THE RSPCA is offering advice to owners looking forward to their first Christmas with their new puppy to ensure both they and their pet enjoy the festive season.
The charity says a boom in pet ownership during the pandemic means many families are experiencing their first Christmas with their puppies – which in turn means lots of new experiences which could leave pets feeling overwhelmed, over-excited or stressed.
But they say there are lots of things people can do to prepare their puppies for a month of parties, presents, decorations and dinners to ensure the season is merry and bright for everyone.
Lorella Notari, RSPCA Head of Clinical Behaviour, said: “Lots of pets rescued or bought during lockdown have not had all the opportunities they would normally have to socialise so they might find the hustle and bustle of Christmas time difficult.
“They might be seeing Christmas decorations for the first time or be unused to large numbers of guests gathering in your home, not to mention all the smells and temptations of festive food.
“It is really important to take the time to think about how you are going to help your puppy to cope with these new experiences, whether it is making sure they have somewhere quiet and comforting to escape to if things get too much or ensuring that any younger guests visiting your home know how to behave around them.
“With a bit of preparation, there is no reason why both you and your puppy can’t enjoy the festive season.”
Top tips to prepare your puppy for Christmas:
- Coping with guests: Make sure that everyone who visits your home lets your puppy greet them in her own time. Make sure you put a couple of beds for her in quiet places, where she can retreat if the noise and activity gets too much. Make sure guests know not to approach her when she is in her bed.
- Younger visitors: Children can get over-excited around dogs, especially at Christmas time. Make sure they don’t overwhelm your puppy with attention and give her space. Children should always be supervised around dogs – and the RSPCA has advice about how to keep children safe around dogs.
- Leaving pups on their own: Christmas is a busy time with lots of socialising and there may be times you need to leave your puppy on her own. Make sure you have taken the time to get her used to being alone, gradually building up the time you leave her so that she is confident being on her own. If you are going to be more than a few hours, consider asking a friend or a pet sitter to look after her.
- Festive food: There are lots of temptations around at Christmas time, but the food we love – such as chocolates and the raisins in our Christmas pudding – could be poisonous for pets. Make sure your guests know not to feed your dog scraps from the table and ensure that you shut the kitchen or dining room door to prevent a ruined dinner and a poorly puppy.
- Scary noises: Remember that your puppy might never have heard the bang of a cracker and that the sudden noise could leave her scared, so you might want to make sure she is out of the room. Fireworks can also be scary for many pets, so make sure you are ready for New Year’s Eve. The RSPCA has fireworks advice to help prevent and reduce noise phobia and care for your pet when the rockets go off.
- Keep your puppy’s routine: December is always busy, with shopping trips, parties and visits to Father Christmas’ grotto but wherever possible, try to stick to your puppy’s routine. Make sure you take her on lots of walks and give her play and attention, which can help ward off any unwanted behaviours at Christmas time.
Last Christmas, the RSPCA received a call about an abandoned, neglected, abused or suffering animal every minute.
The RSPCA has launched its appeal Join the Christmas Rescue to help its rescuers be there for animals in need this Winter. To join the rescue, visit www.rspca.org.uk/rescuexmas