How To Keep An Anxious Dog Happy During The Holiday Season
Dogs are creatures of habit. They like knowing when they’ll be fed, when they get to play, and they love knowing when you’ll be home. Needless to say, the craziness of the holiday season can wreak havoc on their nervous systems… especially if they’re already a little nervous to begin with.
Whether you’re traveling for the holidays this year or you’re having people come to your home, it’s best to start preparing your dog for the changes in advance. Just because they don’t fully understand what’s happening doesn’t mean you can’t give them a heads up. Here’s how.
If you’re traveling…
Are you leaving your pup behind when you embark on your holiday adventures? This can be a little nerve wracking for him, especially if he suffers from separation anxiety. But fear not: Holiday travel is about being reunited with friends and family, not feeling guilty. If you can’t be 100% sure your dog is happy, you can certainly make sure he’s well cared for and safe. And there are plenty of ways to do that.
If someone familiar will be staying in your home with your dog, have him or her come over beforehand so they’re especially familiar. And if you’ve hired someone new from a dog-sitting site, definitely arrange a “puppy playdate” first. Pay the person to spend an hour getting to know your dog, and let them go on a walk or spend some solo time together. But feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like. Also, having your pup’s caregiver stick to your standard routine as much as possible will really ease his mind.
If you’re kenneling your dog, this may not be the best time to take him to a place he’s never been before. Try to pick a familiar place you’ve used in the past—and if that isn’t an option, take him to his temporary home so he can sniff it out (literally) ahead of time. And if your dog has severe separation anxiety, talk to your vet. There are natural remedies you can try, and if all else fails, there are some effective medications that work as temporary fixes.
If you’re hosting a family party…
Is your dog nervous around company? Don’t worry—you do not have to lock him in your bedroom (nor should you, it’s his home!). If you’re only having a few people over, simply giving them a heads up and asking them to avoid getting too close should do the trick as long as no one is extremely loud. If you’re hosting a larger group, provide your dog with a safe space like his own comfy bed, chair or crate space. Keep his area stocked with toys, chewies, bones, anything that will distract him—and warn your guests, especially young children, that the space is for the dog only.
If you feel like one or more of your guests is making your dog anxious, put him in a different room and give him some space to breathe. The more we “listen” to what our dogs are telling us, the more proactive we’ll be at preventing any unwanted situations.
Of course, you might have the opposite problem, a dog who goes crazy and acts rambunctious and excited when he has company. This can also be an issue, especially if your dog has IVDD or other back issues and needs to take it easy. Believe it or not, the same solutions apply here—give your pup a safe space where he can go to calm down, and make him go there. If he’s good and healthy, a very (very) long walk or play session at the park might also do the trick since he’ll be too tired to jump as much as he’d like.With a little planning and a lot of patience, you and your dog will survive this holiday season feeling happy and content.