It’s never too early or too late to start the socialisation process, but the holidays do come with some extra work.
Your dog may be used to people coming over, but are they used to a lot of excitement? Large groups of people? Children?
These are just some of the things you’ll need to consider when planning to include your dog in their first or any celebration with the family.
If you’ve been working on socialising your dog, they might be good with a variety of situations, but there are certain things that only happen during the holiday season that they might find scary or stressful.
We’re going to take a closer look at those things that might be overlooked the rest of the year and walk you through what you can do to help your dog out.
Socialise Your Dog with Music
Some of us humans love music and that means your dog may already be used to it.
Others don’t listen to music all that often, so it may be something their dog isn’t used to.
Regardless of the rest of the year, a lot of people will listen to Christmas music during the holidays. It’s inescapable for some. It’s played in stores, at restaurants, in cars, at events, and even at home.
To get your dog used to it, play the music at a comfortable, but not too loud volume, and see how they act. If it stresses them out, turn the volume down.
This is a great time to dish out treats if it causes them stress. You can form a positive association between the music and your affections. Then you can slowly increase the volume to your preferred level.
Socialise Your Dog to Decorations
Decorations are a huge part of the holiday season for many of us.
Trees, lights, shiny bits and bobs. People decorate inside and out.
This sudden change can be concerning and stressful for your dog.
Instead of decorating all at once, do it a little bit at a time and try to stay relaxed while doing it.
We know it’s exciting, but you have to remember that your dog will pick up on your energy. A lot of excitement will make a nervous dog more anxious.
Start with some tabletop decorations and maybe a rug if you swap those out during the holidays. Add your lights around the mantle and give your dog a few days to adjust.
You’ll have to start decorating early to give your dog time to adjust if they don’t take to everything easily, but it will be much less stressful than changing their environment all at once.
When you bring in your tree, leave it bare for a few days.
This will give your dog some time to become accustomed to it and it will give you time to work with them on not being afraid of it (or perhaps a little too curious).
Socialise Your Dog in Preparation for the Crowd
It’s always an amazing event to host on Christmas day, but your dog might not be ready for all of that excitement to be in their home.
Their home is their safe space and having a bunch of people over, who they don’t know very well, can be stressful. Not to mention all of the extra noise and energy.
To get ready for this, you’ll need the help of some friends or family who don’t live with you, and can come visit.
Host a game or movie night. Have them bring snacks and set the table.
It doesn’t need to be exactly like Christmas, but you want some excitement (but not too much) going on for your dog to get used to.
Just make sure everyone knows the game plan ahead of time so you all can adjust accordingly.
This will give you a lot of control over the environment so that you can adjust it to your dog’s needs. If they do really well, that’s great. See if you can amp it up a little at the next get together.
If they need you to slow down, then you can tone down the evening and keep it in mind for next time. Once they’re more comfortable, your next get-together can be more exciting.
Socialise with Your Guests
If you can, invite those relatives over that you don’t see that often for a little one-on-one time, when things are more relaxed. The environment will be much less hectic and offer you more control should your dog become uncomfortable. This way, when your relative does come over for the Christmas festivities, they won’t be as much of a stranger to your dog.
Whether you can or can’t invite people over for meetings with your dog ahead of time, you should make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your dog.
Make sure everyone knows what you do and don’t allow and prepare them ahead of time. There may be certain things your dog just doesn’t like such as being pet on the head or another area of the body that should be known beforehand.
This way no one accidentally makes your dog anxious or more nervous than they may already be. It will also prevent you from trying to tell everyone while they’re at your house and busy with the festivities when they’re less likely to listen.
Give Your Dog Space to Take a Break from Socialising
Make sure that your dog’s crate and a quiet room are set up ahead of time. This way if your dog starts to feel nervous or needs a break, they have a room they can exit to.
You can include their favourite bed, blanket, pillows, toys, and anything else to make them more comfortable.
Just make sure the room is out of their way. It can be a bedroom, office, or even a spacious closet. As long as it’s far away from all of the noise and guests won’t be in and out, it works.
There’s so much preparation to do for the holidays. Invitations need to be sent out, decorations put up, food made, arrangements for visits, and so much more.
That’s why it’s important that your dog is ready too. The prep work needs to include them so that the next time you host a party, it’s a success for all.
Do you have any holiday socialisation tips and tricks? How did you tackle the tough parts of the holiday season with your dog?
Come over to our social media and share your stories. We’re always happy to hear from you!
How can I socialise my dog with holiday music?
Gradually introduce your dog to holiday music at a comfortable volume. If they seem stressed, lower the volume and offer treats to create a positive association. Gradually increase the volume to your preferred level, always monitoring your dog's reaction to ensure they're comfortable.
What’s the best way to acclimate my dog to holiday decorations?
Introduce holiday decorations gradually. Start with smaller tabletop decorations, and then slowly add more over several days. When you set up your tree, leave it undecorated initially to give your dog time to adjust. Remember, your dog will pick up on your energy, so try to remain calm during the decorating process.
How can I prepare my dog for a crowded holiday event at home?
To prepare your dog for a holiday crowd, start by hosting smaller gatherings with friends or family. This will help your dog get used to having more people in the house in a controlled setting. Gradually increase the excitement level of these gatherings as your dog becomes more comfortable.
How should I introduce my dog to less familiar guests before a big holiday event?
If possible, arrange for your dog to meet unfamiliar guests in a calm, controlled environment before the main holiday event. This one-on-one interaction can help your dog feel more at ease when they encounter these guests again during the busier holiday celebration.
What can I do to provide my dog with a safe space during holiday gatherings?
Set up a quiet, comfortable space for your dog away from the festivities where they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. This could be a room with their crate, favourite bed, toys, and other comforting items. Ensure this space is easily accessible and away from the noise and bustle of the gathering.