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The holiday season is stressful for everyone. Your pets included.
Holiday guests are coming and going, new food smells are of great interest to curious pets, and perfectly hung holiday decorations look like exciting new toys.
If you don't want to have an on belay/off belay moment with your pets and the holiday lights on your Christmas tree this year, or if you would rather not make an emergency visit to the veterinarian immediately after your dog gets into your garbage cans for some yummy toxic foods he/she shouldn't have had, follow along as we outline the holiday pet safety tips you'll learn in the Holiday Manners channel on Dogly from certified professionals.
Here's a quick overview of the seven holiday safety tips certified force-free dog trainer Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie shared in Holiday Manners on Dogly. Try any of these tips here to keep your pets safe during the holiday season.
Tip 1: Make a plan for your dogs and cats during the holidays
This may sound easy to skip over, but don't do it! Making a plan is the first and most important step in keeping your pets safe during the holiday season.
Will you have a quiet room for your pets? Is anyone coming for family gatherings who's allergic to pets? Will there be small children around? Who will be watching the pets? There are so many things to think through when planning for the holidays with pets. If you plan it out beforehand, I promise you will be less stressed around your guests!
Many pet parents assume their dogs and cats will be fine during holiday parties. That may be true for your pets, it's also very possible it may not be. Here's another tip to help you keep your dog busy and away from any breakable ornaments you'd rather see live to another holiday.
Tip 2: Prep enrichment toys for your dog way before holiday guests arrive
Not sure what enrichment is or why it's incredible for your dog (and you)? We have a whole channel on Dogly on Enrichment you can check out here. Think about it as creating the best toys combined with food to entertain your dog and keep them away from getting into any potential dangers while you're enjoying the holidays.
Tressa shared how to make an enrichment toy here even using some people food you can include. That leads us to one of the most important holiday tips to keep your pet safe...
Tip 3: Help your dog burn off steam early
Want a Christmas tree free of broken ornaments and Christmas lights? Make sure your dog gets those zoomies out before holiday festivities begin. A dog that's well-exercised and mentally enriched is less likely to send the Christmas tree water flying when guests arrive.
Tressa shared how you can do this here by adding exercise for your dog into the plan you already started working on. It's easy to get caught up in cooking and cleaning but don't forget about prepping your pets!
Tip 4: As pet owners it's your job to set up pet-safe greetings as guests arrive
Tressa outlined this tip in the best way possible in what she shared in Holiday Manners so I'm going to link it here for you to jump to easily. Management is essential when it comes to pet safety. Not just during the holidays but all the time. If you want to know more about how management can make your life easier with your dog, I highly recommend going through all of the Training Channels on Dogly.
Tip 5: Create a place for your dog to be during the holiday meal
The last thing we want is your dog or cat getting into anything that could put your pet's health in danger. That's why management (again!), especially during mealtime is so important. Let's avoid any type of intestinal blockage or choking hazard this holiday season, ok?
Tressa goes into more detail here but you'll want to put a management structure in place so guests steer clear of giving your pets any food they shouldn't, and your dog or cat doesn't help themselves to any overly fatty foods on the table.
Tip 6: Be your dog's guide when meeting new people
Since Tressa is a certified dog trainer, she explains how to host guided interactions between your dogs and guests better than I ever could so I highly recommend you check it out here.
It's so important to be aware of your dog's body language when meeting new people and pets. If you want to know more about what to look for in your dog's body language, check out the Body Language Channel on Dogly here. It's up to you to help your dog feel comfortable and prep the people around you on how best to meet your dog. Especially kids!
Tip 7: Give your dog lots of treat gifts for good behavior
It's hard to be on your best behavior during the holidays. Dogs get just as overwhelmed as we do. If you want your dog to be extra good during the holiday season, make sure you give him/her lots of treats to reward good behavior! Even small behaviors deserve rewards. Four feet on the floor while you're cooking, treat! Calmly walked by the tree without knocking it over, treat! Didn't shred the wrapping paper and tempting gifts under the tree, treat! Maybe that's a bit much but who doesn't appreciate getting good stuff for doing the right thing?
More holiday pet safety tips from certified force-free dog trainers
Another certified force-free dog trainer on Dogly, Ruby Leslie, hosted an hour-long learning group on how to set your pet up for success during the holidays.
One of the main things Ruby taught about was trigger stacking. Do you know what that is? Let's talk about it and how trigger stacking relates to holiday safety tips.
What is trigger stacking for dogs?
Trigger stacking is when a dog experiences several different things in a row that upset him or her without any opportunity to calm down in between. As humans we've all felt this too, right? This can lead to dogs feeling overwhelmed and stressed which can show itself as reactivity among other things.
For example, if you have several people coming over and your dog is already feeling overwhelmed, the sound of the doorbell ringing might be the last straw that leads to your dog's barking and lunging. But if you've been preparing for this by teaching your dog how to relax on cue and giving him or her lots of breaks in between all the holiday excitement, you can help your dog cope better and prevent any negative behaviors from happening.
Potential triggers for your pet during the holidays
Ruby explains a lot of potential triggers to be aware of in her learning group and how to prepare your pet before the trigger happens, but a few examples are:
- Changes to your dog's environment like Christmas trees or other holiday plants that aren't usually there, decorations everywhere, or gifts on the floor
- New people your dog isn't familiar with coming into his/her space
- New sounds like loud music or lots of different conversations happening at the same time
On their own, each of those things may seem like not a huge deal but that's exactly the point. It starts out as not a big deal for your dog. But one by one each small thing compounds and eventually comes out as one big reaction if you don't remove your dog from the triggering environments beforehand.
Check out more in the Manners Channel on Dogly
Holidays are a great time to spend with family, friends, and of course your pets! By following the tips throughout the Holiday Manners Channel on Dogly, you can help make sure your holidays are merry and safe for everyone involved.
To go beyond Holiday Manners, check out Food Manners, Basic Manners, and Public Manners in the Manners Channel here on Dogly. The Advocates are constantly sharing more to help you and your dog be successful together and they're always available if you need 1-1 guidance. Jump into the discussion any time with questions or reach out to us if you need personalized help. We got you!