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Are you getting a new puppy before Christmas? Or do you have a young dog/rescue that hasn’t experienced everything that Christmas can bring with it? This time of year, whilst fun for most people, can also be somewhat stressful for the human beings in the household, but don’t forget, it may affect your dog too.

Here are some points to consider to help get your dog through the Christmas season as painlessly as possible…

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  1. Keep anything that may be toxic for dogs well out of their reach. Chocolate, fruit cake, mince pies etc (anything with grapes or raisins in) are the main offenders, but make sure nothing edible is left in their way. Dark chocolate in particular is a problem, and it doesn’t take much to have potentially fatal consequences. Some plants can be toxic too, including Amaryllis and Poinsettias. If you think your dog might have eaten chocolate or anything else potentially toxic, call your vet immediately – they will be able to give you the best advice.
  2. Christmas trees and decorations may look like a wonderful toy to your dog! All those dangly things, temptingly within mouth range… if you think your dog may be interested in playing with decorations, limit their access to them. Vet bills for removing foreign bodies can be high! Don’t forget that presents left under a tree can also look enticing (and may contain food items that could be toxic)…. If you have a real tree, check your dog carefully for pine needles regularly, which can get everywhere.
  3. How does your dog cope with visitors to the house usually? If your dog is concerned by strangers, then the busy Christmas period with an increase in random visitors can be very stressful for them. Make sure your dog has a quiet, safe place they can retreat to if needs be. If you have a puppy, they may find the festivities exhausting- make sure they are still getting plenty of rest.
  4. Young children visiting your house can be super excited at Christmas, and not all dogs will appreciate the higher level of activity. Supervise dogs and children together 100 % of the time, and make sure children are handling the dog with respect – most dogs don’t like to be caught in a head-lock, ridden on like a pony, sat on or used as a pillow. They may *tolerate* it, but this doesn’t make it ok for it to happen. Make sure your dog always has an escape route, and somewhere they can relax without being bothered.
  5. You may have family members with their own dogs who want to come and visit, but introducing family dogs to each other can be stressful. If your dogs all get on already, that’s fine – if they’ve never met, then waiting until Christmas Day to find out is too late. Try and go for a calm walk somewhere neutral beforehand to test the water, but understand that while some dogs can be ok with others outside, they may not tolerate their presence in their own space. Have a back-up plan for being able to keep the dogs apart if you need to. For a short period, it’s often best to just divide and conquer, and keep stress levels low rather than have fights break out. If any of the dogs are likely to be possessive over food/toys, manage the situation so there as few opportunities to fall out as possible.
  6. Try and keep to a normal routine as much as possible. Make sure that your dog has had the usual amount of exercise/mental stimulation they would usually get, and mealtimes at roughly the same time. Most dogs like a sense of routine and consistency, and this can help them feel more secure.

Wishing you a safe, happy and stress-free Christmas!

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