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Holiday Safety Tips from Doggone Safe

Filed in - Special Situations
Co-authored by Teresa Lewin

Happy Holidays—for everyone in the family

Family gatherings at a relative's home are the source of fond memories for many. But, the family dog may not enjoy these events as much as the rest of the family. Noise, confusion, and changes in routine are stressful for dogs. Even a normally calm and docile pet may become agitated enough to bite under the extreme circumstances of a boisterous family celebration. Supervision may be lax if each adult thinks that another is watching the children, and children are the most likely victims of dog bites in this situation. Doggone Safe offers the following tips:

christmas dog
  • Put the dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times—when guests are arriving and leaving and during dinner preparation and serving.
  • Assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler, with no other responsibilities assigned to that person.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of the dog—to watch him for signs of stress, and to protect him from unwanted attention from children. Signs of stress include:
    • The dog yawns or licks his chops.
    • The dog shows the white part of his eye in a half moon shape.

If the dog shows any of these signs, then he is worried and wants to be left alone. Put the dog in his crate or in a room away from the guests, with a favorite chew toy or bone to entertain him.

If the dog licks his chops, yawns or shows the half moon eye when a child approaches or is petting him, intervene immediately and ensure that the child cannot access the dog.

The family dog may not enjoy these events as much as the rest of the family.
  • Do not allow visiting children to hug the dog. Dogs don't like hugs and kisses. Even if the dog tolerates this type of affection under normal circumstances, he may not tolerate it from strangers or in a high stress situation with lots of noise and people.
  • Other signs that a dog does not welcome attention from children (or adult guests) include the following:
    • The dog turns his head away, walks away, or tries to hide under furniture.
    • The dog freezes or becomes very still, with his mouth closed. He may be staring intently at the person who is bothering him, and may growl. This dog is a few seconds away from a bite.
    • The dog growls or raises the fur along his back.
  • If you have multiple dogs, consider kenneling them, crating them, or keeping them in another room during large gatherings.
  • Supervise at all times.

For general information, please visit the Doggone Safe website at www.doggonesafe.com, call 1-877-350-3232, or e-mail doggonesafeinfo [at] doggonesafe [dot] com.

About Doggone Safe

Doggone Safe is a nonprofit corporation registered in Canada, Ontario, and New York State, with offices in Canada, the US, and Australia. Doggone Safe's mandate includes dog bite prevention education, and dog bite victim support. Educational seminar programs offered by Doggone Safe are Be a Tree™ (for school-aged children), Be Doggone Smart at Home™ (for parents), Be Doggone Smart with Your New Baby™ (for expectant parents), and Be Doggone Smart at Work™ (for workers who come into contact with dogs on the job).
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