How to Keep Your Dog Safe at Christmas
I don’t know about you but I am really looking forward to Christmas this year!
If this is your first Christmas with a furry family member, or you just want to brush up on holiday petiquette, here are my top tips for keeping everyone safe and happy this festive season.
While many of us love to indulge in a traditional Aussie Christmas lunch (prawns, ham, pavlova, etc) there are some foods that you should not share with your dog:
- Chocolate is a popular gift but it is definitely NOT for dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to dogs (and cats). The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine. If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, keep a close watch on them and if they start vomiting get to the vet asap.
- Grapes are a summer-staple in my house but don’t feed them to your dog. They are highly toxic.
- Pork and ham are best avoided. While technically it is safe to feed pork to your dog, roast pork (the kind that graces your Christmas table) tends to contain a lot of fat, which is difficult for them to digest. Ham is full of salt and/or sugar (depending on how it’s prepared), neither of which are good for your fur baby.
- Onions and garlic often feature in seasonings and sides but they are bad for dogs so try to avoid giving your pooch the plate to lick when you’re done.
- Anything dairy-based, such as cheese, cream or custard. Some dogs are fine with it (and I’ve known many people who treat their pups with cheese) but others can experience allergic reactions. If you’re unsure, Christmas is probably not the best time to test them out.
But here’s the good news – dogs can have seafood! In fact, they will probably love it as much as you do. Just make sure there are no bones/shells and never feed your dog raw seafood (no matter if it’s been cured or smoked).
There is nothing like the joy that comes from seeing your dog tear into their presents on Christmas morning! Much like their digging instinct, tearing into wrapping paper is fun for dogs and produces a positive result (in the case of dirt, they get a cool place to lie down on, in the case of presents, they get a fun toy or treat).
Wrapping their presents also gives you an opportunity to practise ‘leave’, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ commands. Of course, I would advise against leaving gifts for your dog under the tree within their reach as they may not have the patience to wait for Christmas morning and tear-in while you’re out!
Festive outfits are great fun for everyone and make for fantastic photo opportunities. Just remember that dogs are not usually big fans of wearing clothes and you should only dress them up for a short time. Watch their behaviour and if they are uncomfortable or displaying signs of anxiety, make sure to remove their costume asap.
Also, the Aussie summer heat does not really lend itself to bundling up our fur babies in Santa suits or ugly Christmas sweaters. Consider cooler options like a Christmas-themed bandana or bow-tie, or some reindeer antlers.
With COVID-19 restrictions relaxed, Christmas parties are back on the calendar. And while having loads of people around to give them attention may sound like a dog’s dream come true, large gatherings can actually be quite stressful for even the most social woofer. Loud noise and laughter, overexcited children, a lack of attention from their favourite human (you) and being up past their usual bed-time are all factors that can increase anxiety in dogs.
A good tip is to make sure you exercise your dog well before the event, by taking them for a long walk or extended play session at the park. You should also try to feed them before your guests arrive.
Set up a place where your dog can go if they need some quiet time out. This might be their usual sleeping spot if it’s away from the action, or a safe space that you introduce them to beforehand (like putting their bed and favourite toy in a room at the opposite end of the home).
When your guests arrive, introduce each of them to your dog. This personal, supervised meet-and-greet helps your fur baby to recognise that this new person in your home is a friend, not an intruder you need to be protected from.
It’s also a good idea to remind your guests not to feed your dog anything off their plates and definitely do not give the dog alcohol. Not everyone knows what foods are safe for dogs and those puppy-dog eyes can be difficult to resist if you aren’t used to eating around fur babies.
If in doubt, you can always arrange for your dog to stay with someone else on the day of your party. While your guests might be a bit disappointed they don’t get to interact with the furry member of your family, they will understand that you are just doing your best to keep them safe.