While holidays are happy, busy times for families and friends, they present a number of issues for family dogs.
There are many commonly recognized dangers lurking in a house during the holiday season, including foods that are toxic to dogs such as onions, raisins, grapes, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, fruit pits and seeds, yeasty dough for bread, macadamia nuts, nuts in shells (which can cause intestinal blockages), xylitol (sweetener) and plants, including poinsettias.
Other hazardous items surround the Christmas tree, like ribbon, ornaments and their hangers or candles. There are more emergency trips to the veterinarian this time of year than any other season except summer.
From a dog's perspective, there is food everywhere and lots of people to play with. It might seem fun at first, but it can be hard on the dog and the family.
Dogs are creatures of habit, routine and schedule. Disruption unsettles them in many ways, but potty training for puppies or older dogs can be particularly challenging. The excitement often leads to digestive issues or destructive behavior.
With the kids or other visitors in the house, even the most minor routine changes, like nap and walk times, mess with dogs' sense of time.
As difficult as it might be, the ideal is to keep to the regular schedule as best as possible, even with guests, or dogs might begin to act out in unpleasant ways. With the changes to sleep patterns, exercise and food, your dog might race around the house, start chewing things, barking and annoying people for attention.
Give your dog a quiet space to retreat to, or put him somewhere he can get away from the activity. This will ensure he naps or rests and doesn't get overly excited.
Play with him to tire him out before guests arrive, and make sure he has a good, long walk. Do not overfeed him with holiday goodies.
If kids are running around in the house playing, your dog might chase and nip. Have kids play outside, or put your dog outside, if possible. If this can't be done, then playtime for kids might be an appropriate naptime for the dog.
Keep dogs away from the dinner table, cocktail tables and preparation areas to make it harder for them to sneak food. Feed at regular times, but consider moving the feeding area away from all the activity.
Try to keep small children from messing around the food bowl. If you do have little kids roaming around the house, make sure they have long toys to use for playing with the dog to prevent bites.
Don't allow kids to walk around the house with food, because most dogs can't resist the temptation. This could lead to an accidental nip or graze of the child's hands.
If you are careful and caring, your dog will enjoy the holiday season alongside your family.
Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. firstname.lastname@example.org