Why Christmas is stressful for dogs

Have you ever noticed that Christmas is stressful for dogs?  Have you noticed your own dog, or that of a friend or relation seeming either very hyperactive, pacing from person to person, or totally removing itself from the festivities to seek solace elsewhere?  It is truly the case that Christmas doesn’t just have potential to be stressful for humans, Christmas is stressful for dogs too…

christmas is stressful for dogs

Why Christmas is stressful for dogs.

Some basic dog psychology.  Dogs feel their most relaxed when things are calm and quiet.  When they are in their own home with only the people they live with day to day. But at Christmas…

  • There are more people in the house than usual, or they are in a different house to usual…  Dogs understand the pack and the territory.  Add to the pack or change the territory and that creates concern.
  • General merriment means a heightened atmosphere and movement/noises that your dog doesn’t understand.
  • We get a bit stressed; if others in the pack seem stressed the dog will naturally pick up on this and wonder what’s up.
  • A feeling of increased responsibility…  If there is any chance your dog thinks it is pack leader (about 95% of dogs) then all these extra people and new situations means that they have much more to look after than usual.

Classic examples of things that a dog doesn’t understand and therefore can feel stressed by include: drunken behaviour, playing wii games or things like charades, wrapping paper being torn off and flung in all directions, very excited and noisy children…  

A few tips to help your dog feel less stressed this Christmas:

  1. Pop them out of the way in a quiet room just before your guests arrive.  Let them back in once everyone is in and settled.
  2. Ask your guests to ignore them initially and allow the dogs to relax in their company before inviting them over for any fuss.
  3. Make sure your dog is able to leave the room and seek peace and quiet if it all gets too much.
  4. Don’t let excitable children approach them.  A heightened state, a stressed dog and an approaching child could lead to your dog wondering if it needs to defend itself.
  5. If your dog becomes hyperactive, just ignore him or her until they calm back down again.

These few tweaks will help your dog to have a more relaxing time, so while Christmas is stressful for dogs in many cases, it doesn’t have to be for your dog.  If you want to find out more about teaching your dog that it is not the pack leader then get in touch.

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