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Six Ways the Holidays Can Stress Out Your Dog

By Roxanne Hawn

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Sometimes, the most wonderful time of the year can also be pretty dog-gone stressful – for people and dogs. I’m not saying completely avoid the following things. I’m just suggesting we should acknowledge that this season of celebration might be more stressful than usual for our dogs and do what we can to give them a break.

1. More Household Activity Than Normal

Busy schedules – shopping, cooking, gift-wrapping, parties – mean much more activity in your house. Dogs like routines and can feel stressed when things seem suddenly and drastically different. Try slowly acclimating them to the increased foot traffic by positively rewarding them.

2. Noise Can Be Over-stimulating

Holiday music, doorbells, pots and pans clanging, phones ringing, new toys beeping, kids squealing, and everyone laughing can really set dogs on edge – even if they aren’t normally sound sensitive.

3. New Smells Mean Less Familiarity

Cleaning supplies, scented candles, potpourri, air fresheners, guests’ perfume/cologne, and even some holiday foods can assault a dog’s sensitive nose. What smells nice to us is likely overwhelming to our dogs and even confusing.

4. Stranger Danger

Depending upon your dog’s level of socialization as a puppy, she may find the onslaught of party or house guests daunting. Children can be especially scary to some dogs because they move in unexpected ways and can be noisy and grabby.

Plan ahead and create a safe zone for your dog – away from the noise and activity and people. Never require your dog to interact with people she doesn’t know. Some tips that may help introduce new people to your dog are:

  1. Separate them from the new people until everyone is settled and calm
  2. Let your dog make the first move
  3. Praise your dog when they engage positively with your guests. Rewarding them with a treat is always a good idea.
  4. If your dog chooses not to interact, respect their process. Let them take their time. Have your guests offer treats (passively) and use gentle movements when around the dog. Slowly but surely – they will come around.

5. Rule Changes

Any behavior that you allow on a normal day will only be heightened in the excitement of the holidays. If you suddenly don’t allow your dog on the furniture or holler at him for begging at the holiday table, he’ll likely be confused and a little stressed about the change in rules. Try to keep a solid foundation for them to work from.

6. Less Attention, Less Exercise…More Energy

Whether it’s due to cold weather or an overbooked schedule, there’s a good chance your dog is getting less attention and exercise during the holiday season. Dogs accustomed to high levels of play and exercise may show signs of stress by acting out in ways you don’t typically see – chewing on furniture, tearing up toys, unwrapping gifts. Try to prioritize your pets’ needs by anticipating what they will need in terms of enrichment during this holiday season.

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