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Preparing my dog for the Holiday Season

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

With the holiday season fast approaching – a time of busyness, parties, trips, and all kinds of unusual stuff – now is a really good time for doggy parents and families to start thinking about how their dog is going to handle the challenge of Christmas, New Year, and holidays. Especially if it’s the first time for a new puppy or newly adopted dog.

So, what sorts of things might we consider in preparing our dog for this time of year?

Increase their obedience practice

Now is a great time to shore up obedience commands that they have been learning that could be super useful, and if they don’t already have any solid commands, it is not too late to get started.

I’d suggest that you teach them (without food reliance if you can) a solid:

Sit – an easy position for them to adopt quite quickly when you need a response in a hurry and perfect for Christmas portraits

Drop – a great position for them to hold for you when you need something that might go a little longer, so they are not fighting gravity and can relax a little, whilst still paying attention

Mat/Bed – staying on an appointed bed, even when visitors come over, would still allow the dog to be a part of the festivities, and yet the family can relax knowing that the dog isn’t underfoot or all over the place

Teach or shore up some practical rules or boundaries

a schnauzer wears a Christmas hat
Zander, ready for Christmas

It’s the time of year for guests, parties, and other festivities and if your dog has the understanding that they shouldn’t be jumping all over everyone (messing up nice outfits or knocking over the elderly), the guest room is off-limits, or perhaps not taking food off the coffee table, they are much more likely to be included in the festivities.

Dogs who must be relegated to a spare room, their crate or outdoors are only likely to become a different type of problem with their barking, crying, or scratching at the door, and will surely ruin everyone’s fun. Putting some effort now into teaching them some basic rules will go a long way towards making them a real part of the family fun.

Preparing the house

Christmas trees and other holiday decorations provide kids, families, and guests with so much joy this time of year that we love to decorate and celebrate. However, dogs can quickly ruin the fun by ruining favourite decorations, upending the tree, or destroying long-anticipated gifts if they are left to their own devices.

Worse, Christmas decorations that are chewed or ingested could turn Christmas time into a panicked trip to the emergency vet in a desperate race to save your pet's life.

If your dog is not “Christmas-savvy” then it would be wise to prepare a dog-safe zone, somewhere that the dog can hang out when no one is available to watch what they are doing. If your dog is hanging out with the tree or decorations, perhaps a barricade around the Christmas tree and decorations hanging out of reach might be a wise consideration.

A dog-safe zone could be especially important for New Year's Eve when fireworks are likely to send many dogs into a mindless frenzy trying to outrun the scary noises. (If your dog is likely to self-harm, please consult your vet for help.)

And don’t forget to ensure that any canine costumes are dog-friendly just in case they get too intimate with their own Christmas apparel!

Having people over

six dogs near a Christmas tree
Our extended canine family at Christmas

Putting your dog outside, into their crate, or away in another room is always going to be a requirement at some point during the festivities. Whether it be a guest who is allergic to dogs, a niece or nephew who fears the dog, or you just can’t risk Grandma’s recent hip replacement, there are always reasons why our doggy friends need to be removed from the situation. Practice now putting them outside or separating them, because if they can’t handle it in a day-to-day situation, they certainly won’t be able to handle it when things get exciting.

Our dogs are a part of our family, and letting your dog be a part of the festivities is our ultimate aim of course, but make sure that you consider the safety of your dog, the safety and happiness of guests, and if your dog has some great listening skills, make sure you enjoy including them in everything that you can!

Foods to look out for

Most people are aware these days of a few foods that are toxic for dogs, but it’s always worth a look back over those that are dangerous for your dog, those that are better avoided, and treats that they can safely enjoy. Here are a few of the main ones:

Foods that are dangerous for Fido

Chocolate, the darker the more dangerous

Raisins, Grapes & Sultanas

Macadamia Nuts


Products that contain Xylitol, especially peanut butter



Cooked bones

Pips & stones from the centre of stone fruit & avocado, though the flesh is safe for them

Foods that are best avoided

Christmas ham and other cured, salty meats

Excessively fatty meats, especially cooked fat

Carbohydrates are not toxic but unnecessary in a dog’s diet so leftover roast potatoes might be fine for an occasional treat but otherwise avoid them

Other dangers that you might want to look out for

If you’re having a barbeque over the holiday season, be aware that dogs love to chew on skewers for their lovely meat-soaked flavour. Skewers can splinter and impale them in the intestines so be sure to dispose of them where your dog cannot get to them.

Pancreatitis is an ever-present danger that can be avoided by not allowing dogs access to very fatty items, so avoid letting your dog lick out the roasting pan or clean up around the barbeque.

Three easy treats you can prepare for Fido

Here are three Christmas or New Year treats that you could easily prepare for your dog:

1. Roast chicken or turkey with leftover vegetables – skip the stuffing, gravy and potatoes and add a delicious topper such as this one to tempt even the fussiest of eaters. (Meal toppers also make a practical and delicious gift to wrap for them and place under the tree.)

2. Take some leftover fruit salad (without grapes) and add some delicious Greek plain yoghurt (choose one with no added sugar or preservatives), blitz and freeze in ice cube trays for a frozen treat to suit any occasion or just a hot day.

3. For a quick and easy natural dog biscuit take some mashed, over-ripe bananas, add peanut butter (Xylitol free of course) and add oats or oat flour. Mix, roll and bake – it’s that simple!

However you celebrate the holiday season, my greatest hope is that you can truly enjoy the celebrations, holidays and many other activities with your favourite fur friends included to the full extent and that everyone stays safe.

Happy Christmas to you all.

-Keryn, Zander, Jaffa & Miki.



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