Holiday Gatherings

With a return towards normal this holiday season, we have new and concerning changes from years past in regards to our pets.

Many of our pets are considered “COVID pets”, ones that we bought or rescued because we had extra time and love due to the pandemic. These pets have generally been acclimated to the world in a way that is different from days gone by, and we have to be careful integrating them into our holiday celebrations, especially if they are not used to company.

Socializing with our pets in large groups can be a challenge at the best of times, but if you are having a larger than normal gathering and have a new pet who isn’t used to such things, please make sure you take their needs into consideration.

Many times, the sensory overload of all the new smells, sounds and movement will make even the best trained dog forget its manners. People wandering around with small plates of food are easy targets, for intentional or unintentional hunting. If this is a concern, an easy fix is to restrict the food to a certain area that you can make off limits to the dog.

With so many of our pets having food allergies, this becomes another issue with inadvertent feeding. Some of your guests may not realize that your pet has an issue, or the gravity of that issue. If you do have a pet with an allergy concern, make sure your guests know that even a single toast crust or goldfish cracker could be very dangerous for your pet. You might even make out a card outlining it (and any other concerns) that you can hand to people as they arrive. And make sure that you have a stash or two of pet safe treats (I like using covered candy dishes or sugar bowls) that are clearly marked.

Lots of people, lots of food, a holiday crowd is going to put your dog’s nose into overdrive. Be watchful that they don’t get too overstimulated and start into bad behaviour. If they do, do not stuff them into their kennel, or lock them into a room. Give them a chance to destress with a walk (I’m sure one of your guests or family members would love to escape for a bit of fresh air with a four legged buddy), or a romp around the back yard (again, there’s probably a guest that would like to play a little fetch during a smoke break).

While we do not recommend restricting them to a kennel, please ensure that their kennel is open and available for them to retreat to. Cats will find a place to hide without issue, but dogs sometimes need the security of their den. Make sure, though, that guests of all ages understand that the kennel is the dog’s “safe space” and it is off limits to guests, and that while the pet is in the kennel, their space should be respected. Once the dog is ready to resume visiting, it will come out of the kennel, and not before.

Most dogs are amazing with kids, they generally grasp their place in the pack, and will usually put up with a fair amount of rough play from younger guests, but do not trust your dog’s better nature in the high stress environment of a holiday gathering. Make sure dog/child interactions are supervised and that the dog and child can handle the situation. Most likely, there won’t be an issue, but the last thing we want on a holiday is a frantic trip to the emergency room, or to the vet hospital, should something go awry.

The best gatherings are ones where nothing unexpected happens, and the best way to avoid the unexpected is planning. A little work ahead of time can keep the holiday festive and full of great memories.

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