All I want for Christmas is a happy dog!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s important to remember that your dog may not view it that way. 

Whilst many of us are looking forward to the festive season, it is probably one of the most disruptive times of year for our dogs. Christmas is a time when our normal day-to-day routines change, there can be lots of visitors, lots of noise and even trees suddenly popping up in the middle of the house. It’s little wonder many dogs can find the festivities overwhelming. 

Remember Every Dog Needs Spoons , and it is particularly important to help manage your dogs’ spoons during the Christmas period. So, we’ve put together a few pointers to help you and your four-legged family members have a happy and safe Christmas. 

Changes in routine 

Christmas sees many of us have a different routine to usual, but it is vital to remember that sudden changes in routine can be very stressful for our dogs. So, it is important to try and keep your dog’s world as ‘normal’ as possible during this hectic time. 

  • Walking – Your normal routine may well be disrupted by your plans over this period but try and plan ahead so you can fit in appropriate times to walk your dog. This will give you the chance to have some quality time alone together (and to nominate someone else to do the washing up). Whilst some dogs will be more settled after a walk, it is also worth noting if your dog is feeling particularly anxious or stressed, it may be worth deliberately missing a walk to help enable them recover some precious spoons. You can always try some at home enrichment activities with them instead. 
  • Playtime – Dogs can find Christmas as exciting as any child would. Some may be more playful and energetic than usual, so give them some space in a calmer area if they’re too excited so they can gather their spoons. Likewise, some dogs may become like Scrooge and feel grumpy and tired at the very thought of Christmas, so again give them the option of a comfortable space they can choose to go to, and please don’t shut them away as this can increase anxiety levels.
  • Bedtimes – Try to keep their routine as close to normal as you can. If you plan on having a few late nights as a lot of us will, make sure your dog has a quiet, comfortable area to sleep in if they choose to. Ideally try and keep their bed in their usual spot and keep any disruptive activities and lots of visitors away from their safe space.

Visitors

Many of us have friends and family coming to visit over the Christmas period and at times our homes can become very busy. Whilst some dogs love having lots of extra people and extra attention, visitors can be noisy and very disruptive for a lot of dogs, leading some to feel scared and anxious. If you can, try to keep your dog’s normal space available for them and free from all the guests and festivities so they can safely retreat their if they need to. Also remember to keep an eye on younger visitors and your dogs as we always recommend supervising any dog with children. 

Separation anxiety

With many of us attending Christmas parties, and being out and about visiting family and friends, Christmas can be a lonely time for our dogs. Please don’t leave your dog for too long and plan your time out on visits and parties to try and minimise any time alone.

If your dog is not used to being left for any length of time, sudden hours long absences can be stressful for your dog. Make sure any alone times is built up gradually over the course of weeks. If you are leaving your dog, make sure they are walked and settled before you go out and you can always provide them with toys and enrichment activities before leaving them to help reduce any separation anxiety. 

Christmas trees and decorations

If your dog is quite anxious and not comfortable with change, the sudden appearance of a tree in the house and all the accompanying decorations can be very overwhelming. If this is the case you may choose to keep the tree and decorations in a different room to your dog’s usual space. 

For those who opt for a real Christmas tree, it is worth noting that the needles off the tree can become stuck in your dogs’ paws or throat so regularly sweep these up. Also, the oils in fir trees are mildly toxic and can cause an upset stomach. 

Artificial trees can have small pieces on them that can break off and pose a choking hazard. 

Christmas decorations can pose many hazards to dogs:

  • Strings of lights – dangling lights can be tempting for your dog to chew and pose the added hazard of electrocution. Try and keep them safely out of reach if your dog is likely to be tempted.
  • Baubles and tinsel – these can pose a choking hazard and fragile baubles can cut a dog’s mouth or paws if shattered.
  • Salt dough ornaments – these are toxic to dogs if eaten.
  • Snow globes – some imports can contain antifreeze which is highly toxic.

If you’re concerned about your dog attempting to eat the tree or decorations, please ensure they aren’t left unattended to avoid accidents. 

Remember to ensure any tree is sturdy and firmly secured – we want to avoid any fainting Christmas trees! 

The Kennel Club website has some useful tips to ‘dog-proof’ your Christmas tree:

Presents 

Whilst many of us buy our dogs presents for Christmas there are some things to be aware of that are often present in gifts received by the rest of the family:

  • Batteries – keep them away from your dogs as they pose a number of serious risks from choking, to chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. If you suspect your dog has eaten a battery, please contact your vet ASAP.
  • Silica gel sachets – these sachets can be found in many boxed items from shoes to hair straighteners. Although the silica in these is not toxic, it is labelled do not eat for a reason, as it can cause an obstruction in the gut. 
  • Wrapping paper – some dogs love to get involved in opening presents and tearing the wrapping paper. Try to keep them from eating large amounts or eating any decorative ribbons or bows as these can cause an obstruction. 
  • Small toys – these can be very tempting for a dog to chew and small parts may be swallowed and again cause an obstruction.
  • Rawhide – lots of shops sell it and many pre-made dog gift stockings contain rawhide chews. These chews can pose a serious risk of choking or blockages, not to mention the chemicals involved in preserving and colouring these chews. We would always recommend to avoid all rawhide products and instead buy healthier natural treats for your dog instead.

Please see our ‘Gift guide’ article for some top ideas on healthy fun gifts for your dogs this Christmas.

Festive plants 

Lots of popular festive plants that appear in homes over this time of year are toxic to dogs, so care should be taken to ensure any of the following are kept well out of reach:

  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Mistletoe
  • Poinsettia
  • Potpourri
  • Christmas tree (sap)

Food

We are all guilty of overindulging at Christmas time and many of us don’t want to leave our dogs out of the celebrations. As tempting as it is to feed your dog some of your Christmas dinner or treats, it is important to ensure anything you do give them is firstly safe and secondly in moderation.

Although a lot of what might be on our Christmas dinner is safe for dogs, lots of rich foods can lead to your dog suffering an upset stomach. They may end up experiencing excessive wind, diarrhoea and pain – something none of us want to subject our dogs to. 

If you do want your dog to take part in your Christmas dinner, it’s important to know what you can safely feed them… (in moderation of course)

  • Lean white meat
  • Salmon (fillet or cooked in water rather than smoked salmon)
  • Carrot
  • Sweet potato
  • Boiled parsnips
  • Boiled/steamed greens – sprouts, broccoli, peas, spinach
  • Cauliflower

There are also lots of food that can be dangerous to your dog, so avoid giving them any

  • Chocolate
  • Christmas cake, mince pies and Christmas pudding – anything containing currents, raisins and sultanas
  • Garlic, chives and onion – these are in lots of festive foods including stuffing and sausages 
  • Blue cheese – it contains a substance called roquefortine C which can be harmful to dogs
  • Turkey bones or any cooked bones – these can splinter and pose both choking hazards and may perforate the intestines
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Gravy – the gravy we smother on our dinner has high levels of fat and salt which can cause an upset stomach, but you can get or make a dog gravy alternative
  • Anything cooked in fat, butter, oils or glazes
  • Anything containing Xylitol, an artificial sweetener which can be found in many yogurts 
  • Alcohol 

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