We all know how things get very busy before Christmas and during the festive season. There are lots of preparations for events such as friends and relatives visiting, and we become busy with parties and social occasions, we set about buying food and presents, and decorations are put up, 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. Any change of routine is always unsettling and stressful for dogs.
The differences include the fact that we are around the house much more during holiday times (especially if the weather is bad) and there is far more food around, particularly sweet foods –including lots of chocolate. People also think they are being kind by buying presents for dogs, and at Christmas, more than 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.
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 push your dog off of his favourite sofa or resting places. It is not fair if your dog is demoted by guests and visitors.
Let your dog have a place of sanctuary
Don’t expect your dog to “be social” and stay in the same room continually with everyone. If he is uncomfortable or feels like he needs a bit of space then he must have a quiet place where he is allowed to go and relax. This should be a place where he is 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 the dog.
Keep to a normal diet
Things can be added into his your dogs “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 quietly put them in the bin at the first possible moment! These kinds of treats are loaded with chemicals and toxins and are normally made in 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 and should all go in your bin. With this in mind I went to a big pet store today to do a bit of research and I can honestly say there was nothing “Christmas themed” in the aisles that I would have considered buying for my dogs. In fact there were two entire shelves full of different types of rawhide. ( Don’t forget that Xylitol which is found in cheap brands of peanut butter and many other food products is highly toxic to dogs, check that foods that you give (including peanut butter) don’t contain this dangerous ingredient- check the E numbers, xylitol is E967)
Walks should still be for your dog
I have often come across hoards of people out for a Boxing day walk. If your house is full many people who want to meet up and organise communal festive type walks you have the choice of declining. Why would you decline this invite?
The main reason is that these kinds of get togthers 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 your 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 don’t let children hijack your dog by trying to play games with him. Dogs are not toys. If your dog is used to children then you can use your discretion but don’t be afraid to tell children to stop if you feel your dog had enough. Neither should “Show and tell “ type obedience tricks be part of your dogs’ schedule to entertain guests, children should be taught to respect dogs ….they are not playthings.
Don’t leave him alone for hours while you are visiting friends/family
Conversely it is not good for your dog to be left for extended periods of time because you are out visiting relatives and friends. Please make arrangements so that he can stretch his legs and have a pee . Isolation is just as bad for our dogs as having to cope with a house stuffed full of people.
Christmas trees are not all good
Christmas trees can be very enticing for old and young dogs alike. It is best to avoid chocolate tree decorations. The chocolate used for these decorations is unlikely to contain much cocoa but it is better to be safe than sorry.
It is also good practice to cover any exposed plugs, check that the water that sits at the base of a “real” tree can’t be reached, and be careful of the needles. All of these can be hazardous to dogs.
Good gifts for dogs
So going back to treats what do make good presents?
Cows ears-less fatty than cows ears.
Pizzles-good for chewing.
Paddywack, moon bars, and tripe sticks, in fact any good natural dog treats are great for your dog
(By the way windpipes/gullets or any part of animal necks should not be fed because there is a possibility that tissue from the thyroid gland may still be present. Thyroid tissue contains thyroxine and if absorbed into your dog’s body will remain active).
Natural rawhide-this is white and comes from the UK-if you are not sure where to get this try The Natural Pet Pantry www.nuturethemnaturally.co.uk.
Save cardboard boxes and loo rolls and any cardboard tubes as these make great things to hide treats in. Kongs are always good things to have around too (did you know dogs love black pudding in kongs?!) and of course your dog may really appreciate a Bowen treatment.
Bowen is a super de stressor and can be used as part of helping your dog not just with injuries and aches and pains, but has a big impact on stress.
If you are interested in Bowen for you and your dog contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I work throughout Christmas and New Year!