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Don't Stress: Reduce Your Dog's Holiday Anxiety
DogsBehavior

Don't Stress: Reduce Your Dog's Holiday Anxiety

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Nov 2, 2022

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The holidays bring about a frantic pace like no other time of the year, although families, friends, fun, and festivities can take their toll on your pup. Multiple stress factors cause dogs to behave in unusual ways. It's important to recognize these common triggers so you can ensure all is calm this holiday season.

1

Changes in your routine

woman cuddling with dog during Christmas time svetikd / Getty Images

The holidays bring about a total change in routine — from the beginning stages of shopping until the last decoration is put away, things simply aren't routine for you compared to the rest of the year. The same is true for your dog, but they don't understand why.

Maybe you're home at odd intervals, or you're spending more time there; perhaps you wake up or go to bed later. Regardless of the changes, your dog notices. To avoid stressing them out, try to keep your routine as normal as possible.

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2

Lack of sleep

dog lying down on the couch with Christmas tree on the background AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

A lot happens during the holidays, and these activities take a heavy toll on your dog's sleeping habits. Canines need 12-18 hours of sleep per day, which can't always be accomplished with the hustle and bustle of the season.

When you're tired, you likely get irritable and grumpy. The same thing happens with pets.

It's not uncommon for them to display their anxious and cranky behavior through diminished inhibitions like snapping or biting, so make sure your dog has full access to a cozy bed in a quiet, private area.

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3

Too much excitement

dog in Santa hat standing on Christmas box present Ruslanshug / Getty Images

New toys, rough play, and special treats are some factors that can over-stimulate a dog. If Mr. Kibbles doesn't shy away from excitement, an overabundance of it could lead to trouble.

Hysteria and frenzy result in anxiety and misbehavior. To calm down the situation, limit playtime and activities. Don't expose your pup to an overabundance of toys, treats, and commotion all at once.

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4

Being ignored or left alone

man putting Santa hat on his dog Valerii Apetroaiei / Getty Images

The opposite of over-stimulation can equally occur during the holidays. You're busy cooking, cleaning, and preparing for guests, or maybe you're the one who's visiting family and friends, leaving your dog home alone.

Separation anxiety is common, especially during this part of the year. Set aside play and cuddle time specifically for your pal when you're at home.

Pace your travels, so they're not all at once, and if possible, take your pup with you on occasion. Give them extra playtime before you leave to tire them out. Keep lights and the television on when you're gone. Make sure their favorite items are within quick reach and use dog-friendly calming supplements when necessary.

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5

Skimping on exercise

woman carrying gift while walking with her dog svetikd / Getty Images

With your schedule flip-flopping around the holidays, sticking to your usual regimens is hard. Daily walks and playtime just don't happen the way they do during the rest of the year, which results in restlessness and anxiety for you and your pupper. Regardless of the time of year, it's essential to maintain your dog's daily activities. As a bonus, it will help clear your own mind, too.

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6

Eating to excess

senior man feeding dog while having lunch at the table with family AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

Overindulgence during the holidays is common for people, and dogs face this same problem. With all the delicious food around, your buddy is bound to beg for some extra morsels, and once those leftover scraps end up in their mouth, they'll likely expect the party to continue. Use discretion when giving your dog a taste of human food, stick to regular meal times and familiarize yourself with items toxic to canines.

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7

Sensory overload

woman hugging dog with Christmas tree in the background Pekic / Getty Images

The holidays are far from serene — there's a lot of motion, action, and noises abound. Flashing lights, loud music, children running around, fireworks, a drunk uncle — it's a lot. This sensory overload is a huge contributor to canine anxiety.

In moderation, treats may help calm the situation. A safe, secure area away from people also works. Favorite toys can offer comfort. Even spending a few minutes of alone time with your little buddy will present a more favorable situation and put them at ease.

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8

Strangers and large crowds

family and dog during Christmas eclipse_images / Getty Images

Plan ahead for your pet if you're having guests over for the holidays. Have a safe area ready to go that people are prohibited from accessing, and if possible, allow your buddy to meet strangers one-on-one ahead of time. Pick up some small treats to help people introduce themselves to your pup. Consider specific rules you want to make known, such as no playing or picking them up.

Large gatherings can induce canine anxiety — even if your dog knows everyone, seeing them grouped together could be intimidating.

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9

Household drama

person petting dog in front of Christmas tree Halfpoint / Getty Images

When the family gets together, there could be a bit of tension. Whether there's a passive-aggressive interaction, an argument over politics, or Aunt Edna is telling a rage-inducing story for the umpteenth time; your dog can't help but notice. When people are stressed, it causes animals to be stressed, and one of the best solutions is to pet your dog — it will relieve some of their anxiety and yours.

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10

Different scenery

person decorating Christmas tree with her dog Anastasiia Shavshyna / Getty Images

The tree goes up, you deck the halls, there's chaos and confusion, and suddenly, the home your dog knows transforms. It looks different and unusual, and your buddy doesn't understand what's going on.

Strange sights and scents are quite unsettling for a pooch who's used to a certain environment. To help with this change, decorate slowly so your dog can be eased into the situation; try to avoid rearranging the room if at all possible.

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