Holiday Stresses

If there’s one thing that I noticed when browsing through pages, it’s that there is a lot of information on what to make sure your pet -doesn’t- get into during the holidays.  Chocolate, tinsel (who uses -that- anymore?!), poinsettias, and the list goes on and on.  Don’t get me wrong, these lists are important.  There’s just something missing that I feel the need to touch on as I approach my own holiday traveling plans.


This is such a small word but it has such large implications.  Let me give you an example.  Enzo, my “dark knight” brindle boxer is a ham.  He loves seeing family, playing with the other dogs and being my shadow.  He loves all of these things so much that he sometimes forgets to eat when we’re staying with family.  There’s just too much going on. I have to make specific time to isolate him and encourage him to eat.

Traveling with dogs is fairly common.  Sticking to their routines as closely as possible is best.  This means that if you typically exercise them once per day, you should stick to this, bump it up if you can.  Even sedentary pets will benefit from a nice walk or run.

The level of stress your pet will experience while traveling is directly related to how accustomed he is to it.  If you suddenly decide to take your 10 year old Yorkie to visit the relatives in a 5 hour car ride, you are asking for trouble.  I know that this won’t necessarily stop someone from traveling (know any good boarding facilities?) but it should at least give you pause.  Consider how the little guy is feeling.

dog stress

Here is my ‘Travelers Checklist’:

– Appropriately portioned out food (I don’t care if you have to put them in little baggies, don’t run out of food and have to run to the store to get a sub-par bag, that’ll give you a one way ticket to Upset Tummy Town.

– Vaccine information: this is vital information!  Many clinics have ways you can access this information online (which is fabulous), either way it goes, it’s one of those things that you don’t typically think of until you need, and when you need it, it’s usually the wrong time.  Your veterinarian can usually print, fax or email your records anywhere you need them to go.

– Proper identification: If your pets aren’t microchipped, go out get them microchipped!  They are cheap enough now that no one should have any excuses.  If you are leaving tomorrow and just “don’t have time…” make sure that your pet is fitted with a snug (meaning, you can easily slide your fingers underneath but not pull it away from the neck) fitting collar with tags – I don’t want to see collars that slip easily over the dog’s head.  You can get tags in 15 minutes at Petco/Petsmart.  I would keep it simple and put the dog’s name and your phone number. This collar should stay on the dog at all times.

– Bedding: This may seem like a small thing, but dogs take comfort in familiarity.  Plus, it’s nice to have somewhere for your dog to go if needed.  Crates make acceptable (and even recommended) bedding.

Not travelling?  There’s plenty of things to consider if you are having family over to your house for the holidays.

Know your pet.  This can be your cat, dog, bird,  or ferret – know their limits.  If you don’t have social pets, introducing 13 new people randomly one evening isn’t going to make them one.  If your dog has never been around kids, don’t let the kids play with it.  I don’t think there’s any excuse for a dog to bite a person.  There’s even less excuse when you put a nervous, anti-social dog in a room with screaming/crying/laughing/bouncing kids.  I’d bite someone too.  Don’t drag Scared Kitty out from under the bed just to show Aunt Nana who has nine cats of her own.  Cats don’t care anything for “cat people.”  Especially when you have to drag them out from under their safe zone to introduce them.




If your pet is social, great!  They will probably love having 20 different hands to love them for four hours straight.  Even social pets can get stressed with a lot of people.  Mostly because they aren’t sure what to do with themselves (my theory).  If they got tired before, they’d go lay down in the middle of the carpet and take a nap.  Now, there are five people walking across the carpet every two minutes and more sounds than they know what to do with.  What does this mean?  Give them nap time.  Put them in a place (room/area/crate/outside) that they can be comfortable in.  The caveat to this is that a lot of pets don’t love the idea of being take away from all the action.  They become more stressed as suddenly they are being secluded away and “forgotten.”  For pets that don’t just fall asleep after a while, create a “safe place” next to where ever you are sitting by dragging their bed over and making them lay down in it.  It isn’t the most ideal place, but at least they can have someone watching out for them while they calm down for a bit.

The holidays are a time of indulgence.  Cakes, cookies, pies, and so many other sweet things.  Whatever your views on feeding people food to your pets, keep a tight lid on it (and spread the word) during the holidays.  If your guests come in thinking that “my food is your food,” you could be in for a surprise (trip to the Vet. EC!).  With the copious lists of holiday dangers, letting everyone know that Fido is on a diet, could save you a lot of hassle later.

Human Tips

Yup – here it comes.  We need a good dose of common sense every now and again too.  If you invite people over to your house, don’t expect all of them to love your pet.  It just isn’t fair.  If you expect to have a holiday party full of mixed sorts of company, you can’t complain if you run across someone who doesn’t want to give Little LuLu the time of day.  Having a dog loose in a house with guests is like having a child.  You need to keep an eye on them the entire time.  If they don’t have manners, make sure they don’t get up in people’s faces, surprise people at the door, try to snatch that brownie out of Nana’s hand, or any other pesky thing that seems cute when it’s just the two of you.  This is just common courtesy.

begging dog

One thought on “Holiday Stresses

  1. Debbie Walker says:

    Very interesting and informative article!

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