The holidays are right around the corner, but your dog is acting anything but jolly. He’s lost the jingle in his step. Gone is his ready-quick gin, the goofy barks and the jubilant dash to fetch a favorite tossed toy. Just like us, some dogs do develop a case of the holiday blues that can extend past the festive ushering of the new year. Consider this: Your loyal canine pal is so tuned into you, your emotions and your schedule. But the comforting predictability of the household routine has been upended by your erratic comings and goings, the arrival of a large tree I the living room with don’t-touch ornaments, the smell of oh-so-tempting goodies form the oven an the not-so-welcomed appearance of strange and sometimes obnoxious people referred to as ‘relatives’ by you. That’s doggone lot to deal with, especially for your confused canine. Look for these clues that your dog is showing signs of holiday stress (although they could also be due to a health concern, so consult with your veterinarian):
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy and interest
- Lip licking and/or yawning
- Becoming boisterous or whining
- Hiding, cowering and ignoring your ‘come’ calls
- Chewing up sofa pillows or comforters that he has left untouched before the holidays
- Turning into a Velcro dog, shadowing your every step in the house
- Piddling and pooping in the house after years of stellar potty habits
If you don’t address these behavioral changes, the doggie blues can continue after the holidays when you return back to work and the kids head back to school. This is especially true for highly social dogs who welcome the holidays because they know they will get more attention in the forms of petting, cuddling and, especially treats from you and visitors. Suddenly, they find themselves home alone.
Whether you plan to take a holiday vacation, sans your dog or intend to stay home and fill your house with lots of guests, here are some effective solutions I read about a while ago to prevent Yule time from turning into yowl times..
Dog -free time
If you pan to take a dog-free vacation, hire a professional pet sitter or take your dog to a reputable boarding facility. The choice depends on your dog’s health, age, temperament and experience with other dogs.
Dogs who are shy, quiet and get intimidated by the presence of other dogs or loud barking will likely prefer to be at home. Dogs who can handle changes in their routines and environment, who are used to being around other dogs, doggie daycare are best candidates for boarding.
In choosing a professional pet sitter, contact one who belongs to professional pet sitter organization, such as the National Associations of Professional Pet sitters (www.petsitters.org), and Pet Sitters International (www.petsit.com). Members of these organizations much show proof or being licensed and bonded. This is not the time to save money by hiring the neighbor kid or an untrained house sitter. A professional pet sitter if prepared for emergencies and in many ways can be like Santa Claus to your dog. A pet sitter will feed, walk, play and love on your dogs as well as pick up your mail, water the plants and take out the trash. They do all they can to let your dog know that he is loved and well-cared for during your absence. Plus , your dog get to stay in his own home.
Boarding your dog, or taking him for doggie day care are options if you have an energetic, social dog.
My advice is to scout out local boarding/day care facilities in advance and give your dog a ‘trial run’ before the holiday to gauge his level of acceptance. Some of the companies offer a free day of day care during non-holiday seasons and encouraging people to tour the place before booking a reservation.
Dog Merry activities
If you plan to stay home for the holidays with your dog here are some ways to save the sanity and fend off stress for you both.
- Power walk with your pooch.
- Book time each days to take a daily brisk walk or run with your dog to stave off some of the holiday stress bubbling inside you both. Use the talk to mentally map out your holiday gift list or holiday dinner game plan, or as a good excuse to escape irritating or demanding relatives who are visiting.
- Schedule canine cuddle time. Calmly call your dog over and cuddle with him on the sofa for five to 10 minutes each day. Enjoy being in the moment with your four-legged pal. You will be amazed how this daily ritual will help you and your dog survive, perhaps even thrive, this holiday season.
- Dish up a holiday treat. Here is a recipe my pups love and easy to make. Show your dog how much you love him by baking him a special batch of canine cookies or snacks.
- Book an activity that your dog can join you in. Take your leashed dog on a walk through a neighborhood all decked out in holiday lights and decorations (Bring a stash of his favorite treats and poop bags). Or check online for any special dog holiday parties or events in your area.
I can see you
Whether you are gone from home for the day or the entire holiday, you can keep tabs on your home-along dog 24/7. There are lots of high-tech monitoring devices that enable you to see, speak and even dole out a treat to your dog with the click of a button. Some gadgets even allow you to remotely play fetch or have your dog chase a laser toy from apps on your smartphone.
Be ready for the next round of holidays by creating and embracing some New Year’s resolutions to benefit your dog. Here are a few to consider:
- Become a label reader. Select quality commercial products that list a real meat (such as beef, chicken or salmon) as the first ingredient. Choose food made in North American to ensure quality compliance.
- Schedule daily mini-play sessions indoors, especially during poor weather. Mix and match several types of dog toys to maintain interest. Toss a tennis ball down the hallway or engage in a friendly game of tug-of-war with a durable rope toy, or praise him for stalking and ‘capturing’ a plush toy with a squeaker inside.
- Invest five minutes every day to brush your dog’s coat. Select the right brush or comb that fits his coat, short haired long haired or nearly hairless like the Chinese Crested Dog or Mexican hairless Dog. Or use grooming gloves designed for use on dogs.