Will Santa Paws visit your pet this year? The answer is probably yes, with around 90% of owners buying Christmas gifts for their best buddy. But how many dogs really need a new ball, and how long will a squeaker last anyway?
The tail-wagging truth about pets is they love the wrapping paper almost as much as the present inside. So why spend big on another bed or toy, when the secret to unlocking your pet's heart doesn't cost anything at all.
Here is the Lively Paws guide to gifting your pet the best Christmas ever… and all at no extra cost.
Make time for play time
The festive season can be crazy busy… but don't leave your best buddy pining for attention. It's easy to get wrapped up in the preparations, which means a certain four-legged friend gets overlooked. Instead of leaving your best buddy sitting sadly on the sofa while you panic over what presents to buy, do things differently this year. Spare five minutes to play with your pet pal using the toys they already have.
Remember, what your dog loves most about receiving a gift is the oohs and aahs of attention as they rip open the wrapping. Wise up to this and it becomes Christmas every day with a short, 100% attention play time.
Dig to the bottom of that toy box and pull out the things they haven't seen for months. Each chewed or pre-loved toy will be a revelation that has them woofing with wonder. Have a whale of a time playing tug or fetch, and put all your enthusiasm into the game. For a dog, this undivided attention is just the BEST!
Routine is king
At Christmas, routine is like a frisbee… it’s thrown away. But here's the rub: dogs love routine as they love the predictability of knowing when meals and walks happen. If things don't happen when they should, it makes tails droop and can lead to anxiety or feelings of insecurity. After all, your pet pal's world revolves around yours—and if that suddenly goes out of orbit, what's a chap to think?
This Christmas, act like one of the three Wise Men and do your best to give a predictable shape to the day. For starters, giving meals at their regular time sends out a reassuring message that the dog is safe and all is well, despite the flashing fairy lights and an indoor tree. If you can, stick to regular walk times. If pressed for time don't go as far, but at least this will keep their bladder and bowel on schedule, which is good for everyone concerned.
The wonder of walking
Yes, there's the turkey to stuff and presents to wrap—but isn't walking the dog even more important? Actually, taking time out of a busy schedule will do you both good.
Time in the fresh air acts like a tonic at a stressful time and allows the dog to burn off energy. Don't underestimate the importance of this because no one wants a bonkers Beagle or hyper Harrier bouncing up at visitors. Also, burning pent-up energy helps your pup fall into a peaceful snooze once home, and that peace and quiet is the equivalent of having Santa's little helper around the house.
Away in a manger
Do you enjoy the hustle and bustle of Christmas? From carol singers to visiting relatives, there are strangers calling, even stranger smells, and bizarre sights and sounds—all of which can be overwhelming or over-exciting for a sensitive Schnauzer or delicate Dachshund. In turn, this can lead to bad behaviors such as barking, toileting where they shouldn't, or even getting grumpy with guests. And all these are outward signs the dog is not having a happy Christmas.
Instead, what a dog really wants for Christmas is a sanctuary to sneak off to and feel safe when they've had enough of the human hi-jinx.
If they already have a bed, make it extra comfy by lining it with a piece of your old clothing. This makes the bed smell of you, which is super comforting. Train visitors (especially children) to leave the dog alone when they're in their bed, so the four-legger can enjoy a silent night if that's what they need. And for the crate-trained Cockapoo, make their resting place as den-like as possible. Partially cover the crate with a blanket to make a private, snuggly cave to hide away and spend some peaceful down time in the midst of madness.
Alternatively, plan ahead and offer them an additional dog bed in a quiet room or corner. Make the bed attractive by hiding the odd treat or biscuit in it. This will soon have the dog checking it out and encouraging them to stay. Praise the pup for using the bed, so they get the idea that this quiet corner is their happy place.
No dog wants to spend Christmas at the vet's office. Sadly, the festive season is a busy time for vets because of the things dogs eat that disagree with them. Also, the double-trouble of chocolates under the tree and a distracted owner is a recipe for disaster (chocolate is highly toxic to dogs). Give your dog the gift of avoiding the vet by being careful about how and what they eat.
But the hazards don't stop there. Many Christmas foods are high fat, such as the turkey skin or sausages. For some dogs, eating this fatty food could trigger an episode of pancreatitis, which may require a vet visit or even hospitalization. Then there are hazards such as turkey bones to choke on… and that's without the Christmas cake or mince pies packed with dried fruit that could cause kidney failure if eaten by your four-legged friend.
So grant your dog's Christmas wish to stay home and stay well by keeping food and human treats well out of paw's reach.
A happy Christmas isn’t just about gifts
Remember, giving the dog a happy Christmas isn't about gifts, but about helping them cope with the festive period and emerge safe and sound with their tail wagging. And the good news is that it isn't expensive (cheaper than a vet visit!) and needn't cost anything at all, because you already have all the ingredients for a barking good Christmas right there in your heart.