One of the problems with looking on the internet for advice, is that the more you read, the more you become overwhelmed with an information overload. Many clients tell me that they feel this way when it comes to reading about how to keep their pets happy and safe, particularly around this time of year. So, I have condensed all you need to know into this article, ensuring your pet is happy, healthy and safe this Christmas and moving forward.
Just about every plant and decoration can be dangerous to our pets. This includes holy, mistletoe, lilies and of course the Christmas tree itself. Keep the tree in a corner, out of reach. Sometimes pet pens are great at blocking of the area to keep pets and little children safe.
Decorations are now so varied and accessible that many of us have lights, glass baubles, plastic Santa’s and candy canes wherever we can fit them. Anything that is not a natural food source can cause a bowel obstruction to your pet or even be poisonous. Keep anything and everything out of reach. Sometimes, even just leaving the bottom half of the tree bare is a good option, especially if your pet is short and not much of a jumper. Yes, Pugs I am talking about you!
There are a number of foods that are out of bounds for your pet. Unfortunately, most of these foods happen to find their way onto our Christmas table, which can make it a bit riskier when it comes to ensuring they don’t meet the mouths of your best mates. These are;
- Raw eggs and fish.
- Nuts of all types
- Pips – fruits with pips such as apricots and cherries
- Onion and garlic
- Fatty foods
- Cooked bones and many types of raw bones. Brisket bones are a safer choice but should always be supervised during ingestion.
- Grapes and raisins
If your pet is not used to hosting parties alongside you, it may be worth desensitising them to having more people around enjoying festivities. Admittedly, it may be a little late to begin this training, so ensure they have access to a safe place that is quiet, air conditioned and positive with yummy chew treats. This place must be inaccessible to children and strangers. If your pet however wants to engage with you, then use food to reward what I call the 3Cs – When they are Calm, Cooperative and/ or Controlled. This means that you should be looking for moments when they are displaying these behaviours of mental states. Sometimes, they are just short glimpses of a behaviour, so it is important that you are always there to seize the moment and reward them.
Any chance people have to engage in a fireworks display, they will almost invariably take the opportunity. This time of year, fireworks and loud noises are at their most frequent and intense. Many dogs have noise phobias, usually because they have either had a bad experience i.e. unable to escape the noise or simply because their hearing acuity is much higher than ours. Try to keep them away from loud noises by ensuring they are kept inside with you. If your dog is able to be reconditioned to perceive loud noises as positive ones, then use what they love and give to them during gradual exposure to the noise. I often play games with my dog Chester during fireworks displays and even thunder. The noise is often a conditioned stimulus, meaning it has no relevance until there is an experience to go with it, so if you can make the experience positive, you can help your dog begin to enjoy these noises. Remember however, the most important thing is that they are safe.
Enjoy your time together.
One of the best things about this time of year, is that you probably get a little bit of time off. For me, this is precious time with friends and family including my two gorgeous dogs Chester and Alma, and ‘too cool for school’ cat, Pacho. I am always saying that our pets bring out the best in us and are excellent teachers of mindfulness. Enjoy spending each day living as much in the moment as you can.
Have a safe and wonderful Christmas no matter who you are with or what you do. Spoil your pets with love and extra toys under the tree too… they don’t live long enough to deprive them of having the best holiday ever!
Love Laura V