The holiday season is here once again. It’s a time for presents, great food and time spent with loved ones. You may choose to celebrate by inviting friends and family over for a holiday party. Everyone’s sure to have a good time—that is, everyone except your dog.
For many dogs, holiday parties can be a major source of stress. Strangers, loud noises and changes in their routine can result in one long, anxiety-filled night for your pup. Fortunately, a few simple steps can let you have guests over while protecting your dog’s mental health.
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or a seasonal party of any kind, use these easy tips to reduce your dog’s stress during festive gatherings.
Stick with your dog’s daily routine
Holiday parties often disrupt a dog’s routine. You have to put up decorations, cook a whole feast and invite tons of guests over—none of which normally occur on a daily basis. Change can stress out your dog because it makes their environment unpredictable. Minimize your dog’s stress by sticking to their routine as much as possible. Be sure to feed, walk and take them out for bathroom breaks at their normal times. Consistency can help put your dog’s mind at ease.
An important part of your dog’s routine is exercise. Before the party starts, exercise your dog a bit more than you normally would. You’re going to spend all night with your guests, so you won’t have time to take Fido for a walk during the party. Rigorous exercise can also tire out your pup, making it easier for them to relax around strangers and loud noise. Go for an extra-long walk, play several rounds of fetch or take them to the dog park.
If your dog doesn’t do well with guests, they’ll probably have to spend the night in a separate room. This means you won’t see your dog for a few hours. Prepare your dog for a long night of alone time by giving them lots of love and attention earlier in the day. Play with them, cuddle with them and feed them their favorite treats. After getting their fair share of attention, your dog will be perfectly content to nap through the evening.
Create a safe space for your dog
You can further reduce your dog’s stress by creating a safe space in the home. This should be a quiet, secluded room that’s far away from the party. Help your dog feel at ease by putting their bed, blankets, food bowls and favorite toys in the room. You could also give them a bone or puzzle toy so they have something to focus on other than the party.
Even with the door closed, the noise from a party can still frighten your pup. Mask the noise by turning on the TV or instrumental music in their safe space. Another reason music or the TV might calm your dog is because they associate these sounds with your presence. When your dog hears the TV running, they’ll know you’re still home to tend to their needs.
Politely ask guests to stay out of your dog’s safe space. You’re bound to have a few guests who want to pet your dog or give them treats. Explain that leaving your dog alone is what’s best for their mental health. You can remind guests by posting a sign on the door that says your dog is inside that room.
Calm your dog with sprays and supplements
There are some helpful tools that might help calm your dog’s anxiety. Pet stores offer various pheromone collars, plug-ins and sprays that you can put in your dog’s safe space. These products release a synthetic chemical that mimics the scent of a nursing mother. Pheromones can help your anxious pup feel comforted and safe.
You should also consider giving your dog a natural calming supplement. These supplements contain a blend of organic herbs that are known for supporting the nervous system. Healthy nerve function may help reduce your dog’s stress by promoting a calm state of mind. For the best results, give your dog a calming supplement about 30 minutes before guests start to arrive. Calming supplements are generally safe, although you should double-check with your vet to make sure the supplement doesn’t interact with any medications your dog might be taking.
As we head into the holidays, we must remember how our festivities can affect our canine companions. While some dogs are very sociable, many others will have a hard time adjusting to the change in routine. If your pup is prone to stress or anxiety, take all the necessary measures to keep them relaxed, so everyone can have a happy holiday season!