Christmas Checklist for Dog Owners 

The increase in dog ownership continues and many of you will need to take a moment to consider how to keep you and your dog happy and safe over the festive season. 

Separation training 

Top of the list for Lockdown dogs at Christmas is to avoid reigniting separation issues. Having everyone at home again for a few weeks can cause separation training to regress. Make sure you try to stick to a routine that echoes that which your dog is used to.  If your dog has started to cope with some alone time or is already coping, then ensure you build in periods during the day and evening when your dog is given time by himself, just as you would normally. 

Christmas hazards 

Our curious, social hounds love the smells, noises and excitement of Christmas. Christmas foods, decorations and festive plants are probably just as enticing to dogs as they are to us. However, be sure to supervise your dog around all three categories. A raft of seasonal foods are toxic and even fatal if ingested. Decorations can also be harmful if ingested or the dogs gets tangled up, and certain types of decorative plant are also dangerous. Be sure to do your homework and check up on foods and plants that are toxic to dogs. The last thing you want at Christmas is an emergency visit to the vet! 


  • If the weather gets colder or damper, keep older dogs and short coated breeds wrapped up. Damp can be bad for older joints and skidding around on wet leaves, snow or ice can easily lead to joint injuries at any age. 
  • If the temperature plummets, watch out for salted paths or roads. These can cause skin irritation, especially to the pads. Wash paws on your dog’s return. Even more deadly is anti-freeze which some use to clear ice on car windscreens or pathways. To a dog it tastes like nectar but a few licks can lead to serious organ damage and death. 
  • Hairy dogs can develop painful ice balls between their pads. Remove these as soon as you can with a flannel and warm water. 
  • Ears scratched with wet, muddy paws can lead to ear infections. Again, a quick paw wipe and clean, when you return home, will help keep your dog healthy. 
  • As ever, endless running around is not the best or only way to exercise your dog. Mix physical exercise with brain games- games like ‘find’ can be played indoors as well as outside. 
  • After exercise, many dogs benefit from having a chew to help them settle and relax. Stuffed Kongs are another option. 
  • Random fireworks will continue well into the New Year. Be careful about walking your dog or puppy after dusk. 

Christmas puppies and teenagers 

A final word about the need for extra vigilance around exploratory youngsters. For many this will be their first Christmas with a puppy or adolescent dog. With all the excitement that is part and parcel of this time of year it is very likely bad habits like nippy behaviour; humping or ‘house destruction’ can re-emerge or suddenly intensify. This is just the pup’s way of burning off steam but bad habits can also stick and we don’t want that. Those of you with young dogs will need to be more vigilant. If you cannot supervise then ensure you have a nice, safe and comfortable space where your dog can be kept out of harm’s way, for periods when you are busy or just ‘resting with your eyes shut’ after that extra glass of wine. 

Merry Christmas! 

By Leonie St Clair|