12 top tips for your dog’s first family Christmas

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Is there anything more precious than puppy’s first Christmas? For new dog owners we’d be willing to bet that’s a unanimous no. With all the excitement of the Christmas tree lights twinkling, the gifts being unwrapped, and the guests milling around, there’s a lot to love about Christmas time with a dog – whether they’re a puppy or not. But without wanting to be a Scrooge about it, each of those things also brings its own challenge, which requires a bit of planning ahead to make sure your dog’s first Christmas experience is a safe and happy one.

We’re talking about all those extra treats in the kitchen, the oh-so-tempting Christmas decorations on the tree, and those seriously chewable toys strewn across the floor on Christmas Day – basically, things that are important to keep out of your dog’s reach, as much as possible. By following our simple tips to make sure your dog stays settled and safe over the Christmas season, you can make sure their first family Christmas goes off without a hitch.

Greeting your guests

Dog being held next to Christmas tree

If your young dog became a part of your family during the pandemic, there’s a good chance this will be their first Christmas with extra guests in the house. And even if they’re older, this may well be the first time in a while.

Either way, after having the house to themselves all this time, the arrival of your extended family might come as a bit of a shock – especially if your guest list also includes kids. So, it’s well worth investing some time and training into your dog’s doorstep manner by following these steps:

1. Start doorstep training early

We’re talking a couple of weeks before your family gathering is planned, or even earlier than that, if possible. You can practise with the postman, the parcel delivery driver, and anyone who pops in between now and the big day. Encourage your dog not to jump up and bark at them, and reward them for good behaviour – it’ll pay off when you welcome a bigger crowd.

2. Keep your puppy away from the front door when guests arrive

This could mean putting them on a lead if you’re expecting lots of guests, to make sure they can’t bolt each time the door opens. If you have an older dog, you could train them to go to their bed when the doorbell rings, so they feel calm and settled in their own space whenever you welcome visitors into your home.

3. Prep your guests in the same way as your pooch

It’s a two-way street, so make sure your guests know what to expect if you have a puppy, and to wait until the coast is clear before entering the house. Likewise, they’ll need to be reminded not to leave their things on the floor once they’re inside, being especially mindful of things like painkillers in bags, or small parts in presents.

4. Help to settle an anxious dog

Remember it’s been a while for all dogs, not just puppies, so older or more socially anxious dogs may benefit from being in a separate room – at least until all your guests have arrived. You might want to use a stair gate so they still feel like they’re part of the action and can see what’s going on, which will help settle their nerves until they’re ready to mingle.

Deciding on decor

Dog looking at bauble on Christmas tree

Ah, the Christmas tree. It’s so pretty and sparkly and… delicious? That’s right, if you’re a puppy owner you’ll know they’ll happily gnaw on just about anything, but especially those shiny new baubles you just hung up so neatly.

The same goes for that artfully hung tinsel and those perfectly placed gifts beneath the tree – everything looks like it’s just waiting to be either eaten or played with, so it’s vital to puppy-proof your space.

5. Keep your puppy away from the tree

Yes, you can hang your Christmas decorations half-way up the tree and call it a design statement. But some will inevitably fall off and wind up in your puppy’s paws – or jaws – so you’re best to keep them well away from it. Consider using a puppy gate or fire guard around the tree, and never let them drink water from the stand – it can contain chemicals and bacteria that could upset your dog’s stomach and put a stop to the celebrations.

6. Hang the stockings out of reach

The same goes for seasonal scented candles, Christmas wreaths, and festive garlands, all of which are seriously tempting to dogs – especially if they smell like they could be edible. And while we’re on the subject of Christmas stockings, why not pick one up for your dog? There are some cute ready-made options available, or you could put your own together with lots of doggy treats.

7. Watch out for those fairy lights

If you’ve ever found yourself tangled in reams of fairy lights while you’re trying to wind them on the tree, you’ll know how easy it is for your dog to get tangled in them. Keep electrical cords unplugged when you’re out, and always supervise your dog or puppy when the fairy lights are on.

8. Wrap your presents wisely

Keep gifts out of reach, and make sure everything’s tidied away once they’re opened on Christmas Day. When you’re wrapping, watch out for ribbons, bows and even wrapping paper that your dog might try to eat. Because yes, they really will eat anything.

Mastering your menu

Box of Christmas dog treats

You’ve prepped the pigs in blankets, got Delia on standby and timed the whole Christmas meal to the minute. The last thing you need right now is a trip to the vet because your pup has some serious tummy troubles.

So, think about the treats you give your dog in the run-up to Christmas, as well as the titbits offered by guests on the big day. Especially when it comes to puppies, you’ll need to set some ground rules when it comes to what they’re able to eat.

9. Don’t share your choccies

Yes, there’ll be no end of treats in the house in the run-up to 25th December. But lots of foods that we love just don’t agree with our furry friends, including – unfortunately – chocolate. Don’t share your chocs with your dog, and make sure they can’t snaffle them straight from the box. The same goes for sweet treats like grapes and raisins. 

10. Tell your guests not to give your pup scraps

Things like meat fat, onions, garlic and poultry bones can make dogs really poorly, and nobody wants an emergency vet trip at any time of the year. Your guests might not be aware and may not be able to resist those puppy dog eyes, so explain how poorly these foods could make them.

11. Bake them a special treat instead

Because why should they miss out on all the fun while you tuck into the main event? We love these easy homemade dog treats that also work as gifts – bake some for friends while you’re at it, and their dogs will love you forever.

12. Don’t let them near your wine

Or your beer, or your port, or your Christmas sherry. Dogs – especially puppies – will take a slurp of anything left at their height. And with guests around, there are likely to be more drinks than usual left dotted about the house. The same goes for coffee, which is also bad news for dogs. Keep everything well out of your dog’s reach to be on the safe side.

Yule be ready for Christmas before you know it…

Your dog’s first family Christmas is a moment to treasure, and by following these simple steps to keep things stress-free, you can focus on the fun bits. That includes taking all the festive photos you possibly can, including that all-important shot of you and your dog in matching Christmas jumpers

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