Yesterday I got a really sappy e-mail from some e-mail list. It instructed me, very sweetly, to “meditate on how you want your children to feel over the holidays!” I don’t have children and probably shouldn’t be on this e-mail list.
My sarcastic brain immediately kicked in–“I should just replace ‘children’ with ‘dog.’ Then everyone would understand how ridiculous this is.”
But, wait. How does my dog feel about the holidays?
I can sum it up in one word. Stressed.
For people, holidays are about putting up beautiful decorations, shopping for thoughtful presents, gathering with our families and/or friends, and eating delicious food. From your dog’s perspective, that same list means: a lot of new off-limits objects in the house, being left at home alone more, less exercise, strangers in the house, a kitchen full of potentially dangerous food items, and a lot of pressure to behave well. It’s even worse if you travel. Combine that earlier list with long car-rides and being in a strange environment, possibly even with strange dogs. Your dog can also pick up on your stress. Hate your in-laws? Want to kick the radio every time “Santa, Baby” comes on? Your dog knows.
Some dogs thrive on a house full of laps and would never dream of opening Grandma’s present for her. For other dogs, it’s an almost unbearable burden. Stress is cumulative, and by the time your poor dog is facing down your cousin Lisa’s over-tired toddler on Christmas night you could have a really bad situation on your hands.
I’m going to run a series over the next week about helping your dog cope with some of this stress. The first post will be up Monday, starting with things you can do right now before things are too hectic.
Has your dog ever had a bad holiday? What’s your biggest challenge?