Christmas is magical and exciting for us people (especially the little ones), but it’s also really important to be aware of the risks to our dogs at this time of year. Here are a few examples to bear in mind.
Trees and Decorations
So, the tree is up and has pride of place in your living room. Be careful though; your dog might see it as a new toy and you could end up with a very poorly dog and a hefty vet bill.
Positioning the tree up on a table out of reach is a good idea, and may help to avoid any temptation - especially if you have chocolates hanging from it. When you’re not around to supervise them though, it is best to pop your dog in their crate or in another room.
Furthermore, for those of you with real trees, those sharp pine needles get EVERYWHERE. I suggest hoovering around your tree regularly just to make sure your dog can walk around without getting needles stuck in her paws.
Also, don't forget those little presents that are in Christmas crackers. They are so easy to knock onto the floor and before you know it - the dog is chewing (or worse!) on a plastic joke moustache.
A beautifully wrapped gift under the tree is sometimes just too tempting for your dog. It’s not just a case of your presents being chewed and damaged though – your dog could swallow the wrapping paper and any small parts/food that could be bad for them.
Being a parent, I know what kids toys are like - lots of little bits of toys and packaging. Try and clear up the aftermath of the kids opening their presents quickly to prevent your dog finding something to chew on.
As always, if you’re not around to supervise, put your dog in another room or keep the presents up out of the way.
Poinsettia, Holly and Ivy
We love making our homes beautiful with festive foliage, but they do pose a few risks to our dogs. The poinsettia plant is mildly toxic and can cause some unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Holly berries can also cause an upset stomach, seizures and loss of balance, while Ivy can be harmful if eaten in larger quantities.
If you think that your dog has eaten some, then please get vet advice as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, fireworks can no longer just be expected on bonfire night and around Christmas and New Year there will probably be lots.
If your dog is frightened, the best thing for you to do is to just act completely normal – sit down, read a book, watch some television. Remember, if you are calm, your dog is more likely to be calm too.
Explain to children that acting as normal as possible will help your dog, and explain why. Getting children involved like this is great, because if they’re encouraged to think about things from a dog’s perspective from a young age, they’ll learn how to treat animals with respect and care.
Hustle and Bustle
Christmas is a time for having the family around and it can be extremely loud and chaotic. This can really disrupt your dog and their normal routine, so it’s a good idea to have a quiet spot in the house where they can retreat to if it all gets too much.
With all those people coming and going it’s also really easy to leave the front door open just long enough for your dog to get out, so make sure everyone knows to close the door straight away. The last thing you want at Christmas is a lost dog.
With all the hustle and bustle and because it’s such a busy time of year, normal routines normally go out the window. We eat at odd times, go to bed and get up at different times and spend all day pretty much sat on the sofa watching Christmas films. Certain things shouldn’t be forgotten though, such as your dog’s daily walks and mealtimes. Try to keep their routine normal, as best you can.
I don’t know about you, but I eat my own body weight in chocolate at Christmas and there’s always loads of it lying around the house during the festive period. It’s really important that you keep those sweet treats out of your dog’s reach though, because the theobromine which is in the chocolate is poisonous to dogs
Make children aware that chocolate can make the dog very poorly too, so they understand exactly why we can’t share it with them. Once they understand why, rather than simply being told not to give the dog a treat, they are usually very good.
Lots of us will be tucking into turkey for our Christmas dinner, but please be careful to make sure that the bird is kept well out of your dog’s reach; the tiny bones of the turkey can very easily get lodged in your dog’s throat, which could lead to a very expensive vet visit.
Children and Dogs
It’s not just about keeping our dogs safe this Christmas. Lots of us will have family over and it’s vital to make sure that visiting little ones are safe around your dog and that we avoid bites.
It’s best to sit children down and just have a chat about how we behave around dogs.
- We need to be calm around the dog - no running or screaming
- No teasing the dog with their food or new toys
- No feeding them
Understanding Dog behaviour - An infographic created by the RSPCA. Click on the graphic to see the large image.
Although they are great playmates, at certain times we’ll need to give the dog some space, especially when the children are particularly excited (unwrapping the presents is probably a good time for this). Pop the dog in another room until things calm down or their quiet space. One of ours will happily pop herself into her crate when she's had enough.
Bending over a dog and staring directly in his eyes will be seen as threatening. We respect their personal space .
Teaching visiting children the basics of dog body language is also really important, especially the ‘leave me alone’ signs.
A frightened dog’s ears will be plastered back on their head. The tail will be held very low or between the legs and will usually wag in short quick movements (make sure the children know that a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a dog is friendly), and the body will be lowered. This kind of reaction may not appear threatening so children often don’t heed the warning, perhaps explaining why fear is the most common cause of dog bites towards children.
An aggressive dog will make themselves appear larger with their body language. They will have a direct intense stare, have an alert posture, and could be growling and baring their teeth. Again, this is a warning to move away, or they may bite.
Travelling with Dogs
Christmas is usually a time to go and visit friends and family or take a short break away. If you are looking for a dog friendly short break, then take a look at Dogs Invited for a choice of short breaks.
When travelling in the car with the dog, it is a good idea to ensure that they are restrained. Here at Dog Guards R Us, we have a wide range of custom made dog guards to fit your car, and if you can't find a suitable one, take a look at our measuring guide to measure up for one - it will take you just 5 minutes.
Some of the dog guards have a custom made divider that will fit them. Perfect from keeping the dog away from the luggage and presents (if only it was that easy to keep the kids away from presents!) . To find out what is available for your car, click here to select your vehicle.
I really hope this gives you a few pointers and that you all have a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year with your family (two and four legs).
And on behalf of Dogs Invited and Dog Guards R Us, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and your families