The festivities of your puppy’s first holiday season may be a little scary, stressful and down-right weird for them — why are there strange-looking dogs with sticks on their heads in the front yard? To help your puppy get through what can be a stressful season, we’ve suggested some tips to help ensure that, in your puppy’s world, all is calm (and bright).
A Quiet Night
One of the most important things you can do is create a safe place for your puppy to escape to if your holiday festivities are getting a little too festive for them. Place their crate (or bed) in a quiet room with some of their favorite toys and a few treats. This will make a nice cozy place for them to retreat to, if needed. Also, put their food and water bowls nearby so they don’t need to go back into the party to eat or drink. Whether your puppy is potty trained or still learning, it’s a good idea to take them out every few hours and not wait for them to tell you they need to go. They may be too scared to let you know their usual way.
Say Whoa on the Puppy Cuddles
It’s inevitable that when friends and family visit (or you visit them) they’re going to want to play with your adorable puppy. Because who doesn’t like puppy snuggles? However, your puppy may not feel the same way. Meeting new people can be overwhelming, particularly if your puppy hasn’t been through a lot of socialization training yet. It’s a good idea to ask your visitors to restrain from immediate puppy hugs and give your puppy some time to get acquainted with everyone first.
Your puppy may also meet some new canine friends during the holidays. Before visiting friends or family members who have dogs, check that their dogs are tolerant of puppies — a senior dog could get grumpy very quickly with a young whippersnapper nipping at their ears. Take the introduction slow and watch for signs that either dog is uncomfortable with the situation.
Food, Glorious Food (But It’s Not for Puppies!)
One thing your puppy will be very excited about during the holidays is the smell of ALL. THAT. FOOD. Their little nose will be working overtime trying to find the source of those mouth-watering scents. While it’s tempting to give your puppy a treat from your plate, feeding table scraps or other human-food treats is not a good idea, as it could lead to tummy trouble — and dealing with puppy diarrhea is not the best welcome for house guests. So keep the treats puppy-appropriate to avoid added holiday stress (for both of you).
Avoiding Holiday Hazards
In a previous post we talked about the 12 pet hazards of Christmas, and it’s worth highlighting some of these again, as they can definitely add some holiday stress for your puppy. First of all, puppies chew — it’s what they do and they do it well. Protect them from an unwanted shock by covering exposed electrical cords in protective casing, taping them down or securing them under a rug. Or, if your puppy is an avid chewer, you may need to skip the lights this year. And make sure you turn off and unplug lights when you’re not home.
The other main hazards for puppies are all the pretty things that they shouldn’t eat. Ornaments, tinsel and small toys can be dangerous for puppies to chew or swallow. Broken ornaments and sharp toys can cause cuts in their mouth, and if they swallow small toy parts or tinsel, it could cause intestinal injury or blockage.
Holiday plants are another ingestible hazard. Mistletoe, Christmas or English holly and, to a lesser extent, poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal upset. So keep these out of reach from your puppy.
Should They Stay or Should They Go?
Traveling for the holidays can add a whole other layer of stress for your puppy. Flying can be particularly stressful for any dog, not just puppies. If you need to fly, it might be better to look at pet care options for your puppy while you’re away, like a pet sitter or friends. Staying at home may also be a good idea for puppies who haven’t had their full set of vaccinations yet. If you’re planning to take a trip with your puppy, check with your veterinarian that it’s OK for your puppy to travel.
If you’re traveling by car, it’s a good idea to crate train your puppy so that they’re safely contained and you aren’t distracted by a puppy bouncing on the seats or trying to jump out the window. A rule of thumb used by some veterinarians and professional dog trainers is for your pup to spend no longer than one hour in the crate for each month of age, up to nine to ten hours. However, others advise no more than four to five hours at a time (with the exception of nighttime). For more tips on traveling safely with your puppy, check out this post.
The first holiday season with your puppy will be a fun and memorable one. Just remember to keep tempting hazards away from your puppy and give them a peaceful spot to enjoy the festivities from afar.