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Many of us think of Christmas as the best time of the year, and start thinking about getting the tree and decorations up as far back as November and maybe even getting the Christmas shopping started in the prior January too!
However, there are just as many people that find Christmas to be stressful or anxiety-inducing, and for a lot of us, it can be a mixture of both things; which is perfectly natural, and everyone copes with Christmas and its related challenges in their own way.
In many ways, dogs are much the same; some dogs that are very involved in family life and particularly outgoing might really enjoy the atmosphere of excitement, fun and festivity, but some dogs will in their turn find the change in routine and sometimes, change in their owner’s behaviour quite upsetting or stressful instead.
Whilst many of us want to involve our dogs in Christmas day as much as possible, giving them their own presents to open, giving them their own Christmas meal (which is not necessarily a good idea) and perhaps even taking them to visit friends or to a Christmas morning carol service, this is not always in the best interests of the dog itself.
As mentioned, some dogs might be really into the whole thing and keen to be involved, but other dogs might prefer to have a time out, some quiet space to relax in (perhaps with a new toy they received as a gift) or generally, handle things better when faced with a little less excitement and stimulus.
Taking care of your dog’s needs and ensuring they have a great Christmas day is important, and you should read your dog’s cues to identify how they feel about things and if needed, to give them the peace and quiet they would prefer. However, unless you know the signs that your dog isn’t enjoying Christmas or the types of behaviours that can indicate that your dog needs a break, you won’t be able to manage them in the best way to make sure their Christmas day is a happy one.
With this in mind, this article will share some tips and things to watch for that might indicate that your dog isn’t enjoying Christmas and needs a time out or a break. Read on to learn more.
If your dog is stressed, anxious, feels insecure or is otherwise unsettled, they are quite likely to take themselves off to a quiet corner to hide. If they have a crate or a bed that they feel secure in and retreat to when they need a break, they will probably use this.
If your dog retreats from the centre of things and either goes for a lie down or takes themselves off to hide, they are doing this because they’re finding it all a bit much and need a break. This is totally fine and you should respect it, and not bring them back out or bother them. They may well come back in their own time when they feel more settled.
A dog that is really excited and in the thick of things being silly, barking, leaping about, pawing at you and generally making themselves the centre of attention might well be having the absolute time of their lives, and be more than happy to carry on doing so. However, they might be on the edges of becoming overstimulated, at which point they may snap, act out, fail to follow commands, become destructive, or otherwise behave in an unruly and poorly controlled manner.
This is a little like children who become overtired but don’t want to go to bed soon segueing into a massive tantrum! Monitor your dog for signs that they are becoming overstimulated, and give them a time out before they reach that threshold.
Change in your dog’s routine, a lot of people coming and going, and general Christmas upheaval will make many dogs stressed and anxious, and at such times some dogs will become very clingy as a result.
If your dog is continually hassling you or won’t leave your side, they may be finding Christmas day a little too much. Try to maintain their routine as much as possible and be reassuring, but without pandering to their fears.
If your dog seems to be the Christmas Grinch and is grumpy and antisocial and perhaps even prone to growling or worse, snapping or threatening to snap, you can take this as a clear indication that your dog is not enjoying the season.
Respect their space, give them a quiet place to go, ensure others don’t disturb them, and try to keep to their normal routine and of course, tend to all of their needs as normal.
Finally, dogs often have mad moments (such a tearing around the house for five minutes) and behave in funny and out of character manners, which are amusing and all part of their appeal. However, just as it is important to ensure that you’re consistent about enforcing the usual rules that apply to your dog at Christmas, so too is it important not to allow them to act out or behave in an unruly manner.
If they are doing so, this may be because the vigilance of their owners is slipping or they’re finding things a bit of a bombardment and think the normal rules don’t apply to them.
Once more, give your dog a time out to a quiet place to calm down and allow them to return when they are in more positive spirits.
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