The Holidays Can Be a Stressful Time for Your Pets
The most wonderful time of the year can be a very stressful time for your pets. The holidays highlight the importance of a well trained, well socialized pet that can adjust with ease to new environments. Most animals (particularly dogs and cats) like consistent structure in their environment. Dogs and even cats live in social groups (packs/families). They feel most comfortable and secure when the dynamics of the pack (humans included) stay the same. During the holidays is when family and friends tend to visit most. Our children come home from college and bring a new dog they recently adopted, or our parents/In-laws move into the house, or your sister comes to visit with her two toddlers. These changes to the pack dynamics can really be a problem and cause major stress for your pet.
As a canine behavioral expert, I will receive many phone calls the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years because of their dogs becoming aggressive and even biting a guest or family member. I also hear through the grapevine of people who can’t find their cats, who have been hiding for days. If your dog/cat is not used to small kids and toddlers or is a bit leery of strangers, visiting dogs and new situations in the house, you may want to re-think how you are going to handle these pets during the Holidays. For dogs that like to sleep on couches, beds and chairs you need to be very careful that small children and toddlers do not put their faces up to theirs. Many dog bites occur when dogs are elevated and children go to kiss them on the face or hug them. Don’t let the children play on the dog’s beds or in their crates. Watch your pets, and put them in another room when they seem stressed and/or have had enough of your houseguests. Be careful when alcohol is involved, people tend to not “read” animals correctly when they are under the influence. I can’t tell you how many times I hear of a family member or houseguest that becomes Cesar Milan at a party and attempts to train the dog, and unfortunately freaks the dog out or even gets bitten.
When a friend or family member wants to bring their new dog along, you really need to know how your pet will react. In general this is not a great idea. If your cat is not used to dogs or the visiting dog is not used to cats, it could prove to be a disaster. I just had a client whose cat was killed by her daughter’s new dog when she brought it home from college. If your dog tends to be protective of your home and yard when they see another dog, you will need to be very careful when having another dog visit. If you have a guest who is insistent on bringing their dog, first take both dogs on a long walk together and then introduce them in a neutral area. If all seems well, then introduce them in your yard next and then proceed to inside. Be sure to separate both dogs during feeding time. Pick up all dog toys and bones, as this is how many fights begin. In general, having your friend’s dog visit your home should be discouraged.
A great idea is to bring your dog to a boarding or daycare facility during this time. I have many people that will bring their dogs to my canine center (Dog Gone Smart) when they have a holiday party or out of town guests. The dogs may either stay for the day or even spend the night. This allows for your dogs to have lots of fun, get exercise and for you not to have to worry. You can enjoy the holidays and concentrate on your house guests. Another option is to set some off-limit rooms where your dog and cats can stay during the party. Put a sign on the door saying please keep out. If you can lock the door, all the better. For cats this can work great, but for dogs it may prove to be a problem if they can hear you and they tend to bark, scratch and whine. Crating your pet in a separate room may also work. Remember to leave them food and water and to let them out to relieve themselves. Don’t forget the kitty litter box for the cats.
With a little pre-planning your pets can be stress free and you can all enjoy the Holiday season.
(Original Article posted on CanineMaster.com blog)