It's the most wonderful time of the year! But as we celebrate friends and family, turkey and trimmings, our beloved pups can sometimes get forgotten about. After all, you're busy enough wrapping presents, organising holiday transport and stocking up on pigs in blankets - no wonder that your ever-patient pooch becomes less and less or a priority.
But, at heart, Christmas is all about spending time with those that are important to us. It's a time to celebrate those we love most in the world, making memories to last a lifetime. And there's nobody more important to your dog than you.
So since it's their Christmas too, keep your best pal happy this Christmas with our ten tips...
1. Keep them active.
Disrupting your dog's usual walking routine for a few days isn't the end of the world, but he'll be a much happier (and hopefully more relaxed) character if you can stick to it as much as possible. You're bound to have a few extra pairs of hands around the house, so rope in some help! Get the kids to take the dogs out if you can - or, if Uncle David is looking a bit exhausted by talk of stockings and giftwrap by 4pm on Christmas Eve, ask him if he wouldn't mind giving your dog a quick run around the park. Both he and your dog will be pleased!
Don't worry about over-walking your dog either - when emotions are high and there's lots going on, the more activity you can give your dog the better.
2. If they're nervous, give them a safe space.
If your dog gets anxious around new people, that doesn't mean you have to lock them away throughout the whole Christmas period - after all, this might actually be a great opportunity to help that with that people anxiety by having the same people in your home for several hours at a time (rather than always coming and going). But, do make sure they have a safe place to retreat if it all gets too much. That might mean purchasing a dog bed with a roof for them to curl up in, or even just leaving your bedroom door open so they can take refuge under (or in!) your bed.
3. If they're definitely not nervous, make sure they get enough attention.
Everyone loves to make a fuss of dogs when they first arrive, but what about when your guests have been settled for a few days? Friendly and loving dogs will quickly start to feel neglected if the amount of attention they receive suddenly drops off, so make sure that doesn't happen. Encourage the kids to play with your dog out in the garden, if you have one, or set an example to your guests by giving your dog lots of cuddles and affection.
4. Stock up on dog food & be vigilant with meals.
It might sound obvious, but don't let that multi-pack of Pedigree Chum disappear from your pre-Christmas shopping list! Sure, there might be plenty of Turkey leftovers and stray biscuits around the house at this time of year, but keeping your dog's diet as normal as possible will help him to feel less disrupted. Too many sneaky leftovers and he'll be a very unhappy dog!
5. A pre-Christmas check-up.
No matter how old your dog is, a check-up at the vets never hurts. No matter how much we may plan Christmas is always, inevitably, a bit chaotic, and if something should go wrong over the holidays you'll kick yourself for not checking sooner. We may not be able to safeguard against every accident, but if there's something the matter pre-Christmas better to find out beforehand than halfway through your Boxing Day turkey-and-chips supper. Many vets are closed throughout the entire Christmas-New Year period, which is a very long time if you have a poorly pup on your hands.
6. Dog-proof the house (as much as you can!)
This is particularly important if you have a puppy and it's their first Christmas! With guests coming and going at this time of year bags pile up, guests room become stuffed with relatives and it's all too easy to tread on little puppy toes. Try to stay extra-vigilant against your house becoming overly cluttered, as it can be a stressful environment for your dog. At best, try to make sure that the pathways to your garden or outdoor space and to the dog's bed are kept clear.
7. Make sure your guests understand your dog.
We've heard a strange and mysterious rumour that, apparently, some people don't really like dogs. I know! We don't really believe it either, but on the off chance it's true - and that, God forbid, you actually know some of them - it might be worth inviting your more nervous guests around beforehand to make sure they can relax a bit around your dog (and your dog can relax around them). This'll make for a less stressful Christmas for everyone - including you!
8. Don't let Santa forget about your dog.
On Christmas morning, when everyone's opening their presents, don't let your dog feel left out! There are so many great gifts available for dogs at this time of year - so whether it's a personalised collar, a brand new bed or a pack of his favourite treats, that little something will make your dog feel loved... Even if he is a bit more interested in the paper than the present!
9. Quality time.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter how many great presents your dog receives, how many walks he goes on with Uncle David or how much attention he receives from your nieces and nephews: the best gift you can give your dog is quality time with you. So whether it's a day in the park before the Christmas madness sets in or some sneaky cuddles upstairs at the end of the day on Christmas Eve, making sure that your dog gets to spend some time with his favourite person in the world will ensure that he has the best Christmas ever.
Have a very merry Christmas!