Happy December! Even with our current crazy year (is 2020 over, yet?!) many of us are eager to begin decorating and celebrating this festive season. Of course, we believe that training your dog matters, but there are other considerations as well, in order to keep your canine family member safe during the holidays.
Dog Safe Decorations: Several years ago, a friend of mine made salt-dough Christmas ornaments with her children. They had fun placing them all over the tree. Coming back from a day of shopping, she discovered their Labrador had enjoyed eating them very much. Thankfully, the dog spat out the metal hooks. Raising Guide Dog puppies when I was a child taught me the importance of placing chew-proof, tail-proof, uninteresting ornaments on the lower half of the tree. The fragile, glass and keepsake ornaments and all the candy canes were always up high. Down low were the plastic and fabric ornaments. One year, when both my brother and I had puppies, my mom only built the top half of our artificial tree, putting it high on a sturdy box covered with an attractive table cloth . She was smart, my mom.
Train Your Dog for Visitors: You may have a different, smaller guest list this year, but likely you will still have people over. This is a great time to practice sensible management and prevent behavior problems with your dog. Unless your dog is very well-trained already, keep him leashed for all greetings. Encourage visitors to feed your dog or puppy a small treat when he sits in front of them. Remember the 1-foot rule: Children are allowed 1-foot of freedom with the dog for every year of their (the kid, not the puppy) age. Supervise closely, since dogs and children often have trouble reading each other’s signals. If your dog has to resort to growling or snapping to create space, you have placed him in an impossible situation. Be sure your dog has a visitor-free zone where he can retire in peace. He needs the break more than you think.
Dog Food and Human Food: Watch out for that fudge! Keep those treats enclosed in sturdy containers well away from the edge of tables where your dog might sample a taste. If food will be available on end tables or within reach of your tall dog, keep him leashed or put him in another room. Many a dog has suffered ingestion of toxic substances (such as chocolate and macadamia nuts) or an event of pancreatitis due to over-indulgence in fatty foods (sausages, cheeses, pate’). Finally, clean up immediately, double-bag and put the trash out right away. Those turkey bones won’t look good on the x-ray.
Puppy Safe Celebrations: If you include a special toy or treat for your dog under the tree, be sure to supervise the unwrapping and play. Many pups do fine shredding (and not eating) the wrapping paper, but I have seen the results of ribbon wound around intestines and promise that taking your dog to the veterinary ER is not going to improve your holiday. Give your pup plenty of stress-reducing opportunities such as long walks, chew bones and time away from the crowd. He’ll thank you for it and you’ll appreciate keeping your furniture intact.
Finally, take LOTS of pictures, especially if you have a puppy! Your special 4-legged family member will bring an added dimension of fun and joy this holiday season, even if the memories involve a Griswold adventure… like a squirrel in the Christmas tree! Happy Holidays to you and your family!
(Some of this content originally published by the author while working at Willamette Humane Society. Used by permission.)