Holidays are best spent with close friends and family, and for many people that also means their beloved family pet.
The holidays can be a stressful and dangerous time for pets, but this can be minimized with a little bit of consideration and planning.
Back to (Training) Basics: Spend some time working on your dog's manners well before you have a house full of guests. Consistency is key so if you've been letting things slide, now is the time to stop. Enlist the help of a certified trainer if you need assistance working on specific problem behaviors. Training also shouldn't end when guests arrive. Ask your guests to adhere to your training rules in order to maintain consistency.
Keep Identification Updated: Make sure your pets are wearing collars with an ID tag and their microchip includes up-to-date information. Stressful situations may cause your pets to bolt out the door or a relative could accidently leave the gate open. This information is vital to seeing that your pet is returned safely should they get lost.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: Running through the mall doing your holiday shopping might give you a workout, but it's not doing your pet any good unless she's by your side. During this especially busy season, it's easy for our pets needs to get lost in the chaos. Pets that don't get enough exercise are more prone to behavior problems and health issues. Make sure your pets continue to get enough exercise with daily walks, trips to the dog park, or a few rounds of fetch in the backyard. Consider dropping your pup off at a doggie daycare facility for some exercise and socialization while you shop.
Create a Safe Place: A house full of family, friends and excited children can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for pets. Create a safe place for your pets that is off limits to visitors so they can escape when they need space. This could be a separate room or a crate off in a corner. Include your pet's favorite bed, toys, food and clean water. Make sure guests, especially children, know not to bother your pet when he or she is in her safe place. Also, never force your pet to socialize when they are already stressed or fearful.
Be Cautious of Dangerous Foods: Some of our favorite holiday foods are very toxic to animals. Chocolate, candy, alcohol, caffeine, bread dough, grapes, nuts, onions, garlic and cooked bones can all be harmful to your pet. Make sure these foods are out of reach, especially if your pet is a notorious counter-jumper. Ask your guests to avoid feeding any food to your pets without checking with you first. A well-meaning uncle might want to share his grapes with your pup not knowing he could be doing harm.
Skip the Holiday Flowers: Many plants that are popular around the holidays are poisonous to cats and dogs. Holly, mistletoe, certain lilies and poinsettias can all cause health issues. Use artificial plants if you want to be festive, but make sure they are out of reach if your pet likes to chew on things he isn't supposed to.