I know it’s a scary thought but the holidays are just around the corner. With Thanksgiving next week and Christmas just four weeks later, the time to prepare is running out.
The holidays are often a time for family and friends to get together and enjoy the company of one another. For many of us, our dogs are included in our families and we want them to be a part of our festive activities. However, for some dogs, the holidays can be more stressful than they are enjoyable. Even the most socialable dog may find the constant attention by their adoring fans to be a bit too much for them.
Signs that your dog may be getting a little stressed:
Our dogs don’t speak English but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to communicate with us. We all know the overt signs that our dogs have had enough such as growling, barking, snapping or biting but did you know that those are often the final resort by our dogs to say, “Enough is enough”?
Some of the more subtle hints our dogs give us when they are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed or uncomfortable include: lip licking, yawning, turning/looking away, closed mouth and showing the whites of their eyes (often called whale eye).
Another signal we might see are things such as not performing a command they already know; we may see the dog sniffing the ground or just looking away from the owner. This is often thought to be our dog ignoring us but is just that they are uncomfortable and will do what are called displacement behaviors (behaviors that have no place in the context you see it in).
Now, many of the signals I described will be seen when the dog is not stressed as well, so how do you tell the difference? Context is everything. If you are seeing just one of these, it could be just a lip lick or perhaps they saw something move off to the side. If your dog is giving off more than one of these signals in a situation that may be too much for him, you are probably seeing some stress signals. The more of these signals you see, the more likely it is stress-related and you should try and help reduce that stress.
What can you do to help prepare your dog?
Bone up on your dog’s obedience. Not only is it fun (or, at least, it better be if you’re doing it right!) but it will help your dog to feel more confident and comfortable.
Take your dog on a nice long walk before guests begin to arrive. A tired dog is a happy dog, not to mention they will be calmer around all the guests.
Give your dog a break from all the guests and attention. Even if your dog isn’t constantly getting attention from all the guests, it will still be nice for your dog to leave all the fray and enjoy a nice nap in a room all to themselves.
Let your dog have a safe place they can retreat to if they need it. It is always important for our dogs to have a safe place to call their own and this is especially important during the holidays. Make sure your dog has a crate or safe room that they can go to and make sure that no one bothers them there. This is especially true for your dog’s crate.
If your dog can’t handle it, don’t make them. Not every dog is able to handle a house full of people they hardly know, if at all. If you are unsure if your dog will be able to cope, let them off the hook. Set them up in their own private room with some really tasty treats to keep them occupied. These can be frozen Kongs stuffed with goodies, a tasty raw bone (yum!) or deer antler. What ever it is, make sure it is tasty and safe for them to have while you are out of the room.