For us, Christmas is usually a happy time full of love, laughter and happiness – but for our dogs the holiday season can often be a time of unpredictability, change and stress that causes much more anxiety than it does festive cheer. And that can come with a dangerous fallout.
It’s no coincidence that the incidence of dog bites on family members – especially children – rises at Christmas time. In fact, no matter what the weather outside might be, when it comes to potential canine aggression, it is the perfect storm.
To understand this – and prevent it – you need to take a look at Christmas from your dog’s point of view.
What’s it like for them?
First of all, the children are home from school – and stuck mostly indoors because of the weather and short days, so are around the dog far more.
The dog’s usually predictable environment has changed beyond measure. Furniture might well have moved to make room for guests – plus there are decorations, lights, glitter, tinsel – and there is even a tree… Inside the house!
There are unexpected visitors, often children or family members your dog doesn’t know, plus a whole host of couriers and delivery drivers turning up at all hours of the day and often into the evening, which can add to the stress.
The weather is pretty gruesome and the days are short so it’s very possible the dog isn’t getting as much exercise as usual – and so you can add boredom and frustration into the mix as well.
No matter how much people try, they can’t be everywhere and do everything – especially if they have a busy household – and so it can be easy to lose track of where the dog is and what they’re doing.
In reality, most well-socialised family dogs can cope with the temporary craziness of Christmas and the holidays – and many actually enjoy it – but for a surprisingly large number, it’s stressful and worrying. Dogs like predictability and routine, and at this time of year it’s easy for the dog to become under-exercised, over-stimulated, under-supervised and over stressed. It’s easy to see how this can be a Christmas accident waiting just to happen.
Thankfully this is easy to prevent by following the Canine Christmas Code.
The Canine Christmas Code
- No matter how much you need to do in the run up to Christmas, remember that your dog’s needs don’t stop! They still need the same attention, the same amount of exercise and the same quality time with you that they do the rest of the year.
- Try to keep their routine the same as always. It’s easier for dogs to deal with the unexpected if there is as much predictability as possible.
- Make sure your dog gets enough exercise and stimulation, so you’re not adding boredom, frustration and too much canine energy to the craziness of Christmas.
- Supervise the dog at all times – particularly when there are strangers (especially children) in the house.
- Make sure your dog has somewhere quiet to go to if they need a break from the festivities.
- Use baby gates in doorways to keep the dog separate from any situation that is overly stimulating or could cause issues (eating, games, general craziness, people unused to dogs/scared of dogs) but so they don’t feel ‘locked away’ from their family. Avoid FOMO (fear of missing out) – which causes frustration.
- Do not let anyone grab, hug, or play rough with your dog – that includes everyone, but especially children, people the dog doesn’t know, or if alcohol is involved!
It is, however, true that all your dog really wants for Christmas is you. So, make sure that no matter how crazy, lazy or mad Christmas gets, you spend quality one-on-one time with your dog every day. It might just keep you sane until the New Year too!
Looking for more festive advice? We’ve got plenty of tips and tricks to help.