Happy Christmas for your dog
Christmas is a fun time for all the family but it can also send stress levels soaring – and not just for two-legged members.
For many dogs, their daily routine is suddenly turned upside down, with the kids on school holidays, family and friends visiting and everyone cooped up under the same roof.
Research has show that the number of dog bites can increase over the festive period – a study in Australia showed the peak number of hospital admissions for bites was over the Christmas break, with New Year’s Day the highest.
It can be hard to restore harmony to the home during this busy time but here is some advice to help make it a happy Christmas for your dog as well as you.
Why do problems happen?
Even the most gentle dog – and child – can get stressed out when things get on top of them. At Christmas, their daily routine changes and their natural environment can be turned upside down. To set the scene, here are just some things that might be different to usual:
Bad weather, time off work and school and family commitments keeps everyone indoors – it can be constantly noisy, hot and stuffy.
Your dog might get less exercise than usual.
The day to day routine is different.
Adults are preoccupied.
Adults have been drinking which means they behave differently and may not supervise as much as they usually would.
A combination of the factors above can lead to problems. Bored children can tease the dog and young visitors to the house, who don’t normally have much contact with animals, might not know how to behave – hugging, dressing them up, chasing them around, telling them off or grooming them. And, with the adults drinking and relaxing, there may not be the usual grown up watchful eye.
Dogs might find themselves constantly surrounded by people with no chance of escape when all they want is to be left alone. With lots of people in the house they might also be fed the wrong food – or sneakily take a bite of something they shouldn’t when no one’s looking.
Ideas to help
There are a few things you can do to try to diffuse any potential situations over the Christmas period:
Give dogs their own space. Dogs that lead quiet lives may not appreciate suddenly having to mix with lots of visitors and they’re probably happier being put in another room for much of the visit. Make sure they’re well exercised first so they can relax and leave them with a toy, like a kong, stuffed with food.
Make sure there’s at least one responsible, sober adult.
Ensure that dogs get time to exercise outside and away from children.
If there are visiting friendly dogs, allow them to play supervised for a while and then give your dog some quiet time alone.
Get the children to think up some rules that will make the dog feel happy at Christmas.