Preparing Your Pets for the Holidays

< A version of this article was published in the November 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News>

November and December can be a joyous, yet also a chaotic and hectic time of the year. We can look forward to several major holidays, each of which can mean more activities at school for the kids, and an increased probability of guests in our home. To prepare for those activities, we may also find it necessary to spend more time away from home attending school concerts, company parties, and family gatherings. Some people thrive on a flurry of activity and some long for a calmer time of year. Our pets, especially dogs, and cats typically are more likely to be fans of predictability and routine.  Here are a few tips to make the coming frenzy less stressful for your pets.

Do not forget your pet(s)

  • As you get busy with the holidays, please do not forget your pet. Make sure to allocate time for them, as they miss you when you are not home as much as usual. You might also find that spending time with them helps you to relax from all of the holiday madness.

Family Gatherings

  • Put your dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – when guests are arriving and leaving as well as when meals are being prepared and served. If your cats are not fond of large numbers of people, or people they do not know, set them up in a room where they can be alone. Make sure your guests know that they are to leave your pet alone in this situation.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of each of the dogs, to watch for signs of stress and to protect the dog from unwanted attention from children. At the same time, assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler, with no other tasks assigned to them. Make sure that ALL interactions between pets and children are supervised by an adult.
  • Not every dog likes every person – ALWAYS let your pet decide if they want to meet someone new.
  • If you are quite certain, your pet will not enjoy the increased activity due to the event, or if you are more relaxed knowing your pet is in a safe, pleasant environment, consider boarding your pet the day and night of the event.


Special considerations for the holidays

  • Pets do not make good holiday gifts, especially if the person receiving the gift is not aware of it. If you want to get a pet related gift for someone get them a book on selecting a pet, or a leash or toy for the pet to come.
  • Many holiday plants such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous to pets. Make sure they are someplace where your pet cannot get to them.
  • Be cautious about where you leave holiday gifts, especially those with food inside. A misplaced box of chocolates can kill a dog.
  • Candy and other holiday treats sweetened with Xylitol can also be fatal when pets ingest them.
  • Keep lights and fragile ornaments off the lower branches of your holiday tree where your pet can get to them.
  • Make sure all electrical cords for holiday lights and decorations are located where your pet will not become entangled in them or attempt to chew on them.
  • Avoid using edible ornaments on your tree.
  • Tinsel can be very attractive to dogs and cats and can also be fatal if ingested.


Have a safe and joyous holiday season!

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

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