Tips to keep your Pets safe during the Holiday season

[Article by contributing writer, North Bend resident and pet trainer at Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs, Melissa Grant]

Controlling your dog around visitors can be a major problem. Holidays can be particularly tough. People moving in and out of the house, good holiday cooking smells and just a general feeling of excitement can make Fido a terror. He can jump up and make lots of noise appearing to be an uncontrollable dog. Fido’s behavior reflects on you and can make him look untrained and you a bad pet parent.  With a little training, a lot of management you can help your dog be a much better canine citizen and help your holidays run smoother.

First of all know what your pooch is and is not capable of handling. If you have an eighty pound dog that just can’t learn to not jump up, don’t let him greet Great Grandma. Or you may have a dog that stinks at the door greeting but can be counted on to behave once that initial hubbub is over. Think about your problem times and what you can do to make them better

If you do have time to train, call a good one and get some tips for making that greeting go smoothly. Don’t be embarrassed about your jumping dog, we’ve seen hundreds. It’s a very common problem. A trainer may have you train an incompatible behavior for instance. If Fluffy barks every time the doorbell rings, a trainer may help you to train Fluffy to go to a rug upon hearing the bell. Or you could try putting jumping up on cue and then never ask for it. You may be asked to strongly reinforce the absence of the behavior. If Spot jumps up he will be rewarded every time all four are on the floor. There are many ways to curb unwanted behavior. Some you’ve probably never thought of.

Sometimes our dogs are great with us but not good with guests. I had a dog as a child who was a biter. He rarely was allowed to participate in large gatherings. Snickers spent most holidays with a yummy bone in either the garage or the back yard. After the unfortunate “cousin biting” incident, my parents knew better than to have him loose around screaming running children. That just wasn’t the kind of dog he was. He was safe and the kids were safe. Problem solved.

Something as simple as putting your dog on a leash can stop many problems. A leashed dog can’t jump up and be an annoyance. If you have a sturdy post or large piece of furniture (make SURE it’s large enough to hold the dog) the dog can be tethered to his bed. Just be sure someone is around to make sure the dog is safe and no one is teasing him while he’s leashed. A tethered dog can feel cornered and lash out if he is teased.

Lastly, make sure your visitors know how to behave around a dog. Not everyone knows canine manners. If they are dog novices make sure they know not to give direct eye contact, bother the dog when he’s eating, and make sudden movements or loud noises around the dog. The dog needs to feel safe and in control at this hectic time of the year.

When the holiday season craziness starts, it’s easy to forget some of the dangers that lurk for our pets. There are many common but easily forgotten hazards this time of year. Here are some reminders of dangers to help keep our four-legged family members safe and happy.

Food Dangers

  • Holiday dinners are a yummy indulgence this time of year but did you know that too much fatty food can cause pancreatitis in some susceptible dogs and cats? We all love to sneak Fido or Muffin a special morsel of turkey or perhaps a savory piece of Prime Rib but be careful. If you have a large dinner party and Fido works those puppy eye on ten or twenty people you may have a very sick pet on your hands. Limit those special treats to very few.
  • Aunt Bee loves to send everyone a box of See’s candies every year festively wrapped.  But wait don’t put that under the tree until Christmas morning! Spot can sniff that out and may eat all your chocolates. Chocolates are toxic and possibly fatal to dogs. Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate is particularly bad so careful with all those cookies too. Sugar free doesn’t get a pass either. Xylitol a popular sugar substitute is also toxic.
  • Keep those yummy drinks up out of reach. While the thought of drunken dog or cat may sound amusing, the reality can be deadly. When alcoholic drinks are served, cats and dogs should be left out of the party-and in a safe place.
  • Baking is an integral part of all of our festivities but use care with that yeast dough. It can rise and cause gas accumulation in your dog’s tummy.  At best Fido will have a tummy that hurts for a while, at worst a ruptured stomach or intestines. A small amount of cooked bread is fine for Fido but the uncooked dough is best left alone.

Decoration Hazards

  • A sparkling decorated tree is a beautiful part of some households this time of year but be careful to keep light wires away from known chewers. Getting through that plastic cover could give some animal friend a rude “shock”.
  • A tree in the living room is a novel thing for our furry friends. A cat could see it as a challenge to climb. A dog a beautiful thing to mark. To avoid a peed on or knocked over tree, some choose to surround their trees with an ex-pen. That also prevents drinking from the stagnant water which can cause stomach upset.
  • Kitties love those little crunchy tinsel balls we buy to entertain them. Dogs love balls in general. We cannot expect our furry friends to understand the tinsel and balls on the tree are somehow different. Limiting access to the tree can prevent a dog ingesting a glass ball or a cat a long piece of tinsel. Doing so can save a costly trip to the vet to treat an intestinal blockage or a badly cut mouth.
  • Most all common holiday plants are toxic to animals. The toxicity ranges from mild to severe but some can be fatal if enough is ingested. Think twice before bringing home Poinsettia’s, Mistletoe, Holly, Amaryllis or Lilies if you have an indiscriminate eater.

Outdoor Risk

  • This time of year, everyone is preparing their vehicles for the cold weather to come. Anti-freeze is part of that preparation. Washington State has required a bittering agent to be part of the sweet syrup concoction for a few years now but there is no law that says people can’t use old bottles. Keep pets away from the bright green puddles. An estimated 10,000 dogs and cats die every year from anti-freeze poisoning.
  • If you need to de-ice your driveway consider using a melting agent other than rock salt. Rock salt can damage pet paws as well as make them sick if they ingest it. Look into alternatives for rock salt and clean and wash your pet’s paws when they come in from the cold.
  • Don’t forget the last hurrah of the holiday season, New Year’s Eve.  Many people like to celebrate the New Year arriving with a display of loud fireworks. Just like you do for the Fourth of July make sure your pet has a safe quiet place to get away from the noise.

If a situation arises and you need to talk to a professional the ASPCA poison control center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their number is 1-888-426-4435. Keep it by your phone and have a happy healthy holiday season

Good Luck and have a safe and controlled holiday season. Woof!

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