How to help your dog cope at Christmas
Christmas can be tiring for both you and your dog, but make the festive period trouble free with our top tips.
The main festive visitor will obviously come down your chimney late on Christmas Eve, but luckily Father Christmas is so light on his feet that your dog should sleep through it. However, other Christmas visitors are a different story. On Christmas Day and the days leading up to it, your house can be a magnet for all kinds of people, some bringing their own dogs with them. If you think your dog will find all this a little unsettling, then take him for a walk half an hour before visitors arrive and pop him into a quiet room or crate with a stuffed Kong to gnaw so that he can relax and you can supervise calm introductions later in the day.
We all eat too much on Christmas Day, and, given the opportunity, your dog will be no different. While a small amount of turkey and vegetables as a special treat shouldn't do any harm, avoid feeding other table scraps, which can cause digestive upsets. In particular be very careful that your dog doesn't eat any turkey or chicken bones, which can splinter and stick in his throat or digestive tract. An emergency visit to the vet's is no way to spend Christmas!
Christmas trees can be a source of almost unimaginable delight. Baubles and candy canes hanging from branches, tinsel dangling enticingly, and fairy lights twinkling can all provide too much temptation, particularly for puppies. One giant leap can send the whole lot crashing down, so consider placing a barrier such as a puppy pen in front of the tree to prevent access, or position a stairgate in the doorway so your dog can't enter unsupervised.
A little kiss under the mistletoe is traditional but unfortunately many festive plants are toxic to dogs, particularly those with berries. Other poisonous plants include the popular poinsettia and amaryllis. Keep pets safe by placing potted plants high up, and hang mistletoe and holly where the berries won't drop down for dogs to eat.
Christmas trees look and smell gorgeous, but unfortunately the pine needles they shed can be hazardous to dogs. Needles can get stuck into paws, or worse - if your dog decides to eat them they might get lodged in his throat. This might be the time to consider buying an artificial tree. Another benefit of faking it is that you don't have to water the tree and worry about your dog drinking stagnant water from the base.
The glow of Christmas candles can look very pretty, but they are all too easy for an enthusiastic dog to knock over with his tail. If you do light candles always place them high up on a shelf, safely away from animals and children. If you use scented candles ensure the room is well ventilated, and never leave lit candles unsupervised.
Christmas morning can be a blur of wrapping paper, tags, ribbons, tape, and of course, lots of presents. It's all too easy to forget the dog and not notice him chewing paper, swallowing ribbon, and nibbling the box of a brand new DVD that has just been unwrapped. Supervise dogs carefully when presents are being opened and, if possible, only place parcels under the tree just prior to the big unwrap. Tidy as you go, gathering up wrapping paper as soon as it is removed, and placing it in a bin.
TIPPLES AND TREATS
For many people Christmas night wouldn't be complete without dipping into a box of chocolates and enjoying a nice tipple. However, alcohol and chocolate can be very dangerous to dogs. Explain to guests that chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which is toxic to canines. Most dogs are put off by the smell of alcohol but some will drink beer or creamy drinks such as Baileys, and even small amounts can be extremely dangerous.
Children inevitably get extremely excited on Christmas Day. All those new presents to open, games to play, and crackers to pull can result in lots of squealing, jumping around, and, occasionally, tears and tantrums too. Dogs can find all this overwhelming, so make sure that they are constantly supervised, particularly around toddlers who are at eye level with them. Even the calmest of dogs will have a breaking point, so don't risk them snapping out of fear or in self-defence. Keep dogs crated safely or in a quiet room at times of high activity.
Even on Christmas Day your dog will need his usual routine of walks and meals. Encourage the family to join you for a nice, brisk walk after Christmas lunch to help burn off the calories, expend some energy, and set you all up for a fun evening. Your dog will enjoy being part of the family so make sure you take his new ball and toy to play with. Merry Christmas!