often see them looking depressed or uncomfortable.
Don’t forget that antlers made for dogs are often cheap, they don’t fit flush to the dog’s head and after a while must pinch and be uncomfortable.
Just in case you think this is a bit pedantic do look carefully at where the points of any “antlers” rest, they are often sitting on the joint that operates the dogs jaw, the temporomandibular joint. This joint is very important and if it is impaired and becomes irritated and damaged it can cause loss of function, nerve pain and impact on balance.
Costumes are the same they can be restrictive and not designed for the dogs that are wearing them. If you think your dogs “love” them, then fine, I am just asking you to think carefully before you ask your dog to wear these things.
Please don’t add additional stressors into your dog’s life at this time of year.
Remember it is your dogs’ home as much as it is yours
Visitors are not always as accommodating as you might be, so please do not allow guests to tell you how your dog should behave and don’t let them suggest that they should sit on your dog’s favourite place on the sofa. It is not fair if your dog is demoted by guests and visitors. Neither should guests be insisting that your dog does tricks, sits or obedience training.
Let your dog have a place of sanctuary
Don’t expect your dog to “be social” and stay in the same room continually with guests. If your dog is uncomfortable or feels like he needs a bit of space then please provide a quiet place that he has free access to. He should be left undisturbed until he is ready to re-join you. If children are present, please put a visible boundary a few feet away from his bed/ area (such as a line of duct tape) and tell them that they must not step over this boundary to reach your dog.
Keep to a normal diet
Things can be added into normal food like bits of turkey, freshly cooked vegetables and maybe some roast potatoes but don’t over- do this. Rich food is no better for our dogs than it is for us.
Treats and presents should be vetted by you
If people give you stockings and presents for you dog, which include highly coloured raw hide chews moulded into candy canes and boots, please put them in the bin at the first possible moment! These kinds of treats are loaded with chemicals and toxins and originate from China which does not have the best track record of producing healthy food for dogs.
Other Christmas novelty foods including “doggy mince pies” and other forms of selection boxes packed with dog junk food which should also go in your bin! If you want to buy your dog some treats there are some really ethical companies that now provide good quality ones, or better still make them yourself.
Don’t forget that Xylitol is extremely toxic and found in many cheap peanut butters as well as many other human foods it is best to read the list of ingredients on the back of foods if only E numbers are used xylitol is E967.
Walks should still be for your dog
Every Boxing Day and New Years’ day there are often hordes of people out for a walk. Many people think it is fun to organise huge festive walks. If you have a puppy or newly rehomed dog or just know your dogs won’t enjoy these walks please decline the invite. These can be really stressful for your dog, especially if your dog is not normally walked with more than a few dogs. Make sure you keep to normal daily walks where your dog can sniff, explore, pick up his pee mails and just spend some time with you.
If you are accompanied on your walks by children don’t let them hijack your dog and run around towing your dog behind them. Neither should children be allowed to interfere with your dog and try and teach him tricks. Please carefully monitor any situations where dogs and children are together especially if they are not used to being together ….dogs are not playthings.
Don’t leave your dog alone for hours while you are visiting friends/family
Sometimes it is necessary to leave our dogs alone, but they should not be left for extended periods of time because we are visiting relatives and friends, this is as stressful as a house full of people. Please make arrangements for your dog and either make regular visits to let your dog out for regular toilet breaks or find someone that can do this for you. Isolation is just as bad for our dogs as having to cope with a house stuffed full of people.
Written by Project Galgo Patron, Pennie Clayton