Fun with pets for the holidays

What are you doing with your pets this year during holiday time? This year will look a little different. We will be staying home but we can still have decorations, special food, and family time. Family time includes (our) pets.

This year, more than ever, we need cheer and sparkle. But we want well thought out decorations with our pets’ safety in mind. Hide those twinkle light’s electrical cords so the pup’s teeth can’t chew through them. Put lit candles up above dog level so they can’t be knocked over by paws or tails. Avoid loose tinsel or string that might tempt the kitty to play with and chew. Mistletoe, holly, and lilies if eaten can cause sick pets and expensive vet bills. All decorative plants should be hung or set high enough to be out of the way of your pet’s instinct to chew.

Gravy, fat, and cooked bones are the worst culprits for stomach upset. Rich, sweet human foods should be kept away from your pet’s food bowl. I highly recommend that you Google a list of foods your dog can and can’t have. For instance, you know about the dangers of dark chocolate, but walnuts and onions are poisonous to your dog. If you want to make your pet feel included in a special meal, give them cut-up apple or banana, or cooked vegetables like broccoli, carrot, and green beans.  

Your dog will feel really special if you take them for a walk, play games, or train a new skill. They thrive on your attention! So we both get a special treat. I love to walk my dog, Geo, around neighborhoods to look at the holiday lights. Lane County has so many parks and places the whole family can walk. Dorris Ranch and Mt. Pisgah are tops at my house. Check the Lane County parks website and you will find a bunch of them. It would be fun to load up the kids and dog to check out new ones.

For quick and easy games, try playing searching games or puzzle games. Play hide and seek, letting the dog, the assistant seeker, search for the hiders too. 

With the dog out of the room, hide treats around the room, making it fairly easy to find at first. Let the dog into the room to sniff out the treats.

For puppies or even kitties that like treats, cover a treat with an overturned bowl and let them figure out how to get the bowl off.

Use a muffin tin to put the treats in, and then cover the treats with tennis balls. Let your pet push the ball away and get the treat out of the cup.

When you are busy and you need the dog to be occupied, use one of the many puzzle toys on the market. They have slots or holes that you can fill with treats. And they let kibble-sized treats out as the dog plays with it. Your dog can spend a good amount of time with it if you load his meal in one.

A stuffed “Kong” is a go-to chewing friend for my dog. Kongs originally were a red, hollow, rubber, bee-hive shaped thing. Now they come in many colors, shapes and sizes.

During your holiday down-time, you might want to pick one skill you wish your dog was better at and work on it. Only working on one skill and spending 5-10 minutes of focused training time a day, I bet you will see big improvement.

That gives you a lot to think about, but with a little planning the holidays can be happy, healthy and fun for your whole family.

Cheri Spaulding is the owner of Rock Nest Training & Pet Care. 



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