4 ways to make the holiday season less stressful for your dog

The holiday season is a busy time for a lot of households, and the mix of festivities, kids and dogs can be stressful – especially for the dogs. Visitors, travel, noisy toys, a strange tree in the house, and firecrackers are just some of the many stressors your dog may encounter over the holidays.

We encourage you to watch your pets carefully for stress signals and teach children how to detect them too. As mentioned in a previous blog - a lot of dogs are good at tolerating a situation, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily happy being in it. Some stress signals include panting when it is not hot, licking their chops when food isn’t present, and yawning when they are not tired. Watch the video above for more on dogs and stress, and consider using IFAW’s Animal Action Education Materials to show the kids what  signs of stress to watch out for.

Here are a few tips to help make all of your little beings happier over the holidays:

  1. Watch the dogs carefully with children. Children can be unpredictable and don’t always know how to interact with pets. Be sure to teach the children in your life how to approach a dog and detect stress signs.
  2. Provide a quiet space that they can retreat to. I bring my dogs’ beds with me and put them in a low-traffic corner. A quiet space can also be a crate or a separate room in the house. I make sure that everyone, especially children, understand that this space should be respected and the dogs should be left alone when they are in that space. This is also where I put their water, food, favourite toys and blankets.
  3. Make sure the dogs have water. Of course water should always be available, but pay special attention that the bowl stays full. Some dogs tend to drink more when they are stressed especially if they are panting a lot.
  4. Go on longer walks than usual. This allows them to blow off any extra “steam” and hopefully get a little tired. I also let them out in the yard more often, which allows them to have a break from the festivities.

By being attentive and with a little pre-planning, you can make your holiday less stressful for everyone. Wishing you and yours, two and four-legged alike, a very happy and safe holiday season! 


IFAW’s Animal Action Education Program offers a wide variety of free education packs including teaching guides, lessons, worksheets, videos, and interactive activities aligned with school curricula in more than 24 countries and 12 languages plus Braille. Click here to check them out! 

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project