Shopping, baking, decorating, cooking, cleaning—the preparations for the Holidays go on and on. And then it’s guests, lots of food, wrapping paper and ribbons, music, laughing and playing. So…where’s the dog?
Some dogs do really well; they are able to mingle amidst the chaos and settle and relax when they need to. Some even retreat to a quiet room, their crate or a quiet corner. And some dogs are resilient enough to grab the dropped cocktail frank, a cookie or cube of cheese and still stay healthy. And other dogs need help in learning how to navigate the Holidays.
Dogs who never met a person they didn’t like are noise resilient, young, healthy and active may do well on their own. Dogs who are shy or fearful, noise or space sensitive, easily overwhelmed or just used to a quiet day are most at risk during the Holidays. At best, they have a difficult and unpleasant day trying to figure it all out. At worst, they may hide, shut down or even get so overwhelmed that they bite.
Make sure you know your dog and, if you’re not sure, don’t wait until she gets in over her head. Management is a must for most dogs during the holidays.
The Social Butterfly: This dog loves people and prefers to be in the middle of the action. She eagerly greets new people, thinks nothing of flying paper and screaming children and retreats on her own for a nap. She needs little management, but keep an eye on how much and what type of food she’s able to score as it may bite her in the butt later.
The Controller: This dog is usually on the job, watching her people and making sure everyone is safe and accounted for. She may get stressed when the activity level escalates and people are scattered throughout your house. Try to get her a good run before your guests arrive—exercise can take the edge off.
The Wall Flower: This dog is shy around new people may be sound sensitive. She probably lives in a quiet home 364 days out of the year. For these dogs—and there are more of them than you might realize—it’s best to have a plan in place:
- Plan on a specific time period for your dog to socialize. That might be when you have the least amount of guests and when those guests are fairly quiet—after opening presents and before dinner.
- Know your dog’s limits. Keep an eye on her and manage the situation if you see her get uncomfortable. Signs include excessive yawning, hiding, trying to escape, rapid lip licking, turning away, freezing, lifting one paw. See Dr. Sophia Yin’s poster for some great visual signs you might recognize in your own dog.
- Have an exit plan ready for your dog. A quiet room or a crate placed out of the path of traffic can be a lifesaver. Keep a stuffed Kong in the fridge or freezer and let your dog relax with her favorite chew in peace and quiet while your guests eat, exchange gifts or play with new toys.
Preparation is the key. You’ll also have to manage your guests to make sure your dog is undisturbed in her quiet place. Children may not understand that they need to respect your dog’s space—which should be the case for every child and every dog, every day—so make sure you put your dog in a place where she won’t be disturbed.
Just like people, dogs have different ideas of what makes for a fun day. Make sure your dog participates only as much as she is able so that the Holidays stay safe and enjoyable for everyone.