Follow these tips to ensure your four-legged friend stays safe and stress-free during the upheaval of the holidays.
The holidays can be hectic. Amid the whirlwind of guests, parties, gift-giving, shopping, traveling, cooking and decorating, you might not pay as much attention to your dog or cat as you usually do. This can generate stress and anxiety in your companion, which in turn may translate into hiding, irritability, restlessness, excessive vocalization, acting out and destructiveness. Here are ten suggestions that will help prevent these unwanted behaviors this holiday season!
1. Stick to his routine
First and foremost, try not to disrupt your animal’s schedule any more than you have to. Animals find routine reassuring, and deviations from that routine can be upsetting and cause them stress. Feed him, walk him or play with him at the usual times. If you are going away, ask whoever is looking after him to follow the same routine as closely as they can.
2. Make him a quiet space
When you have guests, ensure your dog or cat has a safe haven to retreat to where he can get away from the noise and bustle if he wants to. A quiet bedroom is ideal. This is especially important if he’s shy, timid or wary around strangers, or is easily spooked by noise, excited children, etc.
3. Include him in the festivities
Conversely, if your animal is a social butterfly, include him in the festivities. Shutting him away in another part of the house will only cause loneliness and stress. Dogs in particular enjoy being part of the “pack”. Just be sure to keep an eye on him, especially if you have children visiting. Tell youngsters not to chase or pick your animal up, even if he’s generally okay around people. Even laid back, gregarious dogs and cats can get tense on occasion, and you don’t want anyone getting bitten or scratched.
4. Watch what he eats
It’s great to treat your companion to some healthy holiday goodies but rich or unusual foods can lead to digestive upsets, and that’s that last thing you want over the holidays when your vet’s office might be closed for several days at a stretch. Don’t feed him any human snack foods or candy – especially anything with chocolate or raisins, which are toxic to dogs. Avoid fat trimmings, fruitcake, rich gravies or sauces, cooked bones, and anything including onions or grapes, which are also toxic to dogs. Advise your dinner guests, especially children, not to feed your dog or cat anything without asking you first. Healthy holiday foods you can safely share include lean meat, steamed veggies and mashed potatoes – but don’t go overboard if he’s not used to eating these things. Also, keep an eye on your animal whenever there’s any food on the counter, coffee table, and other surfaces that may be easily accessible to him.
6. Decorate safely
Avoid toxic holiday decorations, such as live holly, hemlock and other plants that could easily drop berries, cones or foliage. Today’s artificial greenery is much more realistic looking. If you prefer natural Christmas trees, watch that your companion doesn’t nibble on the needles or play with breakable ornaments, ribbons or light strings, and don’t hang anything edible on the tree, such as popcorn strings, chocolate coins or candy canes. If you have a cat, it’s almost a given that she’s going to try and climb the tree, so make sure it’s stable and well secured against tipping.
7. Ease his stress
If your dog or cat is easily stressed by any change or upheaval, get a bottle of Bach Rescue Remedy and add a few drops to his drinking water each time you change it (which should be daily, even during the busyness of the holidays). Alternatively, mix a drop of LifeFORCE Mellow Dog Essential Oil into coconut oil and massage it on his ears or paw pads. He’ll receive a dose of calming energy from your touch as well as from the stress-relieving blend.
8. Use caution around doors
Keep your animal away from the door as guests come and go, and keep a watchful eye on him. It can be especially easy for a small dog or cat to slip outside unnoticed, especially if he’s frightened of people he doesn’t know. If necessary, try confining your animal in a safe spot when guests are due, and let him out again when everyone has arrived and the door is securely shut.
Exercise is a good way to let off some steam and relax the body and mind, so make sure your dog or cat doesn’t get short-changed on physical activity during the holiday season. The same applies to you! If you don’t have time for long walks or plays, break them down into shorter, more frequent sessions throughout the day. You’ll find the breaks leave you feeling refreshed and more energized, and they’ll help keep your animal happier and more balanced.
10. Make time for your pet
Last but not least, spend a little quiet quality time with your four-legged friend every day, no matter how busy you are. Use this time to just sit quietly and do nothing except devote your attention to your dog or cat, stroking him, talking to him, and enjoying his companionship. Aim for at least fifteen minutes to half an hour or more a day. Your dog or cat needs and craves your attention, affection and reassurance, and some quiet time together will help center and de-stress both of you!