Christmas should be a time to celebrate with friends and family but, sadly, a busy house full of guests and noise can often be stressful for pets and the tempting decorations and food can even pose a safety risk.

Here are The DogSmith’s Top 10 Tips for Pets at Christmas to help you and your pets have a safe and happy festive season!

  1. Endeavor to maintain your pet’s normal routine. Walks, training, mental and physical enrichment, interactive feeding toys, chews, training & bedtime - Try to keep your pet’s daily routine as normal as possible!
  1. If you’re hosting celebrations, remember to exercise pets before your guests arrive. This will help them de-stress and cope better when the festivities begin.
  1. Create a safe, quiet place for your pet to relax away from the hustle and bustle. Even the most social pets need a break sometimes! A yummy chew or stuffed Kong or LickiMat can help them relax. Here are some Kong stuffing recipes.
  1. Some Christmas food can be toxic for pets. Keep alcohol, chocolate, Christmas pudding, mince pies, Christmas (fruit) cake, grapes, sultanas, raisins, currants, macadamia nuts, onion, sugarless gum (or any product with the artificial sweetener xylitol) out of reach. Read this article to learn more about foods that can be toxic for your pet.
  1. Keep Christmas decorations and presents out of reach. A dog (especially a young puppy) or cat may think that a Christmas bauble, Christmas lights, or even the tree itself, would make a great toy! Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn't tip over and possibly injure your pet. Hang baubles away from lower branches. Wrapping paper, bows, and even some presents could pose a hazard for your pet. Please keep out of reach of inquisitive mouths!
  1. Avoid Mistletoe & Holly: Both can cause gastrointestinal upset and other serious health problems. There are many other plants that can be toxic for pets. Read this article from Country Living to learn more.
  1. Don't leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Candles should be out of reach and, if you leave the room, remember to put the candle out! When possible, we also advise you to opt for organic soy, coconut, or beeswax candles, as this will avoid the release of harmful chemicals into the air. Learn more about the risks posed by scented candles, some essential oils, incense, potpourri, and air fresheners.
  1. It’s time to dress up. Whether it’s a new coat or hoodie to keep warm in the cold weather, boots to protect from gritted roads, a new collar or harness… or perhaps you are thinking of dressing your dog up in a cute Santa outfit, hat, glasses, tinsel…? Many dogs will happily oblige if items are introduced gradually with lots of positive consequences but we also see lots of photos of pets who are clearly not enjoying the experience.

Please pair the new item with lots of treats to help condition a positive (happy) emotional response. Ask your DogSmith professional to show you how! This free program from DogNostics will also set you on the right path: How to Train a Dog to Love a New Harness (The same method can be used to condition a positive emotional response to other new items).

Please also learn to recognize the early signs that a pet is not happy so that you can avoid causing fear, anxiety, or stress. Read A Kid’s Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog (suitable for grown-ups too)!

  1. Christmas photo. We all love a family photo, especially at Christmas time but many pets do not like having their photo taken or the hugs that are often part of the picture-taking process. If your dog moves away, turns away, yawns, ears go back, licks his or her lips, tucks his or her tail… these signals could all be signs that your pet is experiencing fear, anxiety, or stress. We are not saying that you can’t take photos but please endeavor to make it a happy experience. Our tip: Previously (and repeatedly) pairing the sight of the camera/phone with lots of treats will help set you and your pet up for a great pic!
  1. Don’t forget to give your pet a special Christmas treat! From fun training sessions to new toys and favorite games, a ride in the car, a hike in the countryside… Spending quality time with your canine or feline family member will help make your Christmas more memorable and lower your stress levels too!


We hope you find The DogSmith’s Top 10 Tips for Pets at Christmas helpful and have a …

Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!