Home for the Dog-Friendly Holidays

How to keep your pet on an even keel when life is 
thrown off-kilter.


Dogs like things predictable, and the holidays are anything but. The schedule a dog depends on gets changed around, people he hasn’t seen for a while come by and “set off” the doorbell, and the Amazon delivery guy keeps returning even though he yells at him to stay away.

The joy of the season doesn’t make up for these changes. Remember, your dog doesn’t know what a holiday is. He can’t ascribe the meaning to it that people can. He’s just confused that once a year, you bring in a piece of the “forest” and set it in a stand with lights and glittery stuff all over it. Kind of interesting to sniff — weird to look at. Here’s how to make his holiday experience a good one — and a safe one!

Remind guests that your dog is not public property

For dogs who are thrilled to have visitors, lots of petting and other interactions will be a delight. But many dogs are shy or anxious — or downright unnerved by a lot of hubbub. If that’s the case with yours, let visitors know in advance of their arrival that they should not go to pet the dog. Better in such cases to treat the dog more like a cat, and let him make a social advance if and when he wants. Also, arrange a space or a room away from the action where the dog can hang out with his favorite toys, far from the madding crowd. The holidays are a good rationale for having an unlocked crate with soft cushions that the dog can retreat to yet still watch the activity if he wants.

As much as possible, stick to the schedule

You’re shopping, you’re cooking, you’re entertaining, or you’re away from the house being entertained. But to the degree possible, walk and feed your dog at those times of day that you normally do. You can even use those walks as your own pressure relief valve when you need a break from being with people.

Keep a close eye on treats

It’s understandable that you want your dog to be able to “join in” the festivities and therefore want to feed him delicious table scraps and other goodies. But many of the dishes served and the snacks brought by guests are loaded with fat, and too much fat in food can trigger pancreatitis in a dog. It’s a lifethreatening disease in which pancreatic enzymes start eating away at the pancreas itself. Christmas week is one of the top three holiday weeks (along with Thanksgiving and Easter) during which dogs are taken to the emergency room.

Give your dog a couple of table scraps over the holiday if you’d like.  But don’t let him partake in several days’ worth of leftovers. Furthermore, make clear to guests that they are not to give the dog any food without your say-so! You’ll never be able to keep track of how much gravy- and oil-laden goodies he eats if everyone in his presence gives in to his pleading eyes.   

If there are very young children around, it becomes particularly important to make sure that pieces of food inadvertently dropped on the floor while they are running around get picked up.

“We” time

Even dogs who enjoy a lot of activity and commotion need some of their regular time just with you — outside of walks. Whether you tend to sit with your dog on the couch every day for a little while or toss a toy for him, try to make a little time for that between shopping, cooking, and cleaning up.

A gift

Your dog may not know the meaning of Christmas, but he knows what it means when everyone other than him gets something special in a brightly wrapped package. Dogs like nothing more than being “in.” If you can wrap an inexpensive toy for him and give it to him when everyone else gets their gift, it should make him really happy.


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