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Fun And Stress-Free Ways To Include Dogs In The Howl-idays

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Holidays are family time, whether you celebrate Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other special celebration. Since dogs are part of the family, we want to include them. But along with the pleasures of holiday decorations and visiting guests come mounting stresses for humans as well as pets. Here are some ways, gathered from friends on Facebook as well as personal experience, to take the stress out of celebrations and build fun into family gatherings.

Private Space

Rebecca Stephenson says, only somewhat facetiously, “Don’t invite any humans!”

If your dog feels stress around strangers, think twice about inviting guests into your home. The same goes for unfamiliar pets who accompany Aunt Ethel everywhere. To keep your furry family members’ happiness quotient as high as possible, consider celebrating away from your home, at a restaurant, perhaps. At the very least, create a safe, private area in your home for Prince to snooze while all the strangers visit. Fill it with his favorite toys or treats and don’t force him to interact. That can be the best gift for shy dogs, and you’ll all be happier.

Treats For All

Good smells fill the air from festive dishes tempting to people—and pets. Overindulging isn’t good for anyone, and some people food is downright dangerous to dogs. But the stress of seeing you munch inspires Fifi to counter surf for her share of the booty.

Why not bake some treats for your canine family members, too? That way, you can share the yummies and keep tails wagging.

Deck The Halls With Safety

All those twinkling lights, candles, and packages just begging for nosy investigation increase stress levels when dogs hear your constant, “No, leave it alone!” Give dogs a safe alternative.

Lisa Hall-Wilson says, “This being my first holiday with my pup, I just take a treat ball, the kind you can stuff treats in, and let him work on that while I decorate. I ask his opinion–he agrees with all my choices–and I pretend that we’re doing it together.

It’s also important to make sure decorations within paw-reach remain pet safe. Marci Pritchett DeLisle doesn’t have dogs, but her tips for cats work just as well for canines. She decorates in steps, just a little bit at a time, so the change isn’t overwhelming to sensitive pets. “I no longer feel the need to have it perfect–or purr-fect! So if the kitties take the decorations down I just laugh and put them up again.”

Lights And Sights

For dogs who love car rides, a trip to view the holiday lights around town may be just the ticket. My Magical-Dawg used to adore car rides, and any excuse made his tail wag. He’s not alone.

Theresa Shelton Littlefield takes her dog Kinsler with her to go look at the holiday lights, and so does Jen Nipps. It can even be a heartwarming memory to share from holidays past, Nipps says, since her dog Zach is no longer with her. “This year, we’ll take Ellie and Gabby and wish Zach could be with us. It will be fun to watch Ellie, though. She loves to go for rides and loves to look around.”

Find something your dog loves to do, whether that’s wearing a festive sweater or watching the passing scene, and indulge them. It’s what we do to keep them happy.

Toys And Games

A new toy or special game can bring happiness to both the giver and receiver. Rebecca Anderson says her dogs pose for pictures the day the tree goes up, as a keepsake for the humans. “Then they each get a new toy. Christmas morning they get stockings with tennis balls and bully sticks.”

Kristi Brashier also offers treats and new toys in the dogs’ stockings and says they love pulling the items out. “Christmas day was our beloved Trixie’s favorite day of the year because she was in charge of cleanup. She delighted in picking up the discarded wrapping paper left on the floor after opening gifts.”

What a great idea! Shredding paper is one of Bravo-Boy’s dearest pleasures in life. Now I know what he’s getting Christmas morning.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

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