This trainer's four behavior tips are key for keeping your pets happy this Christmas

Dog hiding in Christmas present box
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As fun and exciting as the holiday season can be, it can be stressful too – something that pet parents know more than most! 

Whether you have a cat who loves the Christmas tree or a dog who goes wild with all the attention from visitors, keeping your furry friend (and your home) safe, happy, and healthy (and full of the best dog treats or cat food) can take up a lot of your energy.

But things don’t have to be difficult. On Instagram, expert trainer Madison Skoog has outlined four holiday management strategies to make life easier for everyone concerned this Christmas. 

1. Decor: Skoog explains that in her home, they put a gate around their Christmas tree to deter their cat from getting too close, as it works for them. (Here are seven ways to cat-proof Christmas trees, if you’d like more inspo.)

But, if you think your pet might destroy things or, worse, ingest them, it’s best to keep them out of reach one way or another. That might be keeping things high up, putting decorations in rooms your pets don’t have access to, or like Skoog putting physical barriers in place. 

2. Winter weight: “Most dogs have decreased exercise in the winter months, combined with special seasonal treats,” says Skoog. “Consider bundling up for that extra walk, or reducing their calories this time of year.”

It may also be worth asking visitors not to feed your dog any extra treats or scraps from their plates. Of course, an additional treat here and there is unlikely to be a problem, but if you host multiple friends and relatives over the holiday season, they can quickly add up. 

Are dog treats healthy? What about cat treats? They’re fine in moderation, but too many can be harmful.

3. Events and guests: “First, give yourself permission to leave your dog at home and enjoy holiday events,” explains Skoog. “If they would enjoy it and you would enjoy having them there, by all means! But don’t put the pressure on yourself to ‘make it work’ if you feel pretty confident it will be unenjoyable for human and canine.”

Meanwhile, if your dog gets nervous around new people at home, and you know you’ll be hosting visitors, be proactive in preparing so your pup will be more at ease when people come over. If you have enough space at home, it’s a good idea to create a space or zone where your pet can go if they don’t feel like socializing. 

4. Rest: Don’t be too hard on yourself! As Skoog says, “If you’ve been working on behavior change, and it feels like you are constantly moving the goalpost and working on something else, give yourself permission to take some time in ‘maintenance’ mode so that you can refill your cup and tackle next year refreshed.”

After all, there might be things you’re working on with your pet for Christmas that you still need to focus on after the new year. When it comes to being a pet parent, there are seldom going to be quick fixes, but with Skoog’s advice, you may find that the next few weeks become a little easier.

Got a nervous dog at home? Our expert reveals eight reasons why your dog is anxious (and how you can help them).

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.