How to reduce stress factors for dogs at Christmas

By Guest

17th Sep 2021 | Opinion

A Honiton canine care professional and dog walker has predicted that this Christmas will see higher levels of dog aggression, unwanted behaviours and dog bites.

Jude from Park Life Honiton, wants to help owners prevent a 2020 Christmas day disaster by giving advice to help people and their dogs have the best time.

Christmas normally has a high level of dog bites due to all the commotion and excitement but this year it will be amplified due to the lockdown restrictions as many dogs have not been use to people coming and going from their home this year and they may become more guarded or feel overwhelmed.

Along with the change of routine, owners rushing about and feeling stressed, children over excited and screaming, along with alcohol consumption.

It's a tough time for our dogs.

Lots of owners that have had to deal with the aftermath of dog bites say "it just came out of the blue" when in fact poor Fido had given multiple signs and signals that weren't read or were ignored.

The first step to preventing a disaster is to be able to read your dog.

A few signs to watch out for:

  • Licking of the lips
  • Yawning
  • Turning the head away
  • Stiffening of the body and an intense stare
  • Backing away
  • Ears pinned back
  • Tight mouth
  • Head down (avoiding a touch)
  • Whale eye (where you can see the whites at the corner and bottom of the eye)
  • Panting
  • Over excitement

Children are the most likely to be bitten because they want to explore and push the boundaries along with adult guests who have had a few drinks and believe that they should be the alpha, possibly petting your dog to hard, rough housing or teasing which will frighten them.

It's totally your job to protect your dog and lay down some hard rules for your family and guests when it comes to what they can do with your dog.

Giving your dog some time out, making their bed or crate a no-go zone and teaching or rewarding your dog off the sofa instead of telling them to get off will help.

Be strict and explain that your dog will find Christmas day hard and they need ignore your dog more than they usually do.

Keeping their usual routine and food the same will lower the stress. It's lovely giving your dog a Christmas dinner but if they aren't use to some of the foods they could end up with a sore tummy which can make them grumpy.

A lack of sleep and a noisy sleeping area can do the same. Dogs need up to 14 hours of rest a day and with all the commotion this could be tricky for your dog so letting them sneak off to the bedroom for a treat might do them justice.

For dogs that you know are going to be particularly stressed, calming sprays and plug ins will help and you can plan some things for your dog to do throughout the day so they are distracted from the main party.

Food filled toys, hard chews, and games that your dog needs to work at to get the food out will really help.

Other ideas include:

  • Give them space and a place to retreat
  • Set down the house rules to your visitors
  • Keep routines the same
  • Learn as much as you can about dog body language
  • Use pheramones such as the Dog Appeasing Pheramone (Adaptil)
  • Use soft, soothing music
  • Be calm and relaxed yourself
  • Plan out activities for them to do away from the group - a kong, hard chew, scatter feeding or brain games

Remember that humans are hard wired to pay attention to dogs and dog lovers will naturally be wanting to make a fuss, your dog may not want that attention if there is too much excitement and trying to understand what's going on.

They are also association learners so just because they like your children or the next door neighbours children it doesn't necessarily mean they like all children.

Dogs, like humans like to develop a trust and friendship over time so just by learning the basics of canine body language will help to protect and safeguard a dog.

If you would like to know more information on dog related issues like, what foods your dog can and can't eat, then head over to Parklife Honiton

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