Holiday festivities often bring joy and enchantment to many, but they also might bring a bit of upheaval to your dog’s world. What does the holiday season mean for your inquisitive canine? Will he or she be spending more time alone? Will they have to entertain themselves?
Here’s the good news. Dog guardians can use training and management to create pleasant associations and help dogs feel less stressed during the pawlidays, and throughout the year. And since a content and happy dog is a content and happy pet parent, let’s dig into our pro tips to help your canine companion through a few common holiday stressors.
Part One of this two-part series will cover alleviating some of the stress associated with spending more time independently. Part two will cover helping dogs with potentially stressful canine-human interactions.
Dogs are Social Creatures
Keep in mind that our canine companions are social animals. They enjoy the company of others and often do not do well when left alone – unless you condition them to do so. If there’s a sudden shift in your routine and your dog isn’t used to solitude, and doesn’t like it, there may be some behavioral issues coming down the pike. If your inquisitive canine has signs or symptoms related to canine isolation distress, we recommend you consider the following:
- Behavior modification plans that can be implemented, and even medications to help with these issues, are available. Talk with your dog’s vet or a veterinary behaviorist, and consult with a force-free trainer who specializes in separation anxiety conditions.
- Separation anxiety training can help dogs get to a place where they can actually be comfortable during time spent alone.
- Teaching your dog independence and coping skills are essential to your pet’s emotional and physical well-being! Help build self-confidence through training, learning and mental stimulation.
One way to help a dog who struggles with being asked to spend much more time than usual alone during the holidays is to be mindful about the amount of time you’re asking him to be alone. And if you can, try not to push him to the point where he’s uncomfortable and struggling. Fortunately, dogs are good reminders that it’s the simple things – a game of fetch, a little walk to get some fresh air, a sunrise or sunset together, cuddle time – that make life that much more enjoyable. So, your pawliday prep might include carving out some quality time to savor with your inquisitive canine. Be prepared to take frequent breaks from the holiday hustle and bustle, and try to find some small moments of joy with your pup. There’s no substitute for unleashing adventure and harnessing fun with your inquisitive canine…any time of year.
Environmental and Behavioral Enrichment
- Safe, enriching spaces and toys will help encourage your pup to be independent and enjoy “me time.”
- Help dogs make good choices by providing good choices to choose from! Give dogs access to areas and situations that would likely increase wanted behaviors.
- Consider when your dog might be bored – maybe when you are busier than usual, more distracted, catching up with your human loved ones, and so on. Providing enrichment is key to helping prevent boredom-related issues. Food-stuffed toys, scavenger hunts, and chewies all come in handy when pups have to entertain themselves for a bit.
- Dogs need to chew! This is normal – not naughty. Providing allowable items will help prevent them from chewing up things that can be dangerous to them (candy, candles, gifts, decorations) and frustrating -and expensive!- to you.
- In lieu of giving them their whole meals out of a bowl, use a portion of their food to get more of the behaviors you want by delivering it to them through training and/or enrichment toys.
- What about trying some new special treats – either purchasing them or making them yourself?
- Most dogs love to play and it’s an important part of their stress management.
- Why not buy your pooch a special toy (or reuse one they haven’t seen in a while)? Then be sure to take a moment to enjoy watching him delight in your gift. After all, ideally, the holidays are a time for celebration and merriment!
- Engage in fun and games together. Some exercise and playtime with your inquisitive canine can help shake off holiday-induced stressors for you and your pup.
- In addition to exercise and playtime, make sure you and your inquisitive canine are getting enough quiet time too to help “refill your cup” – or bowl, as the case may be.
- Ensure that your dog has one or more comfy resting spots. A bed (or beds), couch or chair, crate or X-pen area, even a separate room. Some dogs love a certain sunny or cool place on the floor, depending on the dog and time of year. The important point here is, make sure dogs have access to the places they feel most safe, secure, and relaxed as can be.
We often ask a lot of inquisitive canine sidekicks. During the holiday season, that might include learning to be comfortable with more time spent alone and adjusting to new routines, people, sights, and sounds. Please remember to go easy on yourself and your furry friends. Even busy pet parents can manage behaviors and harness your inquisitive canine’s energy in productive – and super fun – ways. Above all, remember to enjoy this quality time together!