4. How to Celebrate Holidays With Your Dog - How Your Dog Views a Holiday
While fireworks, alcohol, and lots of friends running in and out of your home may be your idea of a great holiday celebration, to your pet it can be a time of confusion and fear.
Strange noises and disruptions are always a stressful matter for your dog, and rather than enjoying each holiday he may in fact become very distressed during them. If careful precautions are not taken, a holiday to your dog can be:
- disruptive to his schedule
Fortunately, there are steps you can take, as well as actions you can avoid, to ensure that your pet is kept safe and happy during each holiday of the year.
Consider the elements of a holiday that you enjoy, such as more free time, great food, and a little bit of “play” time. This is exactly what a great holiday represents for your dog, although his definition of each may be a bit different from yours.
Common Holiday Mistakes that Dog Owners Make
It can be quite easy to get become preoccupied with your holiday preparations. Your schedule can change quite a bit when a holiday approaches due to all of the necessary shopping, party planning, visitations, events, etc. Your pet's schedule, too, may change quite a bit.
To him, however, this change is unexpected and certainly unexplained. Some common mistakes that even the most attentive dog owners may make when it comes to their pets during a holiday are:
- forced holiday participation
- irresponsible feeding (table scraps, alcohol, etc)
While it is understandable to find it necessary to make a few schedule adjustments within your household when a holiday is approaching, try to make your dog feel as normal as possible.
If your dog normally goes on his walks in the evenings and this is not possible during a specific time period, take him on his walks in the early morning or later on into the night to avoid forgetting completely.
Change the routine a bit, but never omit a vital and enjoyable part of your dog's day, and create a brand new time that you can stick to every day until things settle down a bit. Also, forced holiday participation and the feeding of table scraps or alcohol are certainly not a good idea.
For example, you may treat your pet to a few slices of turkey on Thanksgiving, but scraps of spicy or sweet sides from your plate or a sip of any human drink can be very harmful. A good rule of thumb is to simply keep table scraps out of your dog's diet.
Basic Holiday Hazards
Other than these mistakes that owners can make during a holiday, there are less obvious ways that a pet can be harmed when festivities are underway.
Basic decorations and activities can pose a hazard to even the most well behaved dog. To ensure his complete safety, take into consideration the following measures:
- Keep all candles out of reach of your dog's wagging tail.
- Keep ornaments a bit higher on the tree at Christmas, as your dog may mistake them for toys.
- For your dog's safety and your own sanity, keep wrapped gifts put away. They can be quite tempting chew toys.
- Fireworks can greatly agitate your dog's sensitive ears. Never bring him to a display.
- Keep your dog in a quiet room when guests arrive. The noise may make him nervous.
- Keep all electrical cords away from areas that your pet will be in when you are not home. He may chew on them, and this presents a fire hazard.
Keep in mind that anything can present a hazard for your dog if it is not usually in the house and he is not trained to leave it alone. For example, your dog may have learned by now not to chew on your furniture, however your glass Christmas ornaments are fair game.
Dogs cannot tell which items are toys and which are not when they are not familiar with them, therefore keep a close watch on what they can access.
Specific Food Hazards
During the holidays, many dog owners like to include their pets in the many feasts that take place. With all of the wonderful food that has been prepared from scratch that you will enjoy, you will likely wish to give your dog a bit for himself.
This is understandable, however one must be careful when feeding dogs holiday food items. It is never recommended to feed a dog table scraps, and with their decadence and extra spices holiday dishes can present an even bigger problem.
However, if you must share, keep the following foods away from your dog's dish:
- pork products
- artificial sweeteners
- fruit seeds and pits
Any dish containing just a small amount of the above items can be extremely harmful to your dog, and in some cases even fatal. Keep in mind that not serving your pet these items does not mean that he does not have access to them.
Keep all foods safely stored away and off of counter and table tops when your pet is unsupervised. Placing foods in covered dishes or storage containers is not sufficient, as these barriers can easily be removed by your dog's teeth and paws.
How to Help Your Pet Really Enjoy Every Holiday
In order to truly include your dog in all of your special occasions, keep in mind all of the qualities of a holiday that make it special for you. Relaxation, great food, and special time with loved ones is all it takes for you to have a wonderful time.
This is all that your dog needs. Give him special dog treats and a bit of extra attention, along with some additional concentrated play time, and he'll understand that there is something special about the day.
Another great way to include your dog in your holiday plans it to create a tradition made just for him. For example, you might let him have new toys as gifts for each holiday, or you might go out and purchase that more expensive brand of dog food for him to enjoy.
While you are tending to your own fun later on, give your dog an ample amount of space with his new toys, treats, etc. (keeping in mind that many toys should be played with only under supervision).
Your dog has no desire to sit in a crowded room for hours in which everyone is much too busy to notice him. Truly make it a holiday celebration for your dog by keeping his real enjoyment in mind, rather than making him a source of your own amusement.