I’m delighted today to welcome back onto Kit Domino’s World, Katie Scott-Dyer, an excellent and well-respected animal behaviourist, to repeat some of her timely tips and hints to help you and your dog enjoy Christmas. Over to you, Katie.
I know it seems a bit early to be talking about Christmas, but honestly it comes up fast and not all dogs enjoy the festivities or this might be your dogs’s first Christmas. In my other role as behaviourist for a worldwide dog welfare charity, we receive a lot of calls to help with behaviours related to the period, and also we notice a lot of dogs getting relinquished or dumped just before and just after Christmas, with calls being received every 5 minutes in 2017 alone, from people with a bizarre range of reasons why click HERE to see for yourself.
If we plan ahead and gain understanding of how to prevent unwanted behaviour, we can really help improve the well being of our dogs as well as for us too. I’m happier if my dogs are relaxed and confident rather than scared and anxious, bet you are too. Here are my top (slightly tongue in cheek) tips for surviving Christmas with dogs. And people.
This is kinda gonna depend on how busy your home will be, for how long or if you are going away on holibobs or taking a few weeks off work and will be home more. In mine when Sean and Kirsty were younger we’d have more visitors, we would also have a busy period with the pet sitting side of the business so would be out for long periods, and maybe have a dog or other pets in our home too. Some years we would be on holiday ourselves.
All this needed planning so we could all handle the change in routine. My dogs back then were fairly plastic in terms of adapting to changes, and I think my job was part of that, they were used to going to different places and homes, with different animals for different durations of time. I’m only doing behaviour work now so my current dogs are less flexible, so I’m writing this for me too!
- As far ahead as possible, make sure everyone knows you are working over Christmas, so no-one plans on coming over if you don’t want to share your eggnog or spot on the sofa where your dog normally sits with you.
- Can’t wait to have people over? Fab, make sure you plan ahead for your dogs’ sake and get everything ready at least a few days ahead so you can relax and enjoy the company.
- Get on the internet and buy as much booze as you think you need then double it because let’s face it, this isn’t going to be the festive period of our dreams so you might as well slide into a stupor once your dogs had his dinner.
Drinking not your thing? No problem, pretty sure Christmas cake and mince pies are everywhere already so get down your local deli and buy some and send some to your local food bank too.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
If you are likely to be around more, this might not be what you or your dog are used to, and might come as a shock to them although they will probably love having you around more,
I know mine would.
This might not be a problem unless your dog is wary of a particular member of the family, such as younger children or your housemate. In which case teach your dog to fetch a toy when enter the room and teach the child to leave the dog or cat alone.
Find strategies to help them cope all cope (humans too) with this such as having a quiet cosy spot away from the busiest parts of the house, where they can go and relax and be able to remain there without interference.
Depending on the childs age, they can maybe help teach your dog a new trick, giving them both a little shot of Oxytocin the bonding chemical and you a sense of pride. We have a bet on my house that Ren can learn at least 3 new things over crimbo, if I loose the bet I have to eat a sprout.
STICKY FOR LICKY
Licking helps dogs relax, timing when you give them something to lick it is important. For instance before a meal isn’t great but after something arousing like a walk, a visitor or after present unwrapping would be a great time to give a calming lickimat or long lasting chew as come down. Licking produces serotonin the happy relaxing chemical which is involved in sleeping, mood and appetite regulation.
A quick search on Google will come up with toppings suggestions. My dogs have to have low fat cos Ren is pancreatic. She quite likes a paste made from soaking her kibble in water for a bit then spread on her lickimat and is great for dogs or cats on a vet prescribed diet.
My lickimat will have Bailey’s on it.
PREPARE YOUR VISITORS
Your home is your dogs home and where they should feel safe 100% of their life.
- To help them, prepare and implement a visitor plan that takes into account your dogs needs (if they are shy and anxious and wary of new people can you meet your visitors on a little walk first perhaps)
- If your visitors are wary of dogs ensure your dogs needs have been met, including exercise and time with you and give them a super duper stinky long lasting chew or some stinky treats on a snuffle mat when your visitors come in to prevent jumping up and encourage a positive association for everyone.
- Then baste your visitors in plenty of eggnog and tell them you love them
- Then let visitors know the dogs get first dibs on the blankies and spots on the sofa, and that they’ll go home covered in dog hair and maybe some snot.
- Make sure visitors know not to feed your dogs anything you wouldn’t give them, so no mince pies, Christmas cake or chocolate. Or alcohol. If guests have had too much eggnog, leave them in charge of peeling sprouts while you you let the dog out for a comfort break and tell them you love them
- If visitors buy your dog a squeaky toy they also need to bring the host additional booze or mince pies as compensation, thems the rules
I have to admit I don’t mind being greeted enthusiastically by my dogs, they only have us after all but do appreciate not everyone welcomes a 23kg wally lamping them on arrival, so maybe keeping puppers entertained with a lickimat or snuffle mat or similar when guests arrive, allowing them the chance to greet more calmly.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE A PUPPY OR A KITTEN
Proof everything – learn to be tidy!
- Put shoes away, handbags and kids toys when puppy is awake and invest in a Dog G8 (I have one, they’re gr8…see what I did there…) or an x-pen as a room divider to help maintain some status quo when you can’t watch them proactively.
- They will wake everyone in the small hours so give visitors ear plugs and extra bedding and give your pets what they need too to feel safe
- Set your alarm to make sure you can get puppy out for a wee without causing them frustration and empty the kitty trays at least twice a day
- Make sure your toddler can’t access the liter tray or their food and make sure everyone knows exactly where they are at any given moment. If it’s quiet…well they might asleep but best check just in case they’re peeing in your aunties boots. I’m talking about the puppy not toddler!
This Christmas is coming after what is probably the strangest year any of us have had. So in the immortal words of Rogelio de la Vega “inhala, exhala” and have the best Christmas you can. I’m off to watch Home Alone and Elf.
Links for Katie Scott-Dyer :https://katiescottdyer.com
Merry Christmas Everyone, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Take care! – Kit