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Helping Dogs with Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress in Dogs: A Common Experience

Once upon a holiday, a caring dog owner noticed subtle changes in her furry companion. The dog, usually lively and enthusiastic, seemed restless and easily agitated.

The owner became determined to recognize the signs of holiday stress in her beloved pet. She paid close attention to his body language, looking for unusual behaviors. She noticed the dog would pant excessively, chew on his paws, and become more withdrawn when guests arrived.

Realizing these were signs of stress, the owner created a calm and quiet space for the dog to retreat whenever things became overwhelming during the festivities.

With patience and understanding, the owner helped her furry friend navigate the holiday season and ensured a happy, stress-free time for both.

Your Dog(s) Can Have Stress-Free Holidays, Too!

The holiday season has officially begun! Halloween is in the rearview mirror (barely), and the winter holidays are on the horizon. Regardless of what you celebrate, November, December, and January are packed full of gatherings, festivities, general flurries of activities, and decorations!

The holidays are a wonderful time filled with gatherings and family festivities. But for our furry friends, it can also be stressful with loud noises, holiday bustle, and many visitors. This post aims to guide you in helping your dog(s) with holiday stress and ensure your four-legged companions experience the holiday as joyfully as we do.

Recognizing the Signs of Holiday Stress in Dogs

  1. Tail Tucking: A clear sign of anxiety. If your dog tucks its tail between its legs, it might feel overwhelmed.

  2. Dilated Pupils: An indication they're not feeling their best.

  3. Changes in Appetite: Dogs might eat less or more than usual when stressed.

  4. Digestive Issues: Stomach upsets or other problems can indicate stress.

  5. Hiding or Seeking Refuge: Dogs may hide in quiet places like under a bed or in a closet.

  6. Pacing or Restlessness: Indicates they're unsettled.

  7. Panting: A way dogs cool down and manage stress. Increased during unfamiliar situations.

  8. Licking their Lips: A behavior to manage stress and anxiety.

  9. Yawning: Often misconstrued as boredom, but it can indicate stress.

  10. Averting their Eyes: A non-confrontational way for them to manage stress.

  11. Soiling in the House: Stressful situations can lead to accidents, even in house-trained dogs.

  12. Excessive Barking or Whining: A vocal sign of discomfort or anxiety

  13. Destructive Behavior: Includes chewing furniture or other items

  14. Licking or Chewing: Dogs might excessively lick or chew their paws or other parts of their body

  15. Shaking or Trembling: A clear sign of distress

  16. Avoidance: Avoiding people, other animals or not engaging in regular activities

  17. Changes in Body Language: Tucked tails, pinned-back ears, and wide eyes are signs of stress.

Creating a Calming Environment

Dogs thrive on structure. For most of us, the holiday season differs greatly from our normal routines. Try to keep things as normal for your dog as possible. If you are traveling and taking them with you, bring items to help them feel more at home in a strange location.

If you have guests, you should be proactive and develop a routine for your dog that involves being away from the hustle and bustle and chilling out in a quiet area of the home. Be sure to provide things to keep them occupied.

Managing Loud Noises

Whether it's loud music from a holiday party or the ambient noise of a bustling household, it's essential to have a quiet space for your dog. Consider creating a safe zone with soft bedding, chew toys, and slow-paced classical music to help calm animals.

Holiday Decor and Safety

Holiday decorations, such as holiday lights and festive ornaments, can enhance the festive mood. However, they can also pose potential hazards or stressors for dogs. Keep decorations out of reach and safely tuck away cords, like those from holiday lights.

Many of us pull out holiday decorations and spruce up our homes. These new and strange things in the house and yard may be scary for some dogs! For others, they may be a great toy or snack!

Regardless of which camp your dog falls into, decorations, plants, and foods present during this time can pose a safety hazard. Consider having a poison hotline number on hand in case your pup gets hold of something they shouldn't. It's also wise to know the location of your nearest open emergency veterinarian.

Did you know Christmas tree water is toxic to your pets? If you have a live tree, have a tight-fitting skirt covering the water it sits in. Pine needles, ornaments, tinsel, and lights are all potentially "yummy" or fun things that could harm your dog, so be sure to monitor your home when these things are around.

Routine is Key

Dogs are creatures of habit. Keeping their daily routine, from food to physical activity, can help alleviate signs of stress. Extra exercise can be especially beneficial during this period. A long walk or playtime can help burn off some of their anxiety.

Helpful Solutions

White Noise

A white noise machine or a fan can drown out stressful holiday noises and calm your dog—a steady background noise that drowns out more disconcerting noises like doorbells and unfamiliar voices.

Chew Toys and Treats

Chew toys or long-lasting chews can serve as a great distraction. They not only keep them busy but also help in reducing anxiety.

Weighted Blankets

Just as weighted blankets can calm humans, they can also help dogs with anxiety. They provide a comforting feeling, much like a hug.

Attention to Body Language

Always pay attention to your dog's body language (see the signs of stress above). If they show direct attention to something that scares them, it's essential to redirect them and ensure they're in a safe and comfortable environment.

Contact Canine Zen

Dealing with holiday stress in dogs is an emotional journey with highs and lows. But remember, you're not alone, and experiencing a mix of emotions is perfectly normal. By acknowledging your feelings and needs, you'll be better equipped to provide the love and support your furry friend needs.

If you're seeking assistance with your dog's separation anxiety or behavior during the holidays, help is just a phone call away. Stephanie, a caring Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer and Certified Behavior Consultant, can discuss your situation virtually in the comfort of your home.

With years of experience helping dogs and their families cope with separation anxiety and other challenging behaviors, Stephanie understands how difficult it can be to see your beloved dog struggle when you're not around. She is passionate about helping dog owners understand their dogs and finding the best solutions for their family.

You owe it to your dog, and you owe it to yourself. Isn't it comforting to know that help is readily available? Booking a free Discovery Call is all it takes.

Helping Dogs with Holiday Stress: Let the Festivities Begin!

In conclusion, the holiday season, while a time of joy for us, can pose various challenges for our pets. By recognizing the signs of anxiety, providing a calming environment, and utilizing tools like chew toys, weighted blankets, and white noise, we can help our dogs navigate stressful situations. Let's ensure our pets enjoy this wonderful time as much as we do.

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