Holiday Stress Prevention Tips for Your Dog
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Like us, dogs can be creatures of habit. Changes in routine, in activity level, in the level of emotional energy, in how much, how long, and how frequently they are asked to handle social contact, all can challenge a dog’s ability to remain emotionally resilient and even-keeled. And as the emotion goes, so goes the behavior! With that in mind, read on for some practical tips on helping support your dog’s behavioral well-being through the holiday season.
Don't slide on the one-on-one. Be sure your dog gets some personal time with you. It’s easy to get so busy with friends, family, and activities that the dog gets left out. Make some mutual personal time for you and your dog – take a walk, enjoy a massage, snug on the couch and watch a holiday movie. If you can squeeze in a quick motivational training session with your dog, this can be one of the most bond-reaffirming, grounding things you can do for your best friend!
As much as possible, maintain your dog’s schedule. As a rule, dogs are creatures of habit, and simply disrupting their normal routine can be stressful. Pay attention to when your dog normally eats, naps, go out to play and relieve herself, etc, and do your best to plan for a similar schedule.
Give your dog an out. Going visiting? Having company over? Just like you, your dog has likes and dislikes, with things that make her less than comfortable. She may or may not share your love of company, or children, or other animals, or late night parties! Arrange to have some safe place for your dog to go to be away from too much - or unappreciated - noise, activity, or individuals. A well-placed baby gate, for example, can keep your dog safe and protected, able to move closer or farther away from activity as she pleases, while not feeling left out or isolated.
Give your dog a break. Maybe your dog IS a social butterfly and party animal! This type of dog may become exhausted – emotionally and/or physically – simply through wanting to be continually “involved”. Like an over-tired child, an over-tired dog will be more likely to become irritable and contentious. And, like a child, your dog will probably not decide on his own to go off for that much-needed nap. Don't hesitate to make an executive decision - an hour’s rest in a quiet spot is rejuvenating for both dogs and people.
Remove “bones of contention”. Visiting animals may or may not get along. The same is true with dogs and small children. Set the stage for the greatest harmony by picking up potential “bones of contention” before the party starts. This is not the time to leave food bowls down, or bones or tasty chewies lying around.
Avoid hunger stress. Stress and extra mental activity burns more calories than you might expect – even more than physical activity. Hungry dogs are more likely to be irritable and reactive (hey, me too!), not to mention more prone to begging and counter-surfing. During busy times you may want to slightly increase the amount you feed your dog at a meal or, alternatively, offer a small mid-day snack. Either some of your dog’s regular food, or part or all of a hard-cooked egg, will help fill that need for extra nutrition and calories.
Wishing you and all your family and friends very Happy Holidays!
Julie Cantrell BSc, CDBC (bio)
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