By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA
I am officially in the Christmas mood. The day after Thanksgiving, I turned on the Christmas music, my family and I picked out our Christmas tree, and I am just about done with my Christmas shopping. I am definitely feeling the spirit.
Since my husband and I had kids, we have decided that Christmas will be at our house. Since we no longer travel for the big day, we have an open door policy. We love visitors and welcome friends and family to stop by and celebrate with us. I encourage both two and four-legged visitors, but with kids in the house, I have some rules in place. Because I want the day to be fun and relaxing, I ensure that safety is top priority.
No matter who you celebrate with or how you celebrate, it’s always wise to ensure your dog is set up to enjoy the festivities. Whether you are hosting or visiting, below are some tips to help your dog survive this festive holiday.
Keep presents away: My dog, Bailey, could have cared less about wrapped presents. But as soon as the paper was off, the paper was hers. But some dogs believe that anything on the floor is theirs. If your dog is more like the latter, keep presents up or behind a gate to avoid any disasters.
Pay attention to your décor: I love to decorate the house for Christmas, but I try to be aware of what I decorate with. Tinsel can be very enticing to dogs, but they are a safety concern (if swallowed, they can get tangled in the intestines). Poinsettias are beautiful, but they are poisonous to dogs. And I love lights on the Christmas tree and all around my house. If you do too, just make sure that your dog can’t get to the cords and chew on them. Basically, just use common sense when decorating.
Watch your dog around kids: Christmas is a big holiday for kids. All the presents under the tree, a visit from Santa, cookies, and such can bring a lot of excitement. Because they all might be a little more excited than usual, it is best to keep kids and dogs separated as much as possible. No matter how much your dog enjoys kids, not every kid will feel comfortable around your dog, and your dog might not appreciate the extra chaos that the holidays bring. No matter what, it is better to be safe than sorry, so just keep dogs and kids separated.
Keep a leash on your dog: When your dog is out and about in the house, it is wise to keep a light leash on them. Leashes are a great tool to help keep your dogs away from the Christmas cookies and appetizers, prevent them from jumping up on people, and it doesn’t allow them to escape when the door is left open after Aunt May is welcomed indoors.
Gates, crates, and more gates: Every dog needs some down time, so it is best to have your crate set up in a quiet room. I like to put on some relaxing music or white noise to drown out the noise of party goers and give them a bone or Kong filled with their favorite treat. If you don’t have a crate, set up a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room (make sure there is nothing that they can get into), put down their bed or towel, give them a treat and put up a gate. Make sure that they will be left alone and can have time to relax. If your dog is super stressed and needs to be around people, set up some gates so they are near the commotion, but can’t get out to get into trouble. This also ensures that kids can’t get to them.
Remember, Christmas should be a day of relaxing, sharing memories with friends and family, and letting kids revel in the magic. Pets are such an important part of this holiday, so safety is key. This is my son’s first Christmas, so we have extra special memories to make. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!
How will you be spending your Christmas? How do you involve your dog in your traditions?
Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.