Trainer reveals how to keep your dog calm and happy this holiday season

Border Collie wearing reindeer antlers and sat beside Christmas tree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The holiday season is upon us, and your pup will no doubt be excited at the thought of lots of visitors to fuss over them, and perhaps some tasty snacks left on the counter to steal!

But, for some dogs – even those who enjoy the festive period – it can be quite overwhelming at the same time. 

It might be the changes in routine, or the new people – perhaps they aren’t used to children, for example – or just the excitement of new noises, sights, and smells. But fortunately, the certified dog behavior coaches at the Calm Canine Academy have outlined how you can best manage the holiday season to make life easier for your pups in a recent Instagram post. 

The Academy explain that they’re often asked about issues like resource guarding, hyperactivity, and behavior with children and other dogs during the holiday season, but that there are things you can do if you have concerns. 

“Consider if it’s worth it,” they begin. “For some dogs, social gatherings are just not an option. If they are going to experience such an event as overwhelmingly negative, most trainers would recommend just to avoid it.”

They describe putting dogs in situations they can’t handle as “flooding”, and explain that it will likely make their behavior worse. 

But if you’re still planning on taking your pup to a social event, or hosting loved ones at home, it’s a good idea to make visitors clear on what your pup needs beforehand – a few simple texts would suffice. Just explain your dog’s body language, boundaries, and individual needs and you can make your gathering a more pleasant environment for everyone concerned. 

If friends are bringing young children with them, for example, they’ll be better equipped to keep their children safe around your dog. Likewise, they’ll be aware of how to tell if your dog has had enough interaction, and wants to be left alone for a while. 

And they recommend slowing down introductions to new people, too. They say, “Speedy, overwhelming intros by the triggering front door area can set your dog up to fail and lead to increased stacking stress and overwhelm.” 

So, if you’ve got a lot of people coming over, perhaps introduce them to your dog one at a time and in a calm fashion, staggering introductions over time so your dog isn’t almost meeting a conveyor belt of new people. 

If you have the space, it’s a good idea to create a zone for your pup to go to when they want to get away from everyone. Physical barriers can help them feel safe, as well as encourage humans to keep away! Consider putting some favorite blankets and toys in there, and play some brown noise or classical music. 

Finally, don’t forget to meet your dog’s needs first. Take them on a nice, long walk beforehand, and spend some time playing with them. Some chews and treats certainly wouldn’t go amiss either…

Want more advice? Here’s how to calm a dog down during periods of high anxiety – both during the holiday season and throughout the year!

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.