Happy holidays, everyone! The countdown to the most wonderful time of the year has begun. However, with the holiday season comes a whirlwind of stress, whether it’s last-minute shopping, preparing to host family gatherings, or just the chilly weather keeping you and your pup indoors.
Our partner, Helen St. Pierre, professional and certified dog trainer as well as the owner of No Monkey Business Dog Training in Concord, NH, shares her wisdom on Happy Holiday Manners for your furry friends. Let’s dive into some tips that will help your whole family enjoy a peaceful and joyful holiday season.
Tip 1: Recognize Holiday Stress
Drawing on over 20 years of dog training experience, Helen highlights the importance of recognizing the signs of holiday stress in both dogs and their human companions. She explains that holiday stress can manifest as anxiety in dogs, often mirrored by their owners. Signs to watch out for in your pup include excessive barking, restlessness, or withdrawal. Helen emphasizes the significance of addressing these issues to ensure that the holidays are enjoyable for everyone.
Tip 2: Maintain a Routine
Helen underscores the value of routines for dogs during the holiday season. She explains that dogs thrive on consistency, even when faced with the disruptions that come with holiday travel and festivities. To help your pets feel more at ease, it’s essential to stick to their regular feeding and exercise schedules. If you’re hosting guests, Helen recommends creating a designated quiet space where your dog can retreat if they become overwhelmed, providing them with a safe haven during the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings.
Tip 3: Interactive Play
Interactive play keeps dogs happy and entertained during the holidays. Helen suggests that activities like hide-and-seek, puzzle toys, or a game of fetch can be a fantastic way to bond with your dog and alleviate their holiday stress. These activities provide mental stimulation and help keep your dog engaged, which is particularly valuable when outdoor play is limited due to cold weather.
Tip 4: Exercise and Fresh Air
It is important to provide your dog with exercise and fresh air during the holiday season. Helen highlights the significance of taking your dog for regular walks and outdoor play, even in cold weather, provided that they are appropriately dressed for the conditions. In cases where extended walks are not feasible due to cold temperatures, Helen suggests taking short but frequent outdoor breaks, utilizing this time to reinforce good behavior with treats and positive reinforcement.
Tip 5: Mindful Celebrations
Ensure that your dog feels included and safe during holiday gatherings with family and friends. Helen recommends being mindful of the impact of festivities on your dog and establish house rules for your guests to ensure respectful interactions with your pup. Monitor your dog’s behavior closely and recognizing signs of stress is vital. If stress becomes apparent, Helen advises providing your dog with a quiet space away from the festivities to help them relax and regain their composure.
Tip 6: Set Realistic Expectations
It’s essential to set realistic expectations during the holidays, both for your dog and yourself. As Helen points out, our own emotional memories and holiday traditions can influence what we expect from our furry companions. It’s important to recognize that not all dogs are comfortable in every holiday scenario. Your dog’s individual needs and temperament should guide your decision to include them in gatherings. If your dog is better off sitting some holiday activities out, don’t feel guilty about it. Your dog’s well-being should be a top priority.
Tip 7: Preparation and Practice
Preparation is key to ensuring a stress-free holiday for your dog. If you’re hosting guests or attending gatherings, create a designated break space or a relaxing spot for your dog. This can be a room with a baby gate, an exercise pen, or even a comfortable corner of a room. The goal is to provide your dog with a safe and quiet area where they can observe the festivities without feeling overwhelmed. Practice having your dog spend time in this space before the holiday events to make them more comfortable when the time comes.
Tip 8: Enhance Your Dog’s Playtime
Spice up your dog’s playtime with some engaging toys. Mother Nature’s snuffle mat is a favorite of Helen’s due to its versatility. Whether it’s leaves, snow, or your own lawn, it’s a sure way to keep your dog engaged. Additionally, consider West Paw toys, known for their sustainability and innovative designs. They offer a range of enrichment toys that can delight your furry friends during the holiday season. You can even fill them with creative recipes, such as a mixture of applesauce and mashed bananas topped with kibble, yogurt with peanut butter and honey, or scrambled eggs. Experiment with different combinations to keep your pup entertained.
Tip 9: Children and Dogs
If children are part of your holiday celebrations, it’s crucial to be aware of your dog’s comfort level around kids. Some dogs are not used to children and may feel uneasy in their presence. As a Family Dog Mediator and a licensed presenter for kids and dogs programs, Helen emphasizes the importance of preparing your dog for interactions with children. Ensure that both your dog and the kids are comfortable and safe during holiday gatherings. Always supervise interactions and provide a designated space for your dog to retreat to if they need a break.
These tips will help you navigate the holiday season with your furry friend, ensuring a stress-free and enjoyable time for both you and your dog. By setting realistic expectations, preparing in advance, offering interactive toys, and considering the presence of children, you can create a harmonious holiday atmosphere for everyone involved. Happy holidays to you and your beloved pup!