Holidays With Your Puppy

The Holiday Season (from Guide Dogs)
The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration. Many people decorate both the inside and outside of their homes to help get everyone in the spirit. For the 1,000 or so GDB puppies throughout the west, it is important to keep in mind that many traditional holiday favorites such as decorations, lights, candles, chocolate, tinsel and even mistletoe can pose a possible hazardous situation to our pups. As you decorate, be careful in the placement of such items so that they are not easily accessible to your puppy. As always, supervise your puppy carefully, especially during this time of year with lots of parties, visitors, and other special activities.

One helpful tip to keep in mind is that a bored pup is a mischievous pup, so remember to exercise your pup daily even on those cold, dark, snowy evenings. Often a brisk game of Hide and Seek or a controlled tug game can mentally, as well as physically, stimulate the pup and prevent him from looking for trouble on his own to amuse himself.

If you are busy with company, baking or entertaining, remember to put your pup on a leash or tie down, or leave it in a crate for some quiet time. Also, make sure to monitor your pup’s waistline during the holidays. Just as we are tempted by the season’s entertaining and tasty treats, our pups sometimes gain extra holiday weight that can take months to get off again, and can jeopardize the pup’s health and eventual success. Ask your leader’s opinion of your pup’s proper weight and adjust their diet if needed.

Here are some additional safety tips that should help ensure that everyone with fur, and skin has a happy holiday:

  • Candles and Lights - dogs are attracted to bright, scented, and flickering objects, so keep lit candles out of the reach of curious paws. With electrical lights, make sure cords are secured to the floor, extension cords can be run under large furniture such as couches, tables or rugs to prevent tripping and you might consider putting them inside PVC tubing to prevent pups from chewing on them. Simply spraying the cords periodically with bitter apple spray will do the trick for some dogs, but not all. Of course, keep a close eye on the pups when they are loose and never leave them unattended with so many temptations.
  • Chocolate - Chocolate contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromide. In dogs, theobromide causes vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart and respiratory rates, seizures, even comas and death. Dark chocolate is a higher risk than milk chocolate but still both can cause dogs to become very sick. Keep chocolate safely out of the reach and provide your pup with a safe GDB approved toy or sterilized bone to chew on instead. Sugary treats and other candies such as candy canes can cause bowel upset as well if ingested.
  • Christmas tree - An unstable tree can fall on a curious dog. Make sure trees are on a flat, wide base. Some puppies experiencing their first Christmas, may think you brought the tree in as indoor plumbing, especially those teenage boys just learning to lift their legs. Younger pups, if they haven’t already learned to leave potted plants alone, might pluck and tug at the branches and play with the ornaments. Supervise puppies closely and use a dragline to correct for any unusual sniffing and excessive interest around the tree. Here’s a handy tip for promoting tree safety: place a row of jingle bells on the bottom branches of the tree. When a nosey dog comes poking around the "doggie jingle alarm system" is set off and you can go and put a stop to any mischief. Some families have even gone so far as to put the tree on a table, or provide a screen type barrier to prohibit the pup from getting too close to the tree and presents. Try anchoring a tree with fishing line tied to a ceiling or wall hook. Ornaments look like great toys and may stimulate a fun game of keep away if the pup is not watched carefully. Also, cover a tree stand tightly with skirting material or a sheet to discourage pups from drinking the water or eating the fallen pine needles.
  • Poisonous Plants - The leaves and stems of poinsettias cause diarrhea and vomiting when ingested, and the sap can cause irritation, especially if it gets into the eyes. Mistletoe berries are also poisonous, even if only a few berries are ingested. Holly and ivy can cause upset stomachs. Reconsider buying these plants or use caution and keep them away from your pups. Cedar, firs, and other floral branches could be ingested by a mischievous pup, if not supervised.
  • Ornaments - Metal ornament hooks can get caught in a pup’s mouth. They are very small and easily overlooked when they fall into the carpet. Consider using ribbon or yarn instead of hooks. These too can cause problems so be ever watchful. Cranberry and popcorn strands can be deadly to pups, causing intestinal obstruction or getting wrapped around your pup’s neck. Tinsel can cause intestinal obstruction and blockage if swallowed. Artificial snow can be ingested or inhaled and caught in the nasal passages. Use these decorations sparingly, if at all.
  • Snow - If you live in an area where it snows and freezes, or even if you visit these areas this winter, remember to wash, wipe, and dry your pup’s feet after socializing in town and after walks in the neighborhood. Many businesses, some homes, and city streets now use a snowmelt product for safety reasons, which can be picked up in the paws of our pups causing an irritation or allergic reaction. Pups also might lick their legs and feet excessively causing tender paws and lameness or lick sore granulomas.

With some thoughtful planning and careful supervision, your holidays this year with your Guide Dog puppy can be a wonderful experience.

Puppies 7 months or older are able to go out trick-or-treating. Raisers may dress them up in a very simple costume. If you try to use washable hair paint, please be careful if you use a spray. The noise can frighten your pup. If it does, do not continue. Also do not spray around the pup’s head. (Make sure you give your pup a bath immediately after arriving home if you use hair paint). If you take your pup trick-or-treating, please pay great attention to how your pup responds to costumes of other children, the noises, children screaming, and other spooky things. If it appears that your pup is getting too excited or appears fearful, you must immediately take your puppy home and kennel him while you go trick-or-treating. Take pictures for our web site if you dress your pup up!
  4th of July
No puppies are allowed to attend fireworks. If you live near where the fireworks are, you can help your puppy by turning on the TV or radio (soft music please no hard rock), at a moderate level so that it helps distract them from the booms. We ask that you not take your pups to the fireworks because it is extremely loud for them and frightening. And it would take you too long to "get away" from them if your pup became upset. If you go sit on the greenbelt and watch them, carefully watch how your pup responds to the boom and the bangs and the pops. If he/she appears to be anxious, then you will need to leave immediately. Never try to calm a puppy by saying in a sympathetic voice, "Oh poor puppy." Talk upbeat, high-pitched happy voice. Try to get their focus on you.