Even if you have trained your dog, the holidays present a whole new set of challenges. Your dog is excited (or stressed). You are excited (or stressed) and have less time for your dog. There are all sorts of distractions (including food). Be patient. This too shall pass.
Your dog may be excited when guests first arrive. When the doorbell rings, we rush to the door, talk with enthusiasm, hug. Obviously, the doorbell means that something exciting is happening. Before your guests are due to arrive, put your dog in another room or crate with a safe toy or stuffed Kong. Once your friends and relatives are in and settled, you can bring your dog out to greet everyone.
Your dog should be on leash when greeting your guests. This will help keep your dog from jumping and running around. It's is more pleasant for your dog than being yelled at for saying "hello" the way that dogs say "hello".
Don’t assume that everyone likes dogs (even yours). Be sure to ask your guests ahead of time. It's not fair to your dog or your guests if you allow your dog around people who are afraid of dogs. Your guests will feel uncomfortable all night, and your dog will get in trouble for simply being himself around the wrong person.
If you have a timid, anxious or reactive dog, don't force him to be part of the activities. It's best to allow your dog to spend "guest time" in his crate or in a separate room with the door shut and something super yummy to chew. Be sure to do this before your guests arrive. Your dog would rather be in a safe place than around all those “scary” people.
Teach your guests, both adults and children, how to interact with your dog. It's a hectic time; so, if your dog joins your guests, either you or someone else responsible should have your dog's leash and keep your dog feeling safe. When people approach dogs head-on, look them directly in the eye, reach over them, pat them on the head or lean over them, dogs feel threatened. So, ask your guests to angle sideways and pet your dog under his chin or on his chest. If your dog looks away or backs up, respect your dog’s wishes. He is not comfortable and would rather not meet and greet.
Being around young children is stressful for most dogs. Kids have high-pitched voices, move quickly and are unpredictable. Don’t let children crowd your dog, chase him, pick him up, hug him or get their face in your dog’s face. Let your dog go somewhere safe, where he won’t be bothered by children’s antics. Even a good dog will bite when he has had enough.
If you have a small dog, don’t hold him when people approach. Small dogs may feel trapped and become growly if held during greetings.
Ask your guests NOT to feed your dog. The emergency vet offices are full during the holidays with dogs that have had too much "holiday cheer". Well-meaning friends may not know that raisins are bad for dogs or that macadamia nuts (think cookies) could kill your dog. Instead, have some of your dog's healthy treats around for your guests to offer your dog.
If you don’t want your dog to eat off the kitchen counter or beg at the dinner table, keep him out of those rooms. Put up a baby gate, or put your dog in a crate or room with a special treat – like a Kong stuffed with goodies or an interactive toy that will drop kibble if moved the right way. Don’t feel guilty: Your dog will get plenty later when he helps you clean up by eating all the crumbs.
Don’t tempt fate. Even the most well-behaved dog will be tempted to commit "a crime of opportunity". If you're planning to leave your dishes out, so you can watch the game or move to another room for dessert and coffee, make sure your dog comes (and stays) with you. If your dog does get something such as a turkey bone, offer your dog something yummy in exchange, instead of trying to reach into his mouth to get it.
WATCH THOSE DOORS! Just as you should have your dog in another room/in a crate/on leash when your guests arrive, you need to do the same when your guests are leaving. People will be hugging, getting their left-overs to take home, and putting their coats on. No one will be paying attention to how wide the front door is held open or for how long. It only takes a second for your dog to bolt out that door or to follow a guest out and keep going!
Prepare ahead. Around the holidays, more pets get lost or sick than usual. It's hectic, and you may not be closely watching your dog. Get your dog micro-chipped NOW and register the number.
Many parts of the country experience extremely cold weather that presents challenges for dog owners. Familiarity with cold weather health hazards can keep your pet safe while allowing both of you to enjoy the outdoors.
Temperature Related Conditions
Puppies, senior dogs and dogs with certain disease conditions (such as thyroid conditions) are more susceptible to cold temperatures. Temperature related illnesses require immediate removal to a warm, dry environment and medical attention by your veterinarian.
Hypothermia can result from extended exposure to cold and is a life-threatening condition. Watch your dog for signs of shivering, shallow breathing, weak pulse or lethargy.
Frostbite is a temperature related tissue injury and most commonly occurs on ears, tails, scrotum or feet. Signs include discolored skin (red, pale, or grayish) swelling, or blisters. Check your pet often for signs of frostbite which may be hidden beneath fur.
Antifreeze - Ethylene Glycol, car antifreeze, is a deadly poison and has a sweet taste that appeals to dogs. As little as 1-2 teaspoons can be lethal to a small animal. Clean up all spills and consider switching to a Propylene Glycol product that is safer.
Ice Melters - Salt and ice-melters can act as a skin irritant. Make sure to wash your pet’s feet off after coming indoors. Dogs with long fur and /or short legs should have their stomach areas cleaned off as well.
If you normally have your pet’s fur clipped or shaved, keep the length longer in winter to keep your dog warm.
Nails may require more frequent trimming since your dog is spending more time indoor on soft surfaces.
If you bathe your dog at home make sure he is completely dry before going out. You may even want to switch to a waterless shampoo for the winter.
Examine the pads of your dog’s feet for signs of cracking or irritation. A pet-specific foot balm will help condition the pads.
Dogs with short coats or low body fat (Chihuahuas, Greyhounds, miniature Pinschers etc.) will benefit from a water-resistant sweater or coat when outdoor temperatures drop.
Boots are a good way to protect feet and pads from salt and chafing.
Keep your pet on a leash in cold weather - more dogs are lost in the winter than in any other season. Unleashed dogs may also run onto partially frozen bodies of water.
Limit the duration of your outdoor trips to minimize chance of frostbite or hypothermia.
Don’t let your dog eat snow. The snow may cause stomach upset or there may be hidden objects in the snow.
Special Considerations for Outdoor Dogs
You should bring your dogs inside for the winter if at all possible.
If bringing your dogs inside for the season is not possible your dogs must have warm, windproof shelter - preferably heated.
Dry, clean bedding is essential to keeping warm and straw or bedding needs replenished all winter season long.
Water & food can easily freeze. Use heated bowls to prevent freezing and make sure that the electrical cords are out of reach of your pets.
Outdoor dogs will burn more calories (up to 30%) and need extra food. Make sure that you are feeding additional rations during cold temperature.
Winter Training Tips
Basic obedience training and cold weather safety practices will allow you and your pet to enjoy winter weather conditions safely.
Make sure that your dog or puppy is comfortable with having their feet wiped & handled. Keep towels near the door and making foot-wiping part of your daily routine. Reward your pet for allowing you to examine the condition of pads, check for ice in between toes, and trim fur (if required.)
Obedience training for loose leash walking will make slippery walks safer for both pet and owner.
Commands like “leave it” can save a dog’s life when confronted with a pool of antifreeze or an unknown object in the snow.
Recall (coming when called) can keep a dog from running onto a partially frozen body of water or away from another winter hazard.
Winter Safety for Cats!
Outdoor cats will also need special attention. Make a shelter or cozy sleeping spot to weather the cold winter months. Keep food nearby and check water daily to make sure it has not frozen over. Spay/Neuter feral cats to keep population under control. This will also help with the cats fighting one another and they will be more likely to cozy up together for warmth. Although many of the same safety tips that apply to dogs do not apply to cats, it is a good idea to use good ole common sense when bording any pet during the winter months. Best rule of thumb is ask yourself if you could survive in the same conditions. If you answer no or not sure then do what is necessary to make it more comfortable for your pet. More straw, blankets, better house or better location etc. As always, check your pet frequently to be sure everything is ok. Sometimes we forget just how cold it is outside when we are inside by the fire or under our warm covers in bed. Remember they are family too!
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Winter weather is rapidly approaching and you’ve likely begun layering your clothing and weatherproofing your car. When organizing for winter, don’t forget to think about your pets. They too are deserving of special treatment this time of year. Here are ten tips for keeping your pets cozy, comfortable, and healthy this winter:
1. Just as arthritis can be more problematic for us when the temperature drops, so too does this apply to our animals. If your best buddy appears stiff first thing in the morning or is more tentative when navigating stairs or jumping up and down off the furniture, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian. These days, there are so many beneficial treatment options for soothing arthritis discomfort. For your pet’s sake, make the effort to learn more about them.
2. When the temperature drops, outdoor kitties like to snuggle up against car engines for extra warmth. Be sure to provide plenty of notice before you start up your engine lest a “kitty squatter” sustain serious injury as a result of moving auto parts. Vocalize and tap the hood a few times. Better yet, lift the hood to alert any slumbering guests of your intentions.
3. Antifreeze is terribly toxic for dogs and cats. Even a few licks of the stuff can cause kidney failure and severe neurological symptoms, usually resulting in death. Unfortunately, most antifreeze products have a sweet flavor making them appealing to dogs. Cats are too discriminating to voluntarily taste the stuff, but should they step in antifreeze, they will ingest enough to be toxic during their grooming process. Please prevent your pets from having any access to antifreeze by checking under your vehicles for leaks and storing antifreeze containers in a safe place.
4. Wintertime is definitely dress-up time for dogs, when the clothing is functional rather than just adorable. Just like us, many dogs are more comfortable outside when wearing an extra layer. Smaller dogs in particular have difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature when exposed to freezing conditions. If the love of your canine life happens to be an arctic breed (Malamute, Husky, Samoyed), no need for canine clothing!
5. Regardless of season, all animals need access to water round-the-clock. If your pet is reliant on an outdoor water bowl, strategize a way to prevent the water from freezing. Water bowl heaters work well. Additionally moving water is more resistant to freezing- consider creating a little “drinking fountain” for your pets.
6. Sure the weather is cold, but your dogs still need plenty of exercise for their physical as well as their psychological well being. Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of relaxing by the fire with a content and tired dog at your side! If the weather is truly too inclement for both of you to be outdoors, look for an indoor dog park or consider doggie day care, assuming your dog enjoys such venues.
7. I’m all for hiking with dogs off leash, but in winter, be extra cautious around ponds and lakes for fear of thin ice. Not only is falling through the ice life threatening for dogs, it creates a situation that often becomes life threatening for the humans involved in the rescue operation.
8. Salt on sidewalks and roads and even ice that adheres to all of that fuzzy hair between your dogs toes can create irritation and sores. Inspect and rinse your dog’s tootsies as needed.
9. I strongly encourage having dogs and cats live indoors. If your living situation absolutely prevents this, and there are no other viable alternatives, please provide your pet with an enclosed shelter that is warmed by a heating device and contains plenty of clean, dry bedding. Also, remember that your pet needs just as much attention from you in frigid temperatures as during the warmer seasons.
10. ‘Tis the time of year when we humans tend to overindulge, eating all kinds of things we shouldn’t. Don’t allow your pets to become a victim of this holiday spirit. In addition to adding unwanted and unhealthy pounds, eating rich and fatty foods predisposes them to gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis either of which could land your four-legged family member in the hospital for several days (not to mention create some significant rug-cleaning expenses for you).
What steps do you take to ensure your pets will be happy and healthy during the winter?