Keeping Your Dog Safe Through the Holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…and Hanukkah…and Kwanza…and even Festivus. Along with the holiday season, we tend to introduce a lot of new stuff into our homes that could be hazardous to our dogs. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your dog safe as you celebrate.
Dog Wrapped in Christmas Lights
Dogs love bright, shiny objects. Remember the obvious-- many ornaments are made of glass as lights are flowing with electricity.

Christmas Tree Safety

If you buy an artificial tree, you will have eliminated much of the fire risk, although metal trees shouldn’t have any lights on them at all. Pre-lit artificial trees should be carefully inspected to make sure the cords are in good shape and the connections are strong.

For real trees, the rule of thumb is the fresher, the better. Cutting your own tree can become a great family tradition and may give your dog a good chance to run around the tree farm or forest. If you must buy from a tree lot, keep in mind that these trees are usually not especially fresh and can be pretty dry.

When you get your tree home, cut off the bottom inch or so of the trunk and stand the tree in a bucket of water to allow it to soak up some moisture. Trees that have been cut for some time will likely not suck up much water, but fresh trees may take it up pretty quickly, depending on how much rain your area had had lately.

After your tree has sucked up as much water as possible, place it in the tree stand and check the stand daily to make sure the bottom of the trunk is completely covered with water.

As you decorate your tree, take into account how likely your dog is to chew on the decorations. Tinsel can get caught in the dog’s gut, causing the intestines to twist upon themselves – a veterinary emergency. Glass ornaments may look a lot like dog toys to your pup. When the dog crunches down on them, it’s not unusual for him or her to swallow a few shards of glass. If you find a broken ornament, feed your dog some mashed potatoes to coat the pieces of glass so they will pass through without cutting up your dog’s insides.

If necessary, and particularly if you have a young dog, place a baby gate across your tree room or put the tree into a playpen to keep the dog away from it.

Many foods we enjoy at Holiday time can be stomach upsetting or even fatal to your dog.

Foods to Avoid

Aside from the danger of your dog gaining weight like we do over the holidays, there are some foods that are actually toxic for canines. Things like macadamia nuts, alcohol, onions, garlic, avocado, and chocolate can cause terrible digestive upsets or even worse. There’s no harm in treating your dog to a few special things over the holidays, but make sure you hand out the human food before it is seasoned, and watch portion sizes.

Avoid the eggnog. Even absent the alcohol, eggnog is just too rich for your dog to handle well. If it doesn’t come back up, it may come out the back end in more of a hurry than you’re prepared for.

Candle Flame
And excited dog can accidently ignight a dangerous situation if we don't safety-proof our homes for our dogs this Holiday season.

Fire Safety

Decorating your home can be great fun for the holidays, but it does introduce a fire danger to your home. Candles, extension cords, electric lights, and the fireplace all coordinate to make your home festive, but they can also result in a fire that will ruin the holiday season in a hurry.

Before you put up any lights, make sure the strings are in good condition with no frayed areas. Check the Underwriter’s Lab label to see if the cord is rated for indoor or outdoor use, and place them accordingly. Don’t mix indoor and outdoor strands, and limit the number of strings of lights you join together in long strings. Extension cords should also be checked for fraying and indoor / outdoor ratings before being used.

Candles can freshen your home with a nice holiday scent, whether you like pine, pumpkin pie spice, or sugar cookie fragrance. Make sure you place candles high enough that your dog can’t knock them over while playing tug or sweep them off the coffee table with his or her tail.

Before you begin decorating, make it a habit to check your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Make sure they are all functional and have fresh batteries if required. Your fire extinguisher should be fully charged and kept in a place where everyone in the family can find it if the need arises.

If you will be away from home for a few minutes, turn off the lights on the tree. It sure is pretty to come home to, but can cause a fire that you won’t be around to put out.

Dinner Guest
A dog can quickly become overwhelemed when new guests arrived. Take the time to make make a happy environment for both your dog and guests.

Dealing with visitors

The holidays are a great time to catch up with old friends and relatives you haven’t seen in awhile. Your dog may consider these long lost people to be strangers and may react accordingly. The dog won’t know your old Uncle Tipsy from any other random stranger who may or may not be of questionable character.

Children you welcome into your home at the holidays may need to be schooled in how to treat a dog, particularly if your dog is elderly or medically fragile or even overly protective. The stress you may feel as you cook for a crowd or worry about how the in-laws will get along with the out-laws will definitely rub off on your dog. He may react to the crowd in a way not characteristic of his normal personality, so it’s best to introduce him slowly or even not at all as guests arrive.

Greeting so many new people may be very stressful for your dog, not to mention the fact that the buffet might be just a little too tempting for the canine. Your best bet may be to lock your dog in a spare bedroom for the duration. Just make sure it’s not the room that will be used as a coat dump. It’s doubtful your guests will appreciate all of the dog fur on their coats or the new holes your dog’s teeth make in their gloves and scarves. If you need your guests to meet your dog, have him make an appearance toward the end of the party, after most of the food has been put away, and the guests have calmed down from the excitement at the start of the party.

New Year's Party
Keeping your dog at ease during New Year's Eve excitement

New Year’s Eve

It’s never too early to begin planning how you will protect your dog from your New Year’s Eve party. Again, strange people and the noises they will make while partying can throw your dog into a tizzy, and could even result in biting behavior you haven’t seen before.

Plan to isolate your dog in a room as far from the party as possible. You may even want to turn on a radio or television in the room to help block out the party noise.

No matter which holidays you celebrate or how you celebrate them, a little prior planning can help keep you, your loved ones, your home, and your dog safe and in perfect harmony.

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