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​Keeping your dog safe, and sane, at Christmas

By Kate Bendix; broadcaster, journalist, founder of My Itchy Dog 11 months ago 1437 Views

Keeping your dog safe, and sane, at Christmas

I often think of Christmas as the holiday equivalent of a NATO summit. There’s so much to organise: transport, travel, accommodation, the feeding of the five thousand, catering to the whims of a family member you see only once a year. You get the idea.

Stick a dog or two into that little lot and that’s a lot of plates you’re spinning. Here are a few ways to make the dog part go swimmingly.

5 Dec 2018 16:52:17

Put someone in charge of the dog.

If possible, find a responsible older child/teenager who loves the dog and put them in charge of looking after. Make sure they know what’s expected, what the dog needs and that they must come to you if there’s a sniff of a problem or they’re worried about anything. Remember, some kids love their space and find it hard to be around all the noise all of the time and having an excuse to go somewhere quiet ‘because the dog’s getting stressed’ is a great way for them to get some. I’m in introvert and loved doing stuff like this as a kid. The two quid I got for doing it (in 1976) didn’t harm either.


If you’re travelling with your dog at Christmas try to give them their own space in the car, preferably not amongst the presents. By law an animal needs to be safely stowed and secured. Either in a crate or tethered with a safety harness with a seatbelt attachment you can clip in. Always clip into a harness, never a collar.

Feeding on the road

Raw feeding, even for a couple of days is easy on the road. A tub of Natural Instinct will last up to four days after thawing. Make sure it’s kept cold in a cool box with an ice block. If you’re taking more Natural Instinct with you pack it tightly, wrap it well and use that as your ice block to keep the open pack cold.

If you’re going to be away for a while you can buy it as you need it from a local pet store. See here for Natural Instinct stockists. Where you find food, you’ll also find the treats.


If you’re receiving guests, it’s a good idea to let them know what to expect from your dog, and what you expect from them.

Make sure they know where the dog can and can’t go; upstairs, out front, into the kitchen, etc. And to be aware of leaving doors open.

Some dogs love all the fuss and attention, but no one needs them wound up to such a pitch they won’t settle when everyone’s sitting down to their Christmas lunch. It becomes just another stressor for the host.

If your dog wants to slope away from all the attention make sure they have somewhere to go, preferably where they always go, for some respite.


As far as the dog is concerned, keep to their normal routine as much as possible. Walking, eating, rest and attention, as much as you can keep it the same. Just like us dogs are creatures of habit so keeping boundaries is key to keeping the stress to a minimum.

Pine Needles and baubles

A couple of odd ones but obvious when you think about it. As soon as the tree goes up make sure you clean around it daily. Dropped and drying pine needles are sharp and as dangerous as grass seeds, maybe worse as they’re thinner and sharper. You don’t want them getting into your dog’s ears or paws and they definitely don’t want to be eaten. Keeping the tree watered will reduce needle drop significantly.

Keep an eye out for broken baubles too. Although made of plastic, it’s thin, sharp material and can cause all sorts of damage.

Vet bills are bad enough, but at Christmas? No thank you.

Food and feeding

Again, we’re back to routine. Feed as you normally would, same time, same place.

Fridge and freezer space is at a premium with a houseful, just remember to keep the raw meat and fish, including your Natural Instinct food, away from the cooked. And if you’re short on space, get a cool box and leave it outside and/or stash your veg outside too. I do both but never leave meat or fish outside or you’ll have the foxes to fend off too. I put the fruit and veg in a cardboard box then salads and open jars of mustard, olives etc. in the cool box. Sometimes cheese.


I moved recently and Natural Instinct treats have been a godsend. Like many dogs, Nikita gets super stressed when her surroundings change so I keep her routine going and give her lasting chews to keep her occupied and reduce her stress levels. She gets play bones in the garden, leaving me to get stuff sorted in the house without her getting under my feet. And beef pipes in the house (on a hard floor). I count the treats as part of her daily ration to keep her weight stable.

That’s it. I’ll leave you with the wrapping, cleaning, decorating and cooking. I’m lucky to be a guest this Christmas, not a host. I’ve got my cool box ready and Nikita will be on her best behaviour. Hopefully.

Happy Christmas, everyone x

Posted in: General Advice
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