Written by Veterinary Surgeon Dr. Linda Simon
In many UK households, the last two weeks in December can be a little hectic, to say the least. With parties, family dinners, fireworks and even Christmas carolers knocking on the door you and your pets have a lot to contend with.
As their routine is disrupted and they suddenly have to deal with a great deal of noise and people coming and going, it is only natural for your dog to become overwhelmed over the festive period.
Here is a list of the top ten things you can do to help prepare your dog for a chilled out Christmas:
- Amp up the physical and mental stimulation. The more a dog has to keep them occupied, the less likely they are to become nervous and fearful. If your dog has had a day full of hiking, swimming and training, they are going to be less reactive once home. This means they’ll probably fall asleep when a guest arrives, rather than pester them relentlessly.
Try not to leave your pooch alone for too long. This is especially true if they’re used to you being close by 24/7 if you work from home. If your social schedule is jam packed, consider skipping an event or having someone else stay in with your pet.
- A calming food such as Pooch & Mutt’s Calm & Relaxed Food is a great option for those who struggle to remain calm in the face of change. The effect of this food builds over time and the calming ingredients can make dogs more resilient in the long term.
- Utilising food puzzles and chews is a wonderful way to provide environmental enrichment. Your dog gets to enjoy a tasty treat while licking and chewing; two soothing actions. Hard treats like Pooch & Mutt’s Meaty Treats can be used in Kongs and snaffle mats, while wet dog food is good for smearing on lick mats. Spice things up by adding in some peanut butter, sweet potato mash or cream cheese.
Calming Supplements can be started a few days before an event you think may provoke anxiety. This may be e.g. a large party in your home or a fireworks display nearby. Zylkene is one example of a supplement recommended by many vets. If something stronger is needed, a prescription anxiolytic medicine can be issued by your vet if appropriate.
- Stick to a predictable routine. As the nights draw in and the temperature dips, it can be easy to skip a walk or two. This is especially true if you’re busy cooking or wrapping gifts. However, skipping a walk can have a detrimental effect on your dog’s mental health and can make them more prone to anxiety.
- Calming Treats. Opt for the Pooch & Mutt Calm & Relaxed Mini Bone Treats. These are super for bringing along on a walk and for using during a training session. The chamomile and valerian root are excellent for aiding relaxation while the L Tryptophan contributes to the formation of the feel good hormone: Serotonin.
- A pheromone plug in such as Adaptil can be plugged into the room your dog spends the most time. This device has been clinically proven to be effective in helping dogs stay calm during stressful events. If your dog moves around a lot, an Adaptil collar is a good compromise.
Limit your dog’s social interactions within the home. Unless your dog is a natural social butterfly, they are likely to struggle with meeting lots of new people in a short period of time. This is especially true if the people are being loud and rowdy. While some positive social interactions are important, try not to expect too much of your dog and ensure they always have a quiet spot to rest, where people cannot disturb them.
- Take advantage of a crate if your dog is crate trained. When a dog is properly crate trained, their crate is a safe sanctuary in which they can relax and sleep knowing they won’t be interrupted. Encourage them to go into it during social gatherings if they seem a little overwhelmed.
By making a few small changes in the run up to the festive period, you can make sure you set your furry friend up for success. Merry Christmas!