The holidays are meant to be a joyous season, but the stress that comes with family gatherings, gift buying, food prep and other festive activities can sometimes bring out the worst in us. That includes our dogs.
For those who don’t have dogs or who are encountering a normally friendly canine during the holidays, you may be wondering why a dog is acting aggressive. What is making them act like they are going to bite you?
Simply put, the dog is stressed out. There are many things that can cause a dog stress around the holidays.
- Their routine is disrupted. If the dog is used to sleeping and eating during certain times, the disruption of that pattern can cause a dog to become stressed and act out. It’s not unlike a toddler acting unruly due to a disrupted routine.
- New people. Dogs may seem extroverted, considering how willingly many will come over to sniff, lick or jump up on you to say hello. But in many cases, the new people in their home and unfamiliar interactions with those people can stress out a dog. If a new person comes over and tries to pet them somewhere they are not used to being pet, they will be concerned.
- New dogs. If someone brings another dog to the party, those dogs might get along great, but they might not. If a new dog is not behaving the way another dog expects, it can make them anxious.
- Increased noise. If a dog is not used to a home full of noise, the commotion of a holiday party may be more than they can handle.
- Decreased exercise. If the dog’s routine include a certain regiment of exercise that is disrupted, that can make a dog cranky. Endorphins from exercise don’t just make us happy – they also help our canine friends.
Interacting with a stressed dog
Many of the above stressors are brought on by children who don’t necessarily know better, especially if they don’t have their own dog and are excited to see one. So how do you and your children avoid a dog bite at a holiday party?
Take your cues from the dog to determine what they need. If they seem overwhelmed by all the people, give them space. Make it clear to your children that the dog needs to be alone for now, but may feel better and ready to play later. Take time before the party to learn how to pet a dog and show your children before they arrive to help reduce tense interactions.
Taking care of your dog
If you are a dog owner, you are liable for any damages suffered by a person bitten by your pet, even if the dog is normally not aggressive. You can prevent a possibly awkward incident at your holiday gathering by taking measures to care for your dog ahead of time.
Try to stick to your dog’s normal routine as much as possible. If that’s not possible, consider increasing their exercise routine before the party.
Send some kind of communication to your guests about how to touch or not touch your dog. They might not always listen, particularly children, but it may help avoid some unintentional interactions.
If you notice your dog seems stressed or anxious, it may be best to simply remove them from the party. Give them a quiet place, kenneled or unkenneled, where they can rest with a chew toy or a treat-stuffed kong. It may be a good idea to do this a few times before the party if they are not used to being put away somewhere, so they are familiar with the routine and the space.
Above all, listen to the dog and understand what it is they need this holiday season. They may not know better, but as their owner or a party guest, you can take actions to make the holidays as stress-free for them as possible.