Giving Your Dog Holiday Presents

Liz Palika

Giving Dogs Gifts

Last night, while wrapping Christmas presents for family and friends, I also wrapped a couple gifts for each of my dogs. Yes, my dogs. Why shouldn’t they get gifts? Dogs are family and including them in the celebration is great fun. I get just as much enjoyment watching my dogs open gifts as I do watching human family members open theirs.

Rules for Unwrapping

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

When you wrap your dog’s gift, keep in mind you’re going to ask him to open it. It needs to be fairly easy for him to open. Keep tape to a minimum and if this is your dog’s first time opening a gift, maybe even leave one end open so he can see and smell it’s a dog toy inside. Ribbon is pretty but not needed on his gift.

If you’re going to let your dog tear open his gifts when the family opens theirs, keep your dog 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.

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.

A Lot of 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.

If there’s a break in the celebration, 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.

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.

If neither of these are feasible, take him to another room away from the celebration and spend a few minutes with him to calm him. Snuggle with him, rub his tummy, or even give him a nice massage so he calms down. Don’t play exciting games right now; he’s 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 be hurt. Not only 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.

Used Dog Toys

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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