Holidays with doggies

I know Thanksgiving is already over, but Christmas is coming up. Holidays don’t have to be a stressful for your dog as they are for you.


I want you to think about how the dog looks at the holidays. They mean nothing to him, nothing at all, except that there may be a lot of strangers in his house. Dogs love the familiar. Dogs love understanding their environment and having clarity about what is going on around them. So when 15 people the dog may or may not know come stampeding into your house it is clearly an unfamiliar  event.


Let your dog know that there is nothing to worry about. Try to carry yourself the same way you do every day and try to avoid the frantic behaviors that most of us exhibit during the holidays. A calm leader makes a calm follower. During Thanksgiving I was at my sister’s house in Chicago. She and her husband are new empty-nesters, and Gus their dog has filled a little bit of the void. (Another story completely is how my sister once told me she didn’t like the dog, but now every time I talk to her she is calling me from a walk with Gus. it is very clear by the way she talks to Gus that she loves him dearly).


With my five sisters my brother my parents the in-laws and all my nieces and nephews there were 35 people in my sister’s house. Gus went to an upstairs bedroom with the baby gate. He could hear everything that was going on downstairs. He stood on the other side of the baby gate staring out to the hallway, turning his head to one side with every new voice he heard. I think my sister was worried that this might be odd behavior, but Gus was just trying to figure out the situation. Once he realized that nothing bad was happening he was good to go.


By the end of the night, during the frantic part of the evening when somebody decides charades would be a good game to play, Gus was downstairs getting his ears scratched by whoever would scratch them, walking from person to person looking for a little attention.


Generally, if you can minimize the mania, if you can act as if nothing new is happening, then you won’t be giving your dog a cue that  there is a reason to be alert. This is not to say that a dog that has not learned to calm himself down will calm himself down, but at least you will not be contributing to any anxiety.


People are the same way. Some people know when a house plant  has been moved, books or CDs are out of order, and this may cause some consternation because these particular people love the familiar. Just be sensitive to the fact that dogs love the familiar the same way you would to any person. You don’t have to keep everything exactly as it is, just try not to make a scene out of what is not the same.