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Bark Bytes… Keep the Holiday Season Fun and Safe for Your Dog

By Richard and Vicki Horowitz

In planning for this season’s holiday festivities, it is important to keep your pets in mind. While most of us welcome the sights, sounds and smells of the season, holidays can also be chaotic—especially for dogs. Holiday festivities can interrupt a dog’s routine and present a potentially unsafe situation. But by following a few common-sense tips, the holidays can be cheery for everyone—including the family dog.

Holiday foods can be harmful

  • Many holiday foods can be harmful to canines, causing symptoms as mild as an upset stomach or as severe as vomiting and diarrhea. Avoid giving your dog fatty or spicy foods, bread dough, fresh herbs, alcohol beverages, caffeine and sweets of all kinds—especially those with chocolate or xylitol, an artificial sweetener.
  • Particularly dangerous are cooked poultry bones. Cooked bones easily splinter, and the bone shards can cause choking, get stuck in your dog’s gums or possibly damage his intestines. Instead, treat your dog to “dog bones” specifically designed for him to chew. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions.
  • Discourage your dog from foraging in the garbage—secure lids on all trashcans.
  • It’s natural that you’d want to share holiday treats with your dog. While a little taste of turkey or sweet potatoes can make your dog happy, don’t overdo it—too much of a good thing can make him sick.

Decorations are not playthings

  • Keep your pet away from holiday plants, many of which are poisonous, such as holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and amaryllis (a type of lily). Also be sure all potpourri is out of your pet’s reach.
  • Snow globes can contain antifreeze, which is toxic to dogs. Whether in the garage or in a snow globe, keep antifreeze products away from your happy, tail-wagging dog. If there is an antifreeze spill, keep your dog out of the room while you clean up the liquid. Dilute the spot with water and floor cleaner to ensure your dog does not lick the area later.
  • Keep electrical wires and batteries out of your pet’s reach. Chewing or biting anything electrical can cause him shock or burns.
  • Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. A lit candle knocked over by a swinging tail can burn your pet or cause a fire.

Christmas trees can be hazardous

  • Anchor the tree to the ceiling or wall to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Hang non-breakable ornaments near the bottom of the tree.
  • Avoid putting tinsel on your tree. If ingested, tinsel can twist in your dog’s intestines and be deadly.
  • Don’t let your dog drink the Christmas tree water. The water may contain preservative chemicals, which can trigger severe indigestion in dogs. Stagnant plain water can breed bacteria and cause nausea or diarrhea to the pet that imbibes.
  • Regularly sweep up fallen pine needles, as they can puncture holes in a dog’s intestines if ingested.

Help your dog feel safe and relaxed

  • Most dogs get very excited when guests arrive. To help your dog be calmer, exercise him prior to the festivities. After 30 minutes of walking or playtime, your dog will more likely be relaxed or want to nap.
  • As a general rule, don’t allow the family dog to greet unfamiliar guests since unusual activities and commotion can cause him extra stress.
  • Give your dog a break from the hubbub by putting him in his crate or in a quiet room with his doggie bed. Allow him to rejoin the festivities after guests have arrived.
  • Pets stressed by unfamiliar events typically pant more, so keep your dog’s water bowl filled with fresh water.

Pets like presents too!

  • Help your dog stay busy and out of the holiday trimmings by giving him fun, safe gifts.
  • The Buster Cube™ and Kong™ are virtually indestructible puzzle toys that reward your dog with treats and keep him well entertained.

Please don’t give a pet as a surprise gift!

A cute puppy might seem like the perfect gift choice, but many of these holiday presents end up at animal shelters. Owning a dog takes a genuine commitment of time and responsibility, and adoptive owners must be ready to participate in training and other activities. If someone you know seriously wants a dog, consider giving a leash and collar, or a dog training certificate from Bark Busters along with a note saying a dog of the recipient’s choice comes with it. This helps ensure the lucky person gets just the right pet to bring into the family.

Following these simple tips will help make the festivities safe and happy for your whole family, including your canine companions.

Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, one of the world’s largest dog training companies. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.

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