Keeping your dogs safe during the holiday season can be “ruff.” There’s a big tree inside your home, lots of shiny ornaments, wrapped gifts and lights that all resemble toys; lots of food that can be harmful to dogs if consumed, fireworks, etc. The following tips can keep your fur babies safe this season.

I’ve said this before, but always remember that you can’t stop unwanted behavior unless you catch it. So, if you’re not able to watch your dogs 100 percent, set them up for success. Placing your tree in the corner of a room, with a barrier around it (such as a Pet Yard) will deter your dog from attempting to chew gifts, ornaments, lights, etc.–which can all cause dangerous injuries if ingested. When you’re not able to supervise your dogs, keep them in a separate room or in a kennel. Also, be sure they have plenty of interactive toys to play with, and that you’re walking them daily to prevent boredom and/or anxiety.

When it comes to food, there are lots of things that we eat that are beneficial to dogs. However, there are some that are quite dangerous. We all know that chocolate and alcohol can be harmful if your dogs consume them, but did you know that grapes and raisins can cause acute renal failure? That’s right. Keep the grapes and raisins away from your pups.

Raw onions, raw garlic, xylitol, macadamia nuts, avocados, and bones (especially poultry bones) should be kept from your dogs as well. Be sure to be mindful of ingredients in prepared dishes. For instance, nutmeg can cause hallucinations when ingested by a dog, so don’t share your apple pie, gingerbread cookies, etc. Also, many steak sauces use raisin paste, so keep meat with certain sauces away, too. When it comes to decorations, holly, poinsettia, and mistletoe are all toxic to dogs. So, be sure to keep decorations using these plants out of your dogs’ reach.

So, what do you do when the New Year rolls around, and all the loud fireworks come with it? If your dogs are fearful of fireworks (or any loud noise), there are plenty of things you can do to help them feel safe and secure. First, be proactive, rather than reactive. You can find plenty of videos and audio recordings of fireworks online. Play them a few times a day (starting at a low volume and short duration) while giving your dogs really good tasting treats (boiled chicken, all-natural hot dog wieners, etc.). The entire time the video or sound clip is playing, keep administering the treats. The moment the recording stops, immediately stop giving the treats. Every few days, gradually increase the duration and volume. If you’re consistent, and patient, over time your dogs’ perception of firework noises will be changed because they’ve associated the noises with great stuff!

It is VERY important to move at a very slow pace. If your dog won’t eat the food, she could be too afraid due to the noise playing at too high of a volume or too long of a duration. Also, vary your treats. Sometimes use chicken, other times, string cheese, and then, maybe wieners. Mixing it up will add more positive associations with the noise. When the actual fireworks begin firing off on New Year’s Eve, do the same thing. Make it as fun as possible by distracting Fido with lots of treats, toys, and games.

There are a few other things you can do to help ease their anxiety during the fireworks. Anxiety Wraps and Thundershirts calm dogs by the swaddling action they provide, and by hitting key pressure points. Pheromone collars, diffusers, and sprays also help, and can be found at your local pet stores. You can order aromatherapy collars online, and many pet owners actually claim that they’ve experienced great results with them. Last, don’t forget about the importance of a daily walk! Physical and mental stimulation will ease a tremendous amount of anxiety. A tired dog is not a stressed dog.

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you and your pets have a great time, and stay safe!! Happy Training!

Britney (Blanchette) Pitre, CPDT-KA
BONS CHIENS Dog Training, LLC.

a Ruff Life is a monthly column featured in the Jambalaya News and on, read more great articles from these great publications here.