Megan’s Musings: Happy Holidays Safety Tips

When most of us think of the holiday season we think of celebrations, creating happy memories and spending time with those we love. For many, it is a time full of love and joy. However, for our pets, it can be full of dangers and be a time filled with fear and stress. This is because many of the things we do to celebrate the holidays are foreign and new to our pets and can instead cause anxiety and pose potential threats. By following the below tips for each holiday item, you can ensure you continue to fill your holidays with wonderful memories that include your pets and help keep everyone safe and happy!

Decorations Indoor and outdoor decorations can be scary to dogs. They light up, make noises and may even move. They only come out once a year and many are unlike anything your dog has ever seen. It is important that you introduce them slowly and give your dog time to investigate and become accustomed to them. Pair them with food rewards to ensure your dog views them as a positive. Take it slow and work at your dog’s pace; ensure they are not showing signs of stress and trying to flee. It is not funny when your dog shows signs of fear, so do not force them to interact or push the scary decorations towards them. For decorations that move or make noise, begin with them turned off so that you do not startle your dog.  Keep decorations out of reach to ensure they do not chew them up and ingest anything, and always supervise your dog with them!

Holiday Treats It’s the time of year that treats and goodies are everywhere and they prove to be one of the biggest dangers! Chocolate and xylitol (an artificial sweetener) can make your dog very sick or cause death. Wrappers can also be fatal or cause major discomfort if digested. Keep them safe by always keeping treats, baked goods, groceries and wrapped gifts stored in a secure place out of your dog’s reach! Many dogs are rushed to the vet because they have ingested dangerous items, so be sure to keep wrapped gifts out of reach and double check the area after having guests or having food/gifts out. If your dog ingests something and you are unsure it if is dangerous, contact your vet. The below graphic illustrates the most dangerous items to your dog as well for quick reference:

Plants Ideally, it is best not to bring any holiday plants into your house to ensure your pets stay safe. This is because there are quite a few common holiday plants that can be toxic to your pet. These include poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and daffodils. Even your Christmas tree can make your dog ill and cause stomach upset. Keep your pet safe by keeping them out of reach or by buying artificial options. Lilies can be fatal to cats, so should never be in a home with cats as it is harder to keep them out of reach. Watch for any signs of sickness and to ensure a fun and safe holiday, don’t buy them! For the tree, take the time to introduce it slowly and always supervise your pets around it. Do not leave dogs who are young or are just learning about the tree alone with access to it while you are out. It can be intriguing to them and full of too many tempting items!

Presents Presents are exciting for dogs and they will want to investigate them. If your dog is young, always keep the presents blocked (you can have them behind an ex-pen) or do not allow your dog access to the room unsupervised. Even adult dogs can get curious, especially if there are food items wrapped up. Keep them all out of reach until it is time to open them. Do not risk your dog becoming sick, getting an injury or even death.

Opening the gifts is an exciting time for all and may be overwhelming for some dogs. If your dog becomes too excited or stressed, move them away from the activity and give them a chew bone or stuffed kong to keep them busy. Supervise them when they are around the gifts and ensure they do not ingest any of the paper or bows. Do not get angry at them for misbehaving, but rather set them up for success and show them what to do so they can be part of the fun! Better yet, include them and have presents just for them that they can open and enjoy!

Santa Claus Santa appears in many places over the holidays and although we view him as a jolly fellow, he can be very scary for our dogs! Many people also participate in pet photos with Santa which can make for a fun Christmas event and a special keepsake, but it can be an overwhelming experience for your dog. If your dog is unsure of strangers or has fear concerns, please leave them at home. For social dogs, help prepare them by introducing Santa costumes and sitting with a stranger away from you. Pair the photo session with big rewards, be patient and be sure that the ones organizing the event are doing the same. Taking the time to prepare them will make for a wonderful keepsake that you can enjoy for many years.

Parties Everyone wants to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones, including their dogs. However, parties are full of excitement, noises and people acting strange which can be too stressful for your dog. If you have a fearful dog, it is best to keep big celebrations away from the house. However, many dogs are not used to these celebrations so you can help them by preparing for the party. Before any event, ensure they receive adequate exercise and have stuffed kongs and chew bones ready to keep them busy. At home, give them a quiet space if they need time on their own and remove them for loud activities or games. Be sure to monitor them and give them time away from the party if they are getting too excited or seem unsure. Keep them at home if you are going to see the fireworks for New Years to ensure the loud noises do not frighten them. If you live near where fireworks are set off, keep them inside to ensure they cannot flee and remove them from the countdown celebrations to ensure they do not become too stressed with the excitement. With the right prep work you can happily celebrate the holiday season together!

Christmas Dinner No one enjoys when a dog begs at the dinner table, but they only do this because they have learned that it works. It is also quite common to have guests that want to feed your dog from the table which can introduce bad habits and create stomach upset or worse for your dog. Teach your dog to settle away from the table on a mat and give them a chew bone or stuffed kong to keep them busy. If they will not stay, you can keep them behind a gate or in a kennel, but practice this before Christmas dinner.  This is an excellent skill to introduce now to ensure you can keep your dog safe and settled throughout the busy holiday season. I would also suggest that you also give them a special snack so they can enjoy their own Christmas meal!

Travel The holidays are a busy time and it is great when we can bring our dogs with us when traveling to celebrate with friends and family. If you are going to someone’s home and your pets are welcome, discuss with your hosts where your dog will be during the activities. Familiarize your dog to the activities and practice alone training before you go. Always be sure to bring a variety of chew toys and bones to keep them busy. Keep your eye on them and monitor them to ensure they are feeling comfortable and are not showing signs of stress. If they are, give them quiet time away from the activities. Also be sure to provide adequate exercise and short periods away from the house throughout the day. Be sure to bring familiar items from home and give your dog time to acclimatize to the new environment.

A little prep work can go a long way in keeping everyone happy during the holidays. Be patient and understanding with your dog throughout this time. Remember that this is all new and they are not aware of what Christmas means. A few small steps can ensure everyone is safe and stress free. And be sure to speak with your trainer or feel free to email us at [email protected] at any time with questions.


Happy Holidays everyone!