It is an understatement to say that this is not a typical year. However, some things don’t change and one of those things is what to do with your dogs on vacation. Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, Kwanzaa … these can be stressful times for all of us (especially this year). While most of us will likely enjoy seeing dog family members share the holidays, it can create problems if we aren’t careful how we include them in the festivities.
Know your dog
If your well behaved, very social dog loves company and the excitement that can come with holiday gatherings, your job will be easier. Her main concern is monitoring the comings and goings so she doesn’t slip out the door as guests arrive and depart. Most dogs, however, will likely need more management. There are other things to consider here:
- Counter surfing: Many a dog has enjoyed an unexpected holiday ham that was left unguarded on a counter or table. If your dog has any Tendency to help yourself yummy unattended, you need to increase your mega-fold management. If guests are likely to leave baby gates or surfing prevention doors open, consider parking your dog in a safe space until the mess subsides.
- Stress: Even dogs that are reasonably comfortable with people can get stressed from all of the extra activities. Assign a responsible family member to keep an eye on your dog. If she’s stressed, give her a break in a quiet room away from the action. especially when lots of grandchildren and / or young nieces and nephews are jumping around. Unless your dog absolutely loves Children, that can be very stressful for them – and stress causes aggression … Enough said.
- Vacation risks: Some of the things we love about the holidays are deadly to our canine friends, including chocolate, cooked turkey bones, poinsettias, and tinsel. Take special care that your dog does not ingest any objects that could harm him – you do not want to spend your vacation in the emergency clinic. An excited dog can knock down a menorah or Christmas candle and light a fire … not even the way to spend your vacation!
Know your guests and hosts
You love your dog, but (surprise!) Not everyone. If your visitors aren’t thrilled by your Jack Russell’s paws ripping their nylons or your bloodhound drooling adorning their Gucci pants, be considerate and bring Jumping Jack and Drooling Debbie to a bedroom for the evening . If you’re planning on attending someone else’s dinner party, make sure your dog is welcomed by your host before you put Traveling Tess on your dog’s seat belt and show up at their door.
If you’re expecting long-term guests – perhaps a week’s family stay – and dogs and / or people feel uncomfortable with repeated encounters, consider getting your dog into a well-run facility that you’ve vetted thoroughly. It could be a lot less stressful for everyone involved if nobody has to worry about management mistakes and unfortunate results.
Puppy as a gift
Animal professionals generally frown when they acquire new dogs over the holidays – puppies or others, not to mention the unclear practice of surprising someone with a pet as a gift. There are exceptions and ways that you can get it to work.
When I was young my family got a lot of things wrong with our pet care, but one thing my parents got completely right was surprise me with a puppy for Christmas by wrapping a collar, leash, and dog bowl and put the package under the bag tree (best available ever!). After the holiday chaos was over, we had enough time to look for a dog. We brought my first collie puppy home when it was quiet and we had time to give him proper care and attention.
If you want to give someone an animal companion, don’t surprise them. Talk to them first to make sure they want to complicate their life by taking responsibility for another living being, and then let them be part of the process of finding and adopting their new family member. As for the caveat that the holidays are a terrible time to bring a new dog home – that’s the case most of the time. But if you’re home alone for the vacation – no traveling, no family or friends, no parties – this could be the perfect time to add a new canine companion to your family.
Bottom line is – use good judgment. The holidays can be a happy time for you and your dogs if you are careful to do it that way.
Featured image: AleksandarNakic / Getty Images
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