8 Ways to Reduce Stress for Dogs During the Holidays

    • 4 min read

    There’s no place like home for the holidays, but when your home turns into a giant family gathering, your dog might not feel so comfortable at home. The loud sounds, tempting food, gift unwrapping, and new people can all be very overwhelming for dogs. 

    Here’s how you can help your dog keep calm and carry on this holiday season.

    1. Know The Signs When Your Dog Is Anxious

    Always be on the lookout for any signs of stress that your dog may show as your guests arrive. 

    Common signs of anxiety in dogs look like the following:

    • Restlessness and pacing
    • Aggression
    • Overactive barking
    • Accidents in the house
    • Destruction of items
    • Excessive chewing or drooling
    • Loss of appetite
    • Panting, whimpering, and pulled back ears
    • Clinginess

    Some of these signs might seem like your dog is simply excited, especially if your dog is very close to you and seems extra affectionate. But these signs could indicate that your dog feels anxious around all the new people, sounds, and smells. 

    You know your dog best, so keep a watchful eye out for any of these signs of stress and make sure you follow the next few steps if you see your dog exhibiting anxious behavior.

    Happy Dog with Their Little Human

    2. Create A Safe Space For Your Dog

    A safe space for your dog is a relaxing, familiar, and unstimulating place in your home that your dog can escape to when things get overwhelming. 

    Here are a few ways to create a comfortable place for your dog this holiday season:

    • Keep the space away from windows and the doorbell alarm to reduce extra sounds
    • Add in a dog bed
    • Turn on the tv to a calming show or play quiet music
    • Make sure there are blankets and snuggle buddy toys
    • Check on your dog every hour to make sure they’re okay

    3. Keep Your Dog's Routine

    Dogs are habitual animals who need a routine in order to anticipate each day. Needless to say, throwing off the routine by having a holiday can disrupt your dog’s norm, leading to confusion and anxiety. To prevent this from happening:

    • Maintain your daily routine with your dog as best as you can
    • Try to take your dog for a walk before the event to get out any excess energy
    • Feed your dog on the usual schedule
    • And keep surroundings familiar or take your dog to a safe space ahead of time to prepare for sudden changes

    4. Prepare For Other Pets

    If you’re planning on inviting family members to bring their own dogs over for a doggy playdate on the holidays, this could actually make your dog more anxious if you don’t plan ahead⁠—especially if your dog isn’t used to playing with other dogs. 

    Prepare for a playdate by taking these three steps:

    1. Socialize the dogs before the big gathering
    2. Always keep an eye on your dog and read their body language to make sure they’re not stressed
    3. Add in a break time by separating the pooches with a treat-stuffed snack time so they can calm down and recharge

    Dogs Together during Holiday

    5. Limit Travel Plans

    If you live far away from family, long-distance drives can be nerve-wracking for dogs. On a similar note, boarding your dog can be even more stressful on your dog if he or she isn’t used to it. Drives that are more than 2 hours longcan be taxing on your dog and should include at least a 15-to-30-minute break. For distances longer than this, you may want to invite friends and family to your place to keep travel out of the picture entirely.

    6. Keep the Guest List Low

    Shortening your guest list doesn’t just reduce how much meal-prepping and effort you have to put into entertaining your family and friends; it also helps reduce the amount of activity taking place around the house that would otherwise stress out your doggo. So, consider keeping the list short and the partying to a minimum.

    Puppy Trying to Get the Cookies from the Table

    7. Avoid Handing Out Table Food 

    Feeding your dog table food from the holiday feast might seem like the perfect way to keep your pet feeling calm and included, but doing so can upset your dog’s stomach or cause more severe problems. Foods containing chocolate, small bones, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, artificial sweeteners, and more all pose risks to your dog’s health. 

    Alternatively, try out one of our holiday recipes for dogs if you’re hoping to include your dog in the mealtime fun!

    8. Provide Comfort Toys

    If your dog needs to come out of the safe space to use the restroom or eat, or your dog likes being around others but may just need a calming hobby, have a few favorite toys on hand to distract your dog from all of the external commotions. 

    Some of the best dog toys for stimulation and stress relief include snuggle buddies, chew toys, and interactive treat finders:

    Snuggle Buddy Toys

    Some dogs feel extra safe with their teddy bear or other plush toys. Designed for gentle chewers, snuggle buddies are great for dogs who find comfort in cuddling. Chopper absolutely loves using the Duraplush Fuzzball as a pacifier to feel safe! Just be sure to supervise your dog while they play with a snuggle toy during the holidays, as your dog might be tempted to chew on a plush toy if stressed.

    Chew Challenger Toys

    Chew toys help keep dogs mentally stimulated and interested in their toys. Our chew toys come in a variety of play styles for all dogs, as well as different strengths, textures, and fun colors that are a great distraction from a change in your dog’s environment. 

    Interactive Treat Finders

    Interactive treat toys are puzzle toys that encourage your dog to solve the toy to receive a tasty reward. These highly engaging toys are perfect for solo-fun play, providing the mental stimulation your dog needs to stay focused. You can also use a treat finder to help dogs who find mealtime stressful during the holidays. Your dog will think it’s a game while also getting the benefit of eating!

    Until next time--