Surviving Christmas – Anxiety-free festivities for your dog

Surviving Christmas – Anxiety-free festivities for your dog

All of us pet lovers know that our dogs often mirror our thoughts and feelings when faced with something new or a little overwhelming – and let’s face it, Christmas can be amazing, but also pretty full-on too!

Even the most chilled of dogs might find all that extra hustle and bustle a little much; so here’s some things to be mindful of this festive season, including tips on how to recognise anxiety and minimise it for your furry friend!

Is Your Dog Stressed at Christmas?

Isn’t it for everyone? You might be stressed about multiple visits from far flung relatives, another buffet or hosting another brunch, now imagine all those extra feet, voices, scents and sounds – your dog might feel a bit of sensory overload. Your dog can hear and smell much better than you can, so all this festive merriment is a lot for them to process.

The plethora of additional people coming in and out, or the absence of you, if you’re off celebrating elsewhere, can be very unsettling for your dog. Remember that your dog won’t necessarily remember or know everyone like you do, so it might be overstimulated or afraid.

On top of all this, while us pet-owners may wish the dreaded fireworks were behind us for the season, we all have that one neighbour who will put on some sort of display be it at Christmas or New Year and our furry friends need some extra care to help handle all this!

So, what are the common signs of anxiety in dogs?

With a personality all of their own, your dog will be like you in that it won’t have one tell or way it shows it’s suffering from stress or anxiety, but here are some things to look out for:

  • Changes in toilet habits. One way dogs might show you they are feeling unsettled or afraid is to abandon all their toilet training and do their business in the house. Not ideal for you while you’re eating your Christmas pud!
  • Unusual behaviour. This can mean all manner of things, but your well-behaved best friend might revert to unusual or ‘bad’ behaviour as a cry for help. This could mean chewing on furniture or hiding/cowering away.
  • Aggression. Even lovely- natured dogs might be snappier or seem aggressive with lots of new faces and especially if there are younger guests keen to play, so this is something to be mindful of.
  • Shivering or barking. Your dog may be visible shaken by the influx of chaos or start barking or howling.

What can I do to help my dog with anxiety?

Even if your dog seems pretty chilled out, it doesn’t hurt to have a few things up your sleeve just in case! Here are some top tips to help avoid or soothe any anxiety in your dog this Christmas.

  • Create a safe space. Try and avoid shutting your dog away as this could heighten their anxiety. One way to tackle this is to create a space they can enjoy but that isn’t completely cut off. Baby gates are amazing for this as you can give them somewhere to enjoy their food, favourite blanket or maybe a toy and they can still be reassured you’re there, despite any extra noise. Obviously, you know your dog well enough to gauge.
  • Get your guests to give them space. Visitors to your home may be excited to greet your furry friend, but it can be a good idea, especially with children to advise keeping some distance while your dog has a chance to get used to new faces, sounds and scents.
  • Keep routine. Make sure, where possible, your dog gets to enjoy what it knows over the festive period. Give lots of cuddles, walk at the usual times and avoid too many extra Christmas treats!
  • Use calming aids. There are lots of products designed to help such as plugins which you might want to consider as a last resort, to boost your other efforts.

Anxiety can be very tricky to spot and hard to manage, so avoidance is better than cure in this case. There are lots of treatments for anxiety ranging from therapy to medication, but as with all conditions these can be costly to manage. Don’t break the bank this Christmas. Make sure you’re ready and prepared – with plans, presents and of course, pet insurance that meets your needs!

Have a wonderful festive season!