The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Giving Your Dog Holiday Presents

By Liz Palika

lab sitting by open gift

Last night, while wrapping Christmas presents for family and friends, I also wrapped a couple gifts for each of my dogs. Yes, my dogs. Including your pet in the celebration is great way to get them in on the family fun! I get just as much enjoyment watching my dogs open gifts as I do watching human family members open theirs.

Wrapping Your Dog’s Gift

When you wrap your dog’s gift, keep in mind that you’re going to ask him to open it. It needs to be easy for him to open. Here are some key tips when wrapping:

  • Keep tape to a minimum
  • Wrapping paper, if used, should be loose (this makes it easier for the dogs to begin unwrapping)
  • If this is your dog’s first time opening a gift, or they’re struggling with the concept, leave one end open so he can see and smell it’s a dog toy inside
  • Leave the nice decorations for the humans - ribbon is pretty but not needed for pups

The gifts your dog unwraps on Christmas morning should be unbreakable toys that he can immediately play with. The idea of letting your dog open the gift is so he can have fun with it, so only wrap toys.

Pro tip: If you have also bought some grooming toys, a new collar and leash, or bags of treats, just set those aside and use them later. Better yet – use them as stocking stuffers!

How To Get Your Dog to Unwrap Their Gifts

Let him open one of his gifts early in the celebration so he can chew on it while everyone else opens their gifts. If he has more than one gift, that’s fine. He can open his other gifts during the celebration. Just let him have one early to keep him occupied.

When it’s time for him to open it, encourage your dog to investigate the gift, “Sweetie, look! Here, get it!” Maybe even tear the paper a little to get him started. When he does get excited, praise him. If he wants to tear the paper to shreds, let him. It’s his present.

If you’re going to let your dog tear open his gifts when the family opens theirs, keep them on leash and close to you. Otherwise, he could too easily become over-stimulated and interfere with other people, grabbing and breaking their gifts or running off with them. Worse yet, he could start bouncing around and knock over the tree. Keep him leashed and close.

Be Prepared for Excitement

During gift opening on Christmas, it’s not unusual for children (and even adults) to get excited. Don’t be surprised when your dog does too. Just use the leash and your training skills to keep his excitement in check. However, if he is too excited, he’s not listening, he’s barking, pulling on the leash, or otherwise out of control; then he needs some time to calm down.

We recommend keeping an eye out for these warning signs and allowing your pup to decompress. Some ways to encourage your dog to calm down include:

  • Take a break from the celebrations. Take him out for a walk - the fresh air will help him calm down and the exercise will be good for him. After a 15 or 30 minute walk, bring him back in the house, put him in his crate (or safe place) in another room, give him a treat or food dispensing toy, and close the door as you leave him.
  • Let them run in the backyard. If you can’t take a walk, can he go out in the backyard for a little while? The weather must be conducive to this, of course.
  • Separate them from the chaos. If neither of the above are feasible, take your dog to another room away from the celebration and spend a few minutes calming them. Snuggle with them, rub their tummy, or even give them a nice massage so they calm down. Don’t play exciting games right now; he or she is already wound up. Instead, think calm.

Do not let your dog run and play with the kids when they are all so excited. That’s a disaster waiting to happen and chances are a child or dog will get hurt. On top of that, breakables in the house – including the Christmas tree – could end up broken. Limit your dog’s excitement using a leash or by removing him from the excitement when it’s just too much.

Gift Ideas For Your Dog

Your dog will love whatever you get them, no doubt about it. But it never hurts to mix up their usual enrichment with some new ideas. Search no more - we have compiled a list of some great holiday gifts for your dog.

Additionally, if your dog is going to get some new toys for Christmas, sort through his old toys. Throw away broken toys, but if he has some toys left that are still useable – that he doesn’t play with – think about donating them.

Wash the toys well and then bring them to your local shelter. The dogs in the shelter will enjoy those old toys!

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