5 Tips to Reduce Your Dog’s Stress During the Holidays
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If you have a dog that is prone to anxiety, you know stress is generally an issue for them. And for many dogs, the stress gets compounded during the holidays.
The holidays can pile on the stressors for humans. The same is true for dogs. Conditions often change during the holidays, which can put a strain on our furry friends. Stress-causing conditions for dogs during the holidays can include: having more visitors around the house, increased noise levels (due to extra company, fireworks, and so forth), unusual eating habits, decreased activity or exercise levels, and travel-related changes.
Symptoms of stress: Oftentimes we just know when our dog is stressed. Though if you’re wondering if your dog is stressed, there are signs you can look for. Studies have shown that during periods of acute stress, dogs commonly display behaviors that include panting, body shaking, barking, low body posture, and paw-lifting.
A pet parent can take steps to reduce a dog’s stress and help them be calm. In this post we discuss five tips for reducing canine stress that can be applied during the holidays or any time of year when needed.
Maintain their exercise and routine. Keeping up their activity time, such as regular walks and playtime, can be especially beneficial for dogs during hectic times of year. Most dogs love to exercise until they’re happily tired out, and this alone can help them be low-stress. If you’re short on time, you can combine your exercise time with your dog’s walk. Additionally keep your dog’s overall schedule, including feeding and walking times, as close to their usual routine as possible. This can help a dog feel a sense of normalcy during frenetic times like the holidays.
Make holiday decorations pet-safe. Dogs can be tempted to eat ornaments or other holiday décor objects. Keep these out of reach of your pet. Same goes for some common holiday plants, which can be toxic to a pet. Secure the cords of electric lights (another primary holiday hazard) so that your dog can’t chew on them or get tangled up in them. If you have a Christmas tree, consider securing it so that it can’t be easily tipped over by a dog. It’s also a good idea to turn off and unplug electric-powered holiday lights or decorations when you’re not home, to keep pets at home safe.
Watch what they eat. Keep people food away from dogs. Foods that people often consume during the holidays, such as meat fats/gravy, baked goods, yeast dough, and chocolate can be particularly harmful to dogs. Some meat bones or materials used to tie or wrap meat can be dangerous if dogs get ahold of them too. Keep food items, food scraps, and even trash cans out of reach of your dog. If you think your dog has eaten something it shouldn’t have, contact your veterinarian or an animal emergency clinic.
Give them a safe zone. When lots of visitors come over beyond what a dog is used to, it’s common for them to feel stressed. One solution to this holiday stressor is to, if possible, designate a room in the house where a dog can go to get away from the over-stimulation and noise of big groups of people. If that’s not possible, then just setting up a dog beg in a corner of your home with padding, protective covering or blankets, and toys that are comforting to them can help them feel safe in the midst of a lot of “people traffic”.
Music. A few research studies on the effects of auditory stimulation on canines have shown that some genres of music, when played for dogs, can have a positive effect on their stress level. For example, studies of the effects of music on kenneled dogs have indicated that the dogs showed signs of decreased stress (such as decreased barking and more time spent lying down) when classical music was played for them. In these studies overall, classical music was found to have the most apparently relaxing effects on dogs. In some cases in this research, soft rock music was also found to have a beneficial, calming effect on dogs. Heavy metal resulted in indicators of increased stress in dogs, while pop music was generally found to have no effect on dogs’ behavior. So if your dog is showing signs of stress due to the holidays or other reasons, perhaps putting on a soothing bit of classical or soft rock music can help calm them. The studies notwithstanding, each dog is an individual, so you can try out playing different types/genres of music for your dog and see how they respond.