Dogs And The Holidays [Tips To Keep Your Dog Safe And Stress-Free​]

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[Updated October 2019]

It is soon to be the most wonderful time of the year, yes I am talking about Christmas! The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes more friends and family gatherings, gift exchanges, holiday dinners, and perhaps more travelling.

Holidays can be a bit chaotic for most people, but if you are a dog owner, you also need to worry about how the added stress and chaos affects your dog.  Dogs and the holidays can be stressful for sure if you aren’t prepared!

Don’t worry though because I have put together some great tips to make this holiday season calmer and less stressful for you and your dog.

The tips below will help you keep your dog safe and stress-free.

Keep Your Dog Away From Dangerous Holiday Items

Beagle sitting in front of a Christmas tree.

1. Christmas Tree

You may have a dog that loves to chew on sticks, and the sight of you bringing in a huge chew stick that is your Christmas Tree will have your dog wagging his tail with excitement.

You need to take precautions, to ensure your dog will not start gnawing away at your tree.

Do Without A Tree

Some dog owners choose to do without a tree because their dog cannot be trusted around it.  Puppies especially like to think of a Christmas tree as their own personal chew toy.

The last thing you want is your beautifully decorated tree being tugged at and end up tipping over.

If you own a male dog, he might mark his territory by peeing on the tree.  Something to be aware of.

Limit Your Dog’s Access To The Tree

A good idea is to place your tree in a corner, to limit your dog’s access to it.   Some dog owners set up their tree and put a baby gate around it to keep their dog away.  This works for most dogs, but some dogs could just jump over the gate.

Only Decorate Part Of The Tree

You might have to only decorate the top half of the tree, and keep the lower half bare so that your dog can’t get to the ornaments.

Another option is to place aluminum foil on the lower branches as a noise deterrent to keep your dog away.

Securely Anchor Your Tree

Whether you plan on having a real tree or an artificial tree in your home for Christmas, be sure to keep it securely anchored so that it doesn’t tip over and fall, possibly injuring your dog.

Don’t Let Your Dog Drink The Tree Water

With a real tree, you want to keep a close eye on the water and make sure your dog does not treat it like a drinking bowl.

Tree water may contain fertilizers and cause stomach upset, and the water is a breeding ground for bacteria when it is left stagnant. Be sure to keep the water covered so that your dog doesn’t get tempted to drink from it.

Clean Up Any Needles

Be careful of the needles from artificial and real trees, and keep them cleaned up and off the floor.  If your dog accidentally ingests them it can cause punctures to the intestines.

2. Ornaments and Lights

Bulldog laying on floor wearing a red Santa outfit playing with red Christmas ornaments.

Ornaments can be hazardous to dogs, and you need to keep a close eye on your dog around the tree.

Get Rid Of Broken Ornaments

Broken ornaments can cause injuries, and if your dog ingests any ornaments it can cause intestinal blockage or even toxicity.

Avoid Hanging Lights On Lower Branches

Electric lights become dangerous if your dog chews on the wire, your dog could get burned, or get a shock.

It is best to keep lights away from the lower branches of your tree, to avoid any dangers and to keep your dog from getting tangled in the wires.

Hang Precious Ornaments High

Be sure to hang any precious ornaments, or breakable items high enough so that your dog can’t get to them.

Same goes for any food ornaments, like homemade salt dough ornaments, chocolate ornaments, strings of popcorn and cranberries.  Keep them out of reach, or do not put any food-based ornaments on the tree at all.

Your dog will be intrigued by all the shiny objects and may decide to pull them off the tree and chew them.

I remember my first Christmas with my Golden Retriever Ellie, she was a puppy and treated our Christmas Tree as her personal chew toy. She would circle the tree and pull off any ornament that she liked, and I would have to chase her to get it back.

It was a game to her, luckily they were soft plush ornaments and no damage was done to her, however, I did lose a few of my ornaments due to damage.

3. Poinsettias, Holly and Mistletoe

All of these plants are toxic to dogs and should be kept out of reach. Poinsettias are mildly toxic, and Holly and Mistletoe are far more dangerous to your dog.

If ingested these plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and more. If you suspect your dog has ingested any amount of these plants you should call your vet immediately.

You can read more about the dangers of common winter plants for the holidays on petMD.

4. Candles

The twinkling lights of burning candles can cause curiosity in your dog, and it is another source of danger.

Your dog can get burned, and one wag of your dog’s tail can easily knock over a burning candle and cause a fire. Be sure to keep burning candles out of reach and away from your dog.

A good idea is to use battery-operated candles.

5. Home Fragrances

During the holidays most people want to fill their home with fragrances of the season, but the different scents and chemicals in the air can cause your dog to become sick.

A dog’s sense of smell is far greater than ours, and your dog will be sensitive to any fragrance in the home.

Scented candles and air fresheners, are filled with synthetic fragrances and emit toxins into the air, which are dangerous for your dog and yourself to breathe in.

Potpourri should be avoided, as it is toxic to your dog if ingested. Your dog could also be allergic to scents, so it is best to avoid any chemical fragrances.

A natural way to make your home smell amazing during the holidays is to fill a saucepan with water, bring it to a boil and add cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange rinds and apple peels, and let it simmer. Your home will smell like Christmas and the scent is all-natural and will not harm your dog.

6. Gift Wrap, Ribbons, Tinsel and Bows

If you plan on buying your dog a Christmas gift this year (most dog owners do!), be sure to keep your dog from chewing and ingesting any wrapping paper, ribbons and bows.

Also, don’t wrap your dog’s neck in ribbon or tinsel to make your dog look festive, it is a choking hazard.

Do you know what gift to get your dog this year?  Check out this list of 15 Fun And Unique Christmas Gifts For A Dog.

Boston Terrier puppy laying on blanket sniffing a gold wrapped present.

Keep Your Dog Away From Dangerous And Toxic Foods

1. Chocolate

Chocolate is usually found in abundance during the holidays in many households, and it should be kept away from your dog.

Chocolate is toxic to your dog, and the levels of toxicity vary depending on the type of chocolate, how much was consumed, and the size of your dog. All chocolate should be off-limits to your dog.

2. Sugar-Free Baked Goods

The ingredient that is found in most sugar-free baked goods is a sweetener called Xylitol, and it is extremely dangerous to your dog.

Xylitol is used in many sugar-free products including sugar-free gum.  Be sure to keep any purses of visiting guests off the floor and out of reach of your dog.

3. Fruitcake

Most people either love fruitcake or hate it, and it can usually be found in most households during the Christmas season.

If you are one of the people that hate fruitcake and think you are doing yourself a favour by offering it to the dog, think again. Fruitcake is very dangerous to your dog.

The ingredients of raisins, currants, and yeast dough, that are in fruitcake are a bad combination for your dog.

4. Say No To Leftovers

As tempting as it may be to offer your dog some tasty leftovers, it is not a good idea. Fatty and spicy foods are not good for your dog, and bones are dangerous.

Turkey bones can easily splinter, and become a choking hazard and puncture your dog’s digestive tract. The high-fat content, seasoning, and salt of leftovers can cause stomach upset and can lead to pancreatitis.

5. Alcohol

The holiday festivities usually include alcoholic beverages like eggnog, punch, wine, and cocktails. No matter what alcoholic beverages are consumed, they should be kept away from your dog.

Even a small amount of alcohol can cause vomiting, weakness and seizures in dogs. Don’t let any of your friends or family offer your dog alcohol, to get some laughs, it is extremely dangerous.

6. Medications

You know enough to keep your medication out of reach from your dog, but your visiting guests may not think or be aware of putting their medication away so your dog can’t find it.

Make sure that your guests keep any medication securely locked up and tucked away from your dog.

Plan Ahead For Travelling

Pitbull puppy looking out the back of the backseat of car with tongue hanging out.

1. Travelling With Your Dog

Dogs enjoy the comfort of their home and surroundings, and any change of familiarity can cause stress and anxiety in your dog.

If your holiday schedule involves travelling by car, and you are bringing your dog with you, then it is a good idea to take some of your dog’s favourite toys, blanket, or bed, and regular food.

If your dog sleeps in a crate, you can pack that too, so that your dog will be able to feel more at home and comfortable.

When my husband and I travelled overnight for the first time with Ellie to my parent’s house for Christmas, we packed her toys, blanket, and crate. When it came time to go to bed, she wanted nothing to do with her crate or blanket, and instead, she jumped up onto the bed with my husband and slept. She pretty much took over the whole bed.

Now, whenever we go to my parent’s house she sleeps on the bed, and during the day she sleeps on the couch. She has definitely made herself at home there.

2. Boarding Your Dog

Boarding your dog may be an option for you if your holiday plans involve air travel, or your dog doesn’t travel well, or a friend or family member has allergies.

Be sure to research and choose a boarding facility that meets your dog’s needs as well as your own.

It is a good idea to check out the facility with your dog before you board your dog there. This way you can make sure it is clean and well maintained, and that it has enough indoor and outdoor space for sleeping and daily exercise.

Letting your dog sniff around and get familiar with the surroundings will help to ease any of the anxiety of being dropped off at an unfamiliar place.

If boarding your dog makes you nervous or uncomfortable, you could consider getting a pet sitter.  Give yourself plenty of time to ask your friends or neighbours if they are willing to pet-sit your dog in your home or theirs.

You could also research pet sitters in your area who would come to your home to look after your dog.

The more time you give yourself to prepare, the less stress there will be for you and your dog.

Plan Ahead For Visitors

1. Inform Guests Ahead Of Time

If you are hosting holiday gatherings this year, make sure to plan ahead and inform your guests that you do have a dog.  This way they are aware in case anyone suffers from allergies, or is not a dog lover.

Let guests with allergies know, that no matter how much you clean, your home will not be allergen-free, and they should remember to bring their allergy medicine.

Your guests will also want to inform you if they plan on bringing their own dog, and you may want to decline depending on how your dog or their dog reacts to other dogs.

2. Provide A Safe Quiet Space For Your Dog

Visitors can be upsetting to dogs, as can the noise and excitement of holiday parties.

If you have a dog that is shy or fearful of others, you will want to provide your dog with a safe and quiet area away from the noise and distractions, this can be a crate in a quiet room or area.

Be sure to provide fresh water, and your dog’s favourite toys and blanket, to make your dog feel safe and secure.

3. House Rules

Make sure your guests know that you do not want them feeding anything to your dog without your permission.

Guests might fall for the sad puppy dog face that your dog gives while begging for food, but let them know that any food given to your dog should be approved by you.

4. Keep A Lid On The Garbage

Holiday parties can get messy, with plates of food left unattended and leftovers in the trash.  Your dog could easily ingest something that he/she shouldn’t.

Make sure to keep food out of reach of your dog, and keep a lid on the garbage can.

5. Be Aware Of Any Escape Routes

With so many guests coming in and out of your home, you will want to keep a close eye on open doors and windows.  Your dog could easily get spooked and venture off outside.

Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with an up to date ID tag, in case your dog gets lost.

Try To Stick With Your Dog’s Regular Routine

Dogs love and crave routine, it makes them feel safe and secure. It might not always be easy to keep your dog on the same routine during the busy holiday season, but it is important to try to maintain your dog’s regular schedule as much as possible. That means walking and feeding your dog at regular times.

A good idea is to set an alarm on your phone so that you are reminded of when to feed and walk your dog when you are amongst all the distractions and visiting guests.

Don’t forget to schedule some playtime, and affection for your dog as well, that way your dog feels more at ease and not thrown off balance by all the activities.

Tire Your Dog Out

Black puppy wearing a red Santa hat laying on the couch.

On the day of your guest’s arrival, a good way to relieve some stress and anxiety in your dog and yourself is to get some exercise.

Take your dog for a nice long walk, the fresh air and exercise will de-stress both of you and make you feel calmer.  Be sure to engage in some playtime with your dog and provide your dog with mental stimulation. This way your dog will be well exercised and feel tired.  A tired dog is a good dog.

Dogs And The Holidays, Final Thoughts 

The busy holiday season can get pretty stressful, not only for you but for your dog as well. By making sure to give yourself plenty of time to prepare for any travelling that you will do, or for any visiting guests into your home, the less stress there will be for you and your dog.

Keeping your dog safe and stress-free is an important message, and by being aware of the common household hazards and dangerous food items, you will be well on your way to enjoying a happy holiday.

Be sure to give your dog what he/she craves, and that is safety, security, routine and love and affection.

What About You?

How are you planning on spending the holidays with your dog this year? Do you have any other holiday safety tips for dogs that I forgot to mention?

Please share your comments below, I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Peterborough, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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