6 October 2022

Keeping Your Dog Safe at Holiday Dinners

A holiday gathering can be a wonderful few days of family and friends coming together around a special meal or two. For your dog, however--while this might mean some extra love and playtime and attention--it can also present a lot of opportunities for mischief, mishaps, and anxiety. Keep your pup's needs in mind, and take these few steps to ensure that they still feel safe in their own home.

The arrival of guests means doors to the outside opening and closing, and distracted humans. If your dog gets too excited as visitors arrive, consider gating them or keeping them in another room, away from the door until everyone has arrived.

If your pet is generally nervous of new people, a group of visitors can feel overwhelming. Make sure they have a safe space to which they can retreat if they feel anxious, where guests are not allowed to go. This can be an entire room, part of a room, or simply a dog crate. If you sense that your pup wants some alone time, allow them to have it; making them stay and engage can escalate unwanted behaviour. Giving them a break means everyone will be happier!

Make sure you supervise any children while they visit with your pup, and remove your dog if they seem to be avoiding the children, as that's a sign of discomfort. Don't allow things to escalate to any aggressive behaviours, such as hackles up, growling, or snapping. When the house is alive with activity, your pup may already feel overwhelmed, so this applies even to children whom the dog knows well.

Don’t encourage children to feed your dog by hand. Since they are smaller in size, dogs may view children as their equal or even inferior and they may try to inappropriately take food from the child at any time.

Kitchens are busy and sometimes stressful places during a holiday. Set some boundaries for your pup before you begin to cook so that they cannot get underfoot and trip you up, or be hurt, themselves. Keeping your pup out of the kitchen also prevents them from getting into any ingredients or packaging that might be harmful to them--especially if they have a history of counter surfing. Carefully discard any leftover turkey brine, as it smells tempting to your pup but is full of salt that could give them salt toxicosis. As always, make sure the garbage has a tight-fitting lid so that items like corn cobs, snack bags, turkey trussings, and bones can't result in an injury that necessitates a trip to the emergency vet!

Lastly, make sure your guests all know that they shouldn't slip your pup any food from the table. Not only could this undo some of your hard work and training, there are lots of ingredients in a holiday meal that a dog shouldn't eat. It's best to give your pup a special treat that is just for them.

Most importantly: have a fantastic time! We wish you all a safe and happy holiday.

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