Relieving Holiday Stress For Your Dog


by Healey Lockett


From Halloween to New Year’s Eve we get so busy with parties, decorating and entertaining it’s easy to forget about our dogs and how this time of year affects them. If you’re stressed out over your party, how much worse is it for your furry friend?


Take just a few minutes to consider what your pet has to deal with at this time of year.


  • Decorations – ghosts, zombies and trees, oh my! Your dog might think they’re scary, or might think they’re toys.
  • Food – so much of it, and most of it not good for dogs. You need to monitor your dog and guests to make sure your furkid isn’t getting too much of a good thing.
  • Stress – if the thought of hosting the family party this year is stressful for you, the reality is more so for your dog. She can’t understand all the hustle and bustle. New people coming into the home, and staying the night, are disruptive to her routine.


How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Stressed?


Some dogs are totally laid back and love having lots of people around. Others turn into quivering puddles if their daily habits are disrupted even a little. You should be able to recognize the signs of discomfort and stress in your dog.


  • Panting
  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Pacing
  • Barking
  • Shaking
  • Hiding
  • Vomiting
  • Change in potty habits


While these aren’t in exact order of progression, they are listed from milder to more intense symptoms. Ideally, you should recognize early when your dog is uncomfortable before he gets to the shaking, hiding or vomiting stages.


Some dogs become so upset they try to escape. This is especially likely when you’re entertaining – lots of people coming and going, doors get left open, out goes the dog. If you’re dog is likely to dash you’ll need to be extra vigilant.


What Can You Do?


You want to keep your dog comfortable, but you also want to be accommodating to your guests. Consider your dog’s personality, temperament and behavior around guests.


  • Is she happy, running to greet everyone?
  • Does she hide?
  • Does she love adults but is not so good with kids?


The best behaved, most laid back dog can get stressed with prolonged extra activity in the home. Consider having a safe room, off limits to guests, set aside where you can put your dog so he can get away and have some down time. You may want to give him regular breaks there, or if he’s the really nervous type, let that be his room for the duration. Give him favorite toys, his bed, and blankets or towels with your scent on them to comfort him.


Extra walks and exercise will help burn off stress. A tired dog is a relaxed dog, and she’ll be less likely to be bothered by the increased traffic in the home. She’ll appreciate the extra time and attention from you too, and won’t feel so ignored when you’re entertaining.


Keep an eye on your dog, and how he reacts to your holiday decorations. Move tempting items out of reach. This includes plants like poinsettias. While they’re generally not life threatening, the symptoms are not pleasant, so protect your dog, or cat. if they like to chew plants. Other common flowers used in arrangements are more toxic, so it’s best to keep all decorative plants completely out of pet’s reach.


If your dog is frightened by decorations, try using some treats to lure him close to them. Praise and treat when he comes close and stays calm. Do this a couple times over a few days and you should see him relax and ignore them.


A little planning on your part will help you, and your dog stay sane during the holidays. For more on how to understand and train your dog, check out my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS.


Visit my website, and click on the Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS link at the top. There’s a link on that page that will take you directly to my publisher, and a coupon for 15% off.