Hounds for the Holidays


It’s an understatement to say that this isn’t your typical year. However, some things don’t change, and one of those things is the question of what to do with your dog(s) during the holidays. Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, Kwanzaa… these can be stressful times for all of us (especially this year). While most of us probably enjoy having canine family members share the holidays, it can lead to trouble if we’re not careful how we include them in the festivities.

Know your dog

If your well-behaved very social dog loves company and the commotion that can go along with holiday get-togethers, your task is easier. Your primary concern is monitoring comings and goings so she doesn’t slip out the door as guests arrive and depart. Most dogs, however, are likely to require more management than that. Here are additional things to watch out for:

  • Counter surfing: Many a dog has enjoyed an unexpected holiday ham that was left unguarded on a counter or table. If your dog has any tendency to help himself to unattended yummies, you need to increase your management mega-fold. If guests are likely to leave surfing-prevention baby gates or doors open, consider parking your dog in a safe room until the chaos subsides.
  • Stress: Even dogs who are reasonably comfortable with people can be stressed by all the extra activity. Assign one responsible family member to keep a close eye on your dog. If she’s getting stressed, give her a break in a quiet room away from the action, especially if lots of grandkids and/or young nieces and nephews are bouncing about. Unless your dog absolutely adores children, this can be very stressful for her – and stress causes aggression… Enough said.
  • Holiday Hazards: Some of the things we love about the holidays are deadly to our canine friends, including chocolate, cooked turkey bones, poinsettias, and tinsel. Be extra vigilant about preventing your dog from ingesting items that can harm him – the emergency clinic is not where you want spend your holiday. An excited dog can knock over a menorah or holiday candle and start a fire… also not the way to spend your holiday! 
Photo: Orbon Alija/Getty Images

Know your guests and hosts

You love your dog, but (surprise!) not everyone does. If your visitors aren’t going to be thrilled by your Jack Russell’s paws shredding their nylons, or your Bloodhound’s drool decorating their Gucci trousers, be considerate and put Jumping Jack and Drooling Debbie in a bedroom for the evening. If you’re going to be a guest at someone else’s dinner party, be sure your dog will be welcome at your host’s home before plopping Travelling Tess in her canine seat belt and showing up at their door.

If you expect long-term guests – perhaps family staying for a week – and dogs and/or humans will be uncomfortable with repeated close encounters, consider boarding your dog at a well-run facility that you have thoroughly checked out. It could be a lot less stressful for all concerned if no one has to worry about management failures and unhappy results.

Pups as presents

Animal professionals generally frown on acquiring new dogs during the holidays – puppies or otherwise, not to mention the ill-advised practice of surprising someone with a pet as a gift. There are exceptions and ways you can make it work. 

When I was young, my family did a lot of things wrong with our animal caretaking, but one thing my parents did totally right was surprised me with a puppy for Christmas by wrapping up a collar, leash and dog bowl and putting that package under the tree (best present ever!). After the holiday chaos was over, we had plenty of time to look for a dog. We brought my first Collie puppy home when things were calm and we had time to give him proper care and attention.

If you want to give someone an animal companion as a gift, don’t make it a surprise. Talk to them first to be sure they want to complicate their life by taking on the responsibility for another living being and then let them be part of the process of finding and adopting their new family member. As for the caveat that the holidays are a horrible time to bring home a new dog – that is true much of the time. But if you are home alone for the holidays – no traveling, no family or friends visiting, no parties – it could be the perfect time to add a new canine companion to your family.

Bottom line is – use good judgment. The holidays can be a happy time for you and your dogs if you are careful to make it so.

Featured Image: AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

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