This year, the holiday is very different.
But, in many ways, hopefully, the most important ways…it’s still the same.
And that means that you’ll be figuring out some way to celebrate with your family and bring the fun and joy of the holiday season into your life and home.
For dogs, this can bring on some new and unfamiliar feelings, leading to depression and anxiety. Dogs can and do get depressed, and can suffer what we’d call ‘holiday blues.’ Here are a few things to look out for this holiday season.
It’s beginning to look a lot like chaos…
You getting all the decorations and paraphernalia that goes with the holiday season out may seem exciting to you (talking to all of you who were doing it in October!), but for your dog?
It seems like chaos, not Christmas. Their cozy spots they choose to nap through the day now may have a holiday train roaming around, or a dancing Santa, and that tree? Well, we all know what dogs think trees are for…
This is a time when your dog may have pressure to behave in a certain way (like not peeing on the tree) and yet, they don’t really understand what’s going on. Though we may love the holidays, think about how stressful they are sometimes.
Now, multiply that a few times for your dog who doesn’t understand what is happening and you may understand why they feel the need to withdraw and hide. To help those overwhelming feelings, consider decorating in stages, slowly, so your dog can acclimate. Additionally, don’t decorate near their beds or crates; leave them the option to access their ‘safe’ zones when they need to. And as for chewing on your favorite ornament or marking your tree? Just remember he’s your best friend, but he’s still a dog, and consider having those special things where he won’t be able to get to them if you’re concerned.
And while this year may not be one where you have lots of extra visitors, remember that even with extra deliveries to the door or neighbors trying to be more neighborly (physically distanced of course), there may be some confusion on your dog’s part, and he may want to hide. Let him, if he needs to, so his anxiety doesn’t turn to aggression, and always reward him for appropriate behavior so he’ll feel comfortable.
My what a lot of stuff you have going on…
The holiday season also has lots that can overstimulate your dog. They’re a lot like human kids in that respect, and all the new sights, smells, colors and noises can be…well, a bit much. This can lead them to just want to hide out and get away from it all, or it can put them in an overstimulated frame of mind where they’re not able to really regulate their self-control. Make sure they are getting lots of exercise still—the holidays are notorious for keeping us busy, and that means we may have less time for walks and frisbee throwing for them. Exercise also increases their endorphins, which help them feel better and feel more content; and less likely to hide away feeling blue.
And, as is often the case with holidays, fireworks come into play—certainly for New Year’s Eve. They can be a tremendous source of anxiety and fear in your dog, and it’s important that you keep this in mind on days where fireworks are likely. Again, make sure your dog’s crate or bed or safe space is accessible, and consider enticing him to hang out there in anticipation to ward off any issues. Dogs are calmed by certain music, so consider playing that repeatedly to calm them down at any time you expect it may be an anxiety-filled one—Christmas morning when paper is flying or New Year’s Eve when noises go off throughout the day. Remember that if it’s a lot for you—and you understand what’s going on–it’s way more for Fido.
It’s a family affair
Let’s face it. The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year can and often does bring in a good bit of tension in families. People feel pushed with responsibilities and expectations and especially this year–the tension of whether you’ll gather or not, how you’ll do so and just how you’ll make this holiday special can be noticed rather easily by your dog. They pick up on our emotions and when we’re stressed; they’re sad.
So you know what’s great for that? Lots and lots of pets. That’s right—snuggles and cuddles with your dog. It’s good for your dog and great for you and together, you’ll calm each other down.
Sadly, the holidays are sometimes times of grief too, as you may be remembering family members who are gone. Experts say the two biggest triggers for dog depression are the loss of a fur-sibling/animal companion and the loss of their human/humans. It’s never a good time to lose a loved one, but the holidays seem to make it even harder, and even harder year after year as you realize you’re celebrating without them. Dogs are social, sentient creatures who miss those bonds just as much as you do, and the loss of an animal companion or their human can put them in such depression that they literally stop eating.
The most important thing you can do for your dog during the holiday season is to make sure they’re getting the proper water and nourishment. If they’re depressed, that may be hard, but that’s why it’s even more important than ever to be sure they’re getting the most of any food you give them and the quality supplements you offer. Bernie’s Perfect Poop is a 4-in-1 combination of fiber, pre- and probiotics and enzymes that ensure your dog’s gut is in tip-top shape. Research shows over and over that a healthy gut means healthier mind and body, so in a time that can already present itself as a trigger for depression, making sure your dog is getting the nourishment is vital.