How to Help Calm a Stressed Dog During the Holidays

Before parents arrive, take a few simple steps to help reduce holiday stress for your pup.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Oh, the holidays!

That time of year when you dodge uncomfortable questions, pray for no politics at the dinner table, and hope no one overdoes it with fortified eggnog!

Feel anxious? Chances are your pet will too!

“We’re seeing a lot of things right now, especially with young people dogs who haven’t had many visitors at home because of the pandemic,” says Valarie Ross of Sits n’ Wiggles Dog Training.

We can’t solve family feuds, but with Ross’ advice, we can at least help you make your fur baby a little more comfortable.

She says “management” is the key!

“What we think of as management are ways that physically prevent the dog from participating in behavior that we don’t want them to engage in,” Ross said.

This includes jumping, fetching Thanksgiving food, and running around guests. Ways to control this: a harness, leash, crate, secure baby area, or exercise pen, which is like a crate with no roof. You can move it easily and it provides a nice space, maybe somewhere in the house away from heavy traffic.

“I like to set up their safety zone with comfort items, like a bed, a water bowl, and enrichment toys with high-value treats,” she demonstrated.

Those enrichment toys are things that will keep them busy, like snuff mats, lick mats, puzzles that dispense treats, or a swinging toy.

And that treat should be something they really enjoy, it’s safe for them. Ross uses peanut butter, it’s just for dogs.

If your dog sleeps in your bedroom, this could be a good place to create that safe zone away from the chaos around the dining room.

“I’ll also put on calming music for them and even a calming sense of essential oils can be very relaxing for them and just help take that edge off,” she said.

Believe it or not, Ross says there’s still plenty of time to work on some of these simple commands, as a “leave it” cue is something you can teach pretty quickly in a few sessions.

“Now they might not leave that turkey alone if they have access to it, but at least maybe they won’t get into your visitor shoes or purses,” she says.

She also likes to teach a “place” cue – as in “go lie down on your bed” or “lie down here”.

“It’s a bit more complex, but if we can at least get them to travel to that bed, then you could give them something like a stuffed cone or a high-value chew that they’re likely to sit on. and chew while they are there.”

Most important of all, make sure they have a good time outdoors to start the day. Take this sniffari to help your dog decompress, so at least one of you will be relaxed when the family arrives.”

Editor’s note: The video in the player above was originally posted in a previous Pets story on October 5, 2022.

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