HELP YOUR GREYHOUND HAVE HAPPY HOLIDAYS
The holidays bring surprises—both good and bad—but one thing is sure, the end of the year is an incredibly busy time. All that additional excitement and activity can be a lot for your hound to handle. Not to mention the extra visitors (COVID permitting), sights, sounds, and smells. Plus, it’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday preparation and neglect your dog’s regular routines. Add all that up, and you have a recipe for dog stress. The following tips will help you prepare your dog so you can both enjoy the coming holiday season.
1. SAFE ZONE
Your Greyhound will appreciate a safe place where they can retreat if the commotion and hubbub of the holidays leaves them feeling overwhelmed. Create a “safe zone” for your pup, such as a crate, a comfy room in your home, or on the other side of a baby gate. Kids running around, doorbells ringing, noise, strangers coming and going, can be very stressful for your hound. If you think you might need baby gates or an exercise pen to keep your dog out of a certain area, get these barricades in place in advance so your dog can get used to them.
Even if your dog can handle the holiday commotion, it’s still a good idea to give them an occasional break from the excitement. Alone time is a proactive way of ensuring you don’t ask for too much from your dog. Family mealtimes are a great opportunity to put your dog in their crate or ask them to go to their place in a quiet room. You can focus on your feast, and your dog can rest and recharge.
2. FRONT DOOR BEHAVIOR
A knock on the door can be a stimulating event for a dog, whether he sees it as fun or alarming. It is natural for him to want to know who the visitors are to determine if they are friendly or not. However, a dog that explodes with excitement at the sound of the doorbell is both annoying and unsafe-he may dash out the door and run into harm's way, he may get underfoot and become a trip hazard, he may knock people over, or he may become aggressive to the visitor. If you are expecting guests, and your dog does not have a reliable “sit-stay”, consider having them on a leash. For sure, have their tags collar on and chip info up to date (just in case).
3. EXERCISE BEFOREHAND
To help your dog be calmer, exercise him prior to the arrival of guests. Even if it’s a winter wonderland outside, a walk can help your dog drastically. Book time each day to take a brisk walk with your dog to stave off some of the holiday stress bubbling inside you both. Use the walk to mentally map out your holiday to-do list or holiday dinner game plan — or as a good excuse to escape irritating or demanding relatives who are visiting. A tired dog is less stressed and more likely to nap than bother your guests or beg at the table. If you can’t provide physical exercise, definitely get your dog’s brain working. Mentally stimulating games can be just as tiring.
Dogs that live in a household with no children may not be comfortable when kids come to visit. The chaos created by youngsters like grandchildren will inherently raise the energy level in the house, causing the dog to worry or stress. Here are some ways to control such situations if your dog does not cope well with children.
Always supervise kids (especially very young children) and dogs when they are alone together. This is when most dog bites to children occur.
Instruct children on how to interact with your dog. Many dogs don’t like to be hugged or patted on the head. If you know your dog is timid around kids provide a safe and comfortable space for them away from the kids. Parents should teach children of all ages to treat dogs with respect and gentleness.
Never invite a child to feed the dog by hand - this teaches the dog it is acceptable to take any food from a child. Because of a child's small size, the dog may view her as an equal and thus may try to take advantage of the situation.
5. FOOD DANGERS
Don’t tempt fate by leaving delicious holiday goodies in your dog’s reach. Mince pies, plum puddings, chocolate and sugarless chewing gum all have ingredients that can be, unfortunately, toxic for our pets. Remember, even the most well-behaved dog can turn into a “counter-surfer” if tempted. Trash cans filled with turkey bones or other food waste can be irresistible to your dog. After all, they are scavengers and resourceful animals. Keep them out of the kitchen or use a trash can with a locking lid.
Your best bet is to continue with your Greyhound’s regular diet and mealtimes, but if you must give them their own special holiday meal, here are some “dos and don’ts”:
Turkey white meat, cooked
Turkey bones, skin, dark meat, gravy
Green bean casserole
Carrots, raw or cooked
Sweet potatoes, cooked or dried
Sweet potato pie
Apple slices, raw or cooked
Cores, stems, seeds
Also avoid the usual suspects:
- Grapes or raisins
- Macadamia nuts
- Wild mushrooms
- Onions and garlic
- Anything caffeinated
- Sugary desserts
- High fat foods
- Salty foods
- Sugar-free items with xylitol
If you’re concerned that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian immediately.
6. OTHER HAZARDS
The Christmas poinsettia is also poisonous to dogs, so keep it out of reach. Same with real holly and mistletoe. Keep small toys, wrapping paper, tinsel, ornaments and ornament hooks, etc., out of your dog’s reach just as you would with a small child. Gift ribbons and decorations can be very harmful if ingested by pets. Household décor with moving or hanging pieces can also pose a threat, so be sure to watch out for these items.
Christmas trees are beautiful to look at but pose risks to your dog. Whether it’s real or fake, make sure your tree is properly secured so it doesn’t fall and hurt your pet. Don’t let your pet drink from the tree stand water basin. Sweep or vacuum up the needles regularly, as they can be harmful if eaten. They can also get stuck between your pup’s paw pads and cause irritation or pain.
Hanukkah is the festival of lights, but make sure your pet cannot come into contact with a lit menorah with real candles. Keep candles up high where a dog can’t reach or knock them down. Dog burns should be treated immediately with immersion in cold water. Obtain veterinary care quickly. (This warning goes for all lit candles, of course.)
During the holidays, electrical cords and string lights are everywhere. That puts dogs at risk for electrical shocks, seizures and burns, if chewed. And dogs risk strangulation if they get themselves wrapped up in those cords or light strings. Tape down and secure wires and always turn off lights and unplug cords when leaving the house.
7. REMEDIES FOR STRESS
If you think your Greyhound will not do well with the festivities, plan ahead and give your dog a calming supplement like Composure to help alleviate stress and support calm behavior. Give one Composure chew 30 minutes before hosting a party, leaving the house, or traveling to encourage relaxed behavior without side effects.
Rescue Remedy or Calms Forte are homeopathic remedies for anxiety, sold for people but safe for pets as well. Available at health food stores, larger grocery stores, or online.
In your hound’s safe space, try Adaptil (formerly called DAP), dog-appeasing pheromones. DAP is a synthetic chemical based on a hormone that’s produced by lactating female dogs. It’s this hormone that helps keep puppies calm, and can help calm your stressed-out dog. DAP products are available in plug-in diffusers and room sprays for the environment, plus infused collars and topical sprays. All are odorless to humans and other pets. Available at pet stores and online.
8. OTHER TRICKS FOR DOGGY HAPPINESS
Schedule canine cuddle time. Calmly call your dog over and cuddle with him on the sofa for five to 10 minutes each day. Enjoy being in the moment with your four-legged pal. You will be amazed how this daily ritual will help you and your dog survive, perhaps even thrive, this holiday season.
Invest five minutes every day to brush your dog’s coat. Select the right brush or comb that fits his coat. Or use grooming gloves, which are greyt for Greyhounds’ sleek coats.
Also look for chews and food-dispensing toys to keep your dog occupied when your attention is elsewhere. Consider buying your dog something special like a new toy or some bully sticks. It’s fun to let them participate in holiday gift-giving, and it will also help them form positive associations with the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
9. SENIOR DOGS
Elderly dogs may not enjoy the extra hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Be mindful of keeping your older dog comfortable when his routine is disrupted. If your elderly dog gets cranky around visitors, simply take him to his special quiet place where he won't be bothered and can feel secure. Remind children to be respectful of your older dog. Always provide supervision when dogs and kids are together.
10. HAVE PET SAFETY HOTLINES ON HAND
Keep your dog safe year-round by posting the contact information of your veterinarian, after-hours emergency veterinary clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in a visible place, like the refrigerator. The ASPCA’s 24-hour hotline can be reached by calling 888-426-4435 or you can visit its website at https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control.
The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends. Your Greyhound is part of your family and you should include him in the festivities. Consider your dog’s needs and avoid adding undue stress during this hectic time. It may be a lot of work but preparing your home and your dog for the holiday season will help ensure everybody enjoys this special time of year. Your dog will thank you for it.