Perhaps I am anthropomorphising but I imagine most dogs enjoy Christmas time. It’s not that they’re looking forward to a visit from Santa, they simply love when their owners are home, off work with little else to do than sit in, watch TV and spending time together. Everyone has new cosy pyjamas and slippers to cuddle up to. People are visiting the house, there’s a lot of extra grub going around, long, fresh walks in the park and nights by the fire. What’s not to love? Here are some pointers to help you have a happy Christmas with your dog.
I would strongly advise you against allowing puppies to have free reign in the room that houses your Christmas tree. Aside from knocking it over, robbing decorations and ripping open gifts, they could chew through the wires of the Christmas tree lights.
Most adult dogs pay no attention to the Christmas tree but some pay a little too much attention to it. If your dog is the latter, don’t allow him in the same room as the tree unattended. If they are really obsessed with it you might have to consider putting a gate around it. These can be bought in the likes of Argos or Woodies. Work on a good strong ‘down stay’ .
I would suggest that you don’t put edible decorations on your tree, like candy canes or chocolate coins, bunnies or Santas – that’s just asking for trouble!
Under the Tree
Laugh if you will but a lot of people get gifts for their dogs at Christmas. Anything from a squeaky toy to a new coat (great for short hair breeds in this cold weather). There is a huge array of great toys available for dogs these days. Toys that make them have to work for their meals and thus keep them active and mentally stimulated. Toys that squeak, toys that bounce, anything you could imagine and if you can’t find it in a shop it’s sure to be available online. You can even get selection boxes for dogs these day as well as Christmas stockings filled with gifts. Knock yourself out – never mind the nay-sayers!
I wouldn’t recommend a tight hair cut at this time of year but maybe a good wash. Remember, Christmas may mean an increase in visitors – perhaps the dog bed is due a wash also?
With all those extra visitors it might be a good time to get your dog’s nails trimmed. I have visited homes where I have had my poor legs shredded or my tights ripped by dogs with long nails. If you make a New Year’s Resolution to work on your dog’s jumping up to greet habit......well, you know where to find us.
I know some people put little Santa coats and other festive things on their dog. If this doesn’t irritate your dog, I see no harm in this at all. In fact, it’s really good to get the dog used to being handled in this way.
If your dog is fearful of and / or aggressive to strangers entering your home that is far too complex a subject for me to do justice to here. Please contact us if this is something you would like to tackle.
In the meantime, if you have a fearful dog and you will be having guests you must make sure to keep them separate. Manage this very tightly. Don’t put your dog in a situation where he is forced to growl, snap or worse because he is surrounded by (what he perceives to be) threats. And never take that risk with your guests’ safety. Find a comfortable room in the house and leave the dog there with something to keep him occupied like a stuffed Kong (a Kong is a durable rubber chew toy with a hole in the middle which you can put kibble, chicken, peanut butter into. Available in most pet shops).
If he is only very mildly uncomfortable around strangers, allow him into the room if he wishes but ask your guests not to approach him for a pat. Just ignore him and let him come over to investigate them (or not) at his own pace.
It would be a good idea for your guests to be given a small treat or two to throw to him. This will help him to begin to feel that guests = nice things.
Chocolate – I know a dog who once ate an entire Advent Calendar. All of it. The cardboard, the chocolate, the lot! Is this a bad dog? Absolutely not! This is a dog being a dog. There was something amazingly tasty within her reach, of course she was going to eat it. It’s important to keep things that are harmful out of their reach just like you would with a child. The dog in question is fine, she had a sore stomach and diarrhoea. She was lucky. This could have been fatal.
A lot of people are aware that chocolate is toxic for dogs but did you know that the following items are also bad for them:
Grapes and Raisins – toxin as yet unidentified but can lead to kidney failure even when ingested in small quantities.
Coconut water – high level of potassium
Onions – can cause gastrointestinal irritation, very small amounts are okay.
Garlic – as above
Chives – as above
Salt – very salty food can lead to sodium ion poisoning in dogs
Xylitol – a sweetener found in many sweets and baked goods. Can lead to liver failure
Alcohol – I know that some, late into the night and far into the bottle, might think it’s hilarious if their dog takes a sip out of their glass, however, a dog's kidneys were not meant to filter or process alcohol. Even very small amounts are toxic to dogs.
The above is not an exhaustive list.
I believe there's no need to fret if you occasionally give your dog a tiny bit of your slice of cake but make sure it’s not every day and be aware that you might not be the only person in the house doing so. There is a fine line between rare and occasional treating and making your dog, unknown to you, feel unwell.
I’d add to this list; Bones – not for their toxicity but because they can splinter and puncture the oesophagus or get lodged in the gut. I must state that opinions are very much divided on this one. Some feel it is the most natural thing in the world because wolves in the wild, etc. However, we have no data or statistics on how many wolves in the wild choke on bones or suffer from bone fragments cutting their insides so we really can’t use wolves as a model. It’s not a risk I would be willing to take when there are so many safer chew options available. If you do want to feed your dog bone, I’d strongly advise against feeding them cooked bones as those are much more likely to splinter than uncooked boned – this is something the experts agree on.
If you and your family have a dog who begs at the table and would like to enjoy your Christmas dinner in peace, I suggest you teach your dog a ‘go to bed’ command, coupled with a good strong ‘stay’.
If your dog doesn’t have allergies to turkey and ham add some to their dinner. Imagine eating the same thing for breakfast and dinner every day of your life. Now imagine this; your olfactory senses are hundreds of times more refined than that of a human and the smell of Christmas dinner has been lingering in the air for the past three hours. Now it’s finally meal time but there’s none for you!!! It’s no harm throwing an extra little something-something in with their dinner every now and again. If you’re worried about portion control you can simply hold back some of the dog’s regular food.
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From North Dublin Dog Training to you and yours, have a very happy Christmas.