Aaaah, the holidays. It’s the annual decorating-shopping-cooking-gathering-holiday movie watching extravaganza. It can be SO much fun! And it can be SO stressful, for you and the other souls who share your life.
That includes the family pet. They aren’t privy to the holiday buildup. All they know is that suddenly changes are happening. Families aren’t giving them the attention they’re used to, the house is suddenly full of decorations they’re not supposed to touch, strangers come into their homes, and the children they love come home…and leave again.
This causes anxiety in dogs, but there are lots of things you can do to calm your dog and make them feel as holly-jolly as possible.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
Your dog might be easygoing, taking the holiday changes in stride, but if you’re seeing these signs, your pet is experiencing stress:
Hiding or escaping
Avoidance or distracting behavior like ignoring guests or obsessively licking
Cats experience many of these same symptoms when they’re stressed. In fact, we’ve seen many cats develop UTIs when under stress!
Let’s head these Grinchlike holiday joy-killers off at the pass! Here are a few of the most common holiday stressors and how to calm your dog during the holiday festivities.
Tips for Calming Your Pet During Holiday Parties
All the people! All the food! All the mingling!
Dogs can get over-excited by all these things or they can become stressed. While you’re planning your party, do some planning for your pooch, too.
Set up a zen-den.
If your dog is a social butterfly, great! They’ll love mingling for a bit and lapping up the extra attention. A little socializing goes a long way, so you’ll want to create a safe space for anxious dogs or for social dogs who need a break.
Designate a space away from the bustle and noise, a room where you can set up your pup’s bed or crate.
Stock the room with some favorite chews, treats, and toys.
A pheromone plug-in dispenser can also be helpful to provide a sense of calm
Post a note on the door so guests don’t disturb the zen-den.
Keep holiday food and drink away from curious noses.
Most holiday food and drink is not dog friendly, but it’s so tempting!
If your dog is in the vicinity of all that delicious food:
Keep it up and away from curious noses.
Use trash cans with lids and take it out frequently.
Don’t be afraid to ask guests not to feed the dog from the table. It’s tempting to share the joy with the dog, but the tummy upset you’ll have to deal with afterward is just not worth it.
Exercise before the guests arrive.
Go for a nice, long walk or play a rousing game of fetch to release energy and tire your pup out.
Be sure to provide plenty of water if your dog will be hanging out in the zen-den after exercise.
Tips for Keeping Pets Safe Around Holiday Decorations
All this colorful, fun new stuff to explore! With a little planning, you can keep your pets safe amongst the holiday decor.
Don’t use edible decorations like popcorn strings or candy canes. Who could resist that?
Skip the tinsel. The sharp, thin pieces can get wound around intestines or ball up in the stomach of a curious and playful cat.
Set up a heavy base if your cat is a climber.
Put fragile ornaments up high so happy tails don’t knock them off.
Cover the water for a live tree with a tree skirt.
Keep wrapped treats away from the packages under the tree. They’ll sniff them out in no time!
Add a barrier around the tree for uber curious dogs and cats.
Beware the holly and mistletoe. Keep these well out of reach as they are toxic to pets.
Poinsettias have a bad reputation for toxicity, but because their bright red leaves emit a sap that causes nausea and vomiting, pets won’t eat enough to be poisoned.
Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm During Holiday Travel
Over the river and through the woods! Here are some tips for keeping your dog relaxed if they’re traveling with you or if they’re staying home.
Travel with Dogs
Frequent potty breaks will help keep your pooch comfortable and provide a chance to stretch the legs, easing the sense of confinement. Before your trip, teach your dog to potty on different surfaces to make things easier.
Bring toys, games, and puzzles along. Bring some old favorites and a few new ones to keep things interesting. Having fun and being mentally stimulated will help ease anxiety and boredom.
Bring along their favorite bed or crate for them to sleep and chill out on.
Try to maintain their routines. Keeping mealtimes and exercise times consistent will keep your dog calm despite all the changes.
Leaving the Dog at Home
Do your research well ahead of your travel date. Decide if you want to hire someone to stay with your dog in your home, leave them with a friend or neighbor, or board. Visit any facility in person to make sure what you see and hear matches what you read online.
Write a detailed plan for how to care for your dog. Include information about your routines, what and how to feed, veterinary contact information, grooming needs, and how to deal with behaviors your pet sitter may encounter.
Use CBD treats and anxiety reducing flower essence formulas to ease separation anxiety.
Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm While You're Out for the Evening
‘Tis the season for attending holiday parties, visiting with friends and family, dining, drinking, and merry-making. You deserve time away from the dog to enjoy the season. Here are a few tips to keep your dog calm while you’re away.
Designate a special treat toy or puzzle to be used only when you leave the house for a while. A treat filled with frozen yogurt or peanut butter or a puzzle filled with yummies takes time and brain power. Remove the toy when you get home.
Stay low-key. Don’t make a big deal about leaving. Prolonged goodbyes simply ramp up the anxiety. If you give out no-big-deal energy, your pup will pick up on that. Don’t make your homecoming splashy either. In many cases, ignoring the dog for a few minutes after your arrival helps your dog see that your coming and going is nothing to get anxious about.
Exercise before departure. A tuckered out dog won’t care so much when you leave. They’ll be eyeing that favorite spot to snooze.
Use flower essence blends that promote a feeling of safety, security, and peace. Flower essences work at a vibrational level on a dog’s energy centers to lower the intensity of holiday or goodbye energy to keep your dog calm.
Try CBD as an additional tool to bring a sense of calm to your pet.
Tips for Keeping Calm During Fireworks
Many people ring in the new year with fireworks. They are a bright and beautiful way to celebrate the fresh year. The loud noises can be very scary to pets. Here’s how to calm their anxiety.
Make sure your dog has the correct information on their microchip before the big night, just in case. Collars with ID tags are good, but they can come off if your dog gets out. Always get your dog microchipped.
Set up a zen-den away from windows, as far away from the noise as possible.
Mask the sound with white noise, TV, or music.
Comfort them with long, firm, slow strokes along the back.
Exercise beforehand to help tire them out and release energy.
Try compression with a Thundershirt or anxiety wrap.
Hire a trainer to help desensitize your dog for the next time (July 4th is coming!)
The holidays can be a tricky time of year for pets and people alike. Everything you see and hear at this time gives the message that this should be a joyous season filled with festive feelings.
But sometimes, the holidays just aren’t easy. And if you’re experiencing sadness, grief, or loneliness on top of the stress, the holiday season can be very difficult.
One of the most important things you can do to keep your pet calm during the holidays is to take care of yourself.
Our pets notice everything and often mirror our own emotions. Being good to yourself helps your pets, too:
Practice calming rituals
Take walks in nature
Take a break in your own zen-den
Use flower essences to support your own calming energy
The Healthy Animal Healing Center has special holiday flower essence blends that will help you and your pet have a calm and enjoyable holiday season. We’ve got enrichment toys, chews, treats, and CBD, too.
Being proactive in dealing with anxiety provoking stressors can help both you and your pet have an all-is-calm, all-is-bright holiday season!