It’s that time of year again! Christmas brings to mind delicious food, gathering with loved ones (although sadly not so much in 2020) and festive decorations. It is a tradition many of us look forward to, but if we do not prepare accordingly it can be at best unnerving and at worst dangerous for our dogs.
In this post we will look at how we can help our dogs stay safe, calm and enjoy the Christmas period with us. After all, they are family too.
It’s not Christmas without a Christmas tree, but who knew that a Christmas tree could pose a danger to dogs? There are several factors to consider especially when leaving dogs unsupervised:
1. Pine Needles
If you have a real Christmas tree you know they shed their needles daily. These can get stuck in your dog’s paws which can be really painful. They can also cause irritation in their mouths and stomach if ingested, leading to vomiting.
Ensure you vacuum regularly or even better stick with an artificial tree! If you have a puppy or dog that is into everything then I would strongly recommend keeping them in a safe space such as a pen when unsupervised or place the tree behind a barrier.
2. Christmas Tree Decorations
Avoid placing chocolate decorations on the tree which are poisonous to dogs and often just at the right level for them. Be aware that many dogs and puppies can view baubles as toys and something to be explored.
A broken bauble could be dangerous if they got pieces in their paws and ingesting them could cause internal lacerations and intestinal blockages.
3. Fairy Lights
There have sadly been reports of dogs becoming entangled within the wires as well as the dangerous temptation of chewing electric cables. Ensure that all wires are hidden and lights are switched off when leaving your dog unsupervised.
Food is always abundant at Christmas! Unfortunately many of the foods that we traditionally eat during this time of year are toxic to dogs. Keep your dog well away from these foods and ring your vet immediately if you think they have eaten any of the following:
- Chocolate (the darker the more toxic)
- Grapes and Raisins (including any foods that contain them e.g. mince pies)
- Macadamia nuts
- Artificial sweeteners
It’s not just food that’s potentially dangerous to dogs. Many Christmas plants are also toxic. I recommend swapping to the artificial kind or at least keeping the following well out of reach:
- Mistletoe berries
If you are reading this in 2020, you may sadly not be having any visitors on Christmas Day. However for those lucky enough not to be in full lockdown, consider how you will manage your guests and dogs together.
Even for friendly dogs, the presence of new people in the house and a change in routine can really unsettle them. Consider the following if you have visitors over the Christmas period:
- Ensure your dog has a safe space they can retreat to if things are getting too busy for them. This could be their crate, another room or a quiet corner with their bed in. You may need to let guests know not to disturb your dog whilst they are there.
- Keep greetings low key. If you have lots of people suddenly entering your house, you may want to shut your dog away with something calming to do, whilst they enter.
- If you have a nervous dog, try greeting guests outside and then following them back into the house once your dog is more relaxed.
- Provide appropriate entertainment for your dog. When we have guests, our time and energy is spent hosting which often means less attention for our dogs. Look at investing in some new toys or a tasty chew.
- Be prepared to keep dogs separate if your guest is bringing a dog too. Christmas Day is not an ideal time to introduce dogs to each other for the first time. However even if the dogs are already friends, their behaviour towards each other may be different because of the change in routine and environment. Have somewhere comfortable and relaxing where the dogs can be split if they need a time out.
As well as coping with the sounds of laughing, screeching and music, our dogs often have to deal with noises such as Christmas crackers and New Year fireworks.
If you notice that excitement levels are high and the room is very noisy, consider giving your dog a break and putting them elsewhere with some relaxation music playing.
You could also get into the Christmas spirit and make your own silent crackers. There are plenty of DIY kits, just omit the bang! If your dog doesn’t cope well with fireworks, please read my previous blog for top tips on how to support them. http://mindfulpaws.co.uk/fireworks-and-dogs/
Christmas Dog Costumes
If you walk into any pet shop, you will find a whole section dedicated to dog outfits, particularly around Christmas time. The temptation is real! What pup wouldn’t look cute with a pair of reindeer antlers or a knitted scarf?
However before we buy a canine christmas wardrobe, we need consider it from our dog’s point of view. Of course there are legitimate reasons to purchase dog clothes such as a jumper or coat if they suffer from the cold. But most dogs don’t need them, particularly indoors. They can often feel restrictive and most christmas costumes aren’t designed for comfort.
If you really want to add a festive touch to your dog, then consider purchasing a lightweight Christmas bandana which can be slipped over their collar. This will not interfere with their movement and does not impact their temperature.
Having a dog as part of the family doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the same Christmas spirit we usually do. With just a few adjustments, our dogs will be enjoying Christmas as much as us.
What is your favourite thing to do with your dog on Christmas Day? Mine is watching Nutmeg open her presents, she has so much fun tearing off the wrapping paper!
Wishing everyone and their four legged friends a very merry Christmas!