Dog bites are a very common occurrence during the holidays. One of the reasons is because everyone—including your dog—is stressed. But most people are not aware of just how stressed dogs are, and how this stress can sometimes lead to disastrous consequences, even for the most mild mannered dog.
Dogs Need More Space Than We Think
One of the big problems is making sure your dog gets the space he or she needs. We are hardwired to pay attention to animals whether you like them or not. There is a evolutionary basis for this – we either needed to hunt, or we were prey. Either way, people who like animals often want to look at them, be close to them, touch them. Most owners don’t realize that their dog is simply tolerating it. Most dogs do not love it. Even the ones that love to be petted are usually only like certain kinds of contact from certain people for a short length of time. This lack of space can cause dogs to feel stressed. Invasion of space can make a dog feel threatened. If people ignore their warning signs, dogs may feel it’s necessary to growl or even bite.
Dog Aggression Risks During the Holidays
Unfortunately during the holiday season we are have a lot of things calling for our attention. We don’t always supervise the children as well as we should. We often don’t even recognize ourselves when the dog is trying to tell us that they don’t like what is happening. Distraction is a risk. Not understanding dogs communication signals is also a huge risk.
Combine this with the added stress of disruption in routine, new people coming into the house, more noise, different foods, doorbells and music, a change in schedules, and often, less exercise for the dog. Dogs get stressed. Stressed dogs are less tolerant dogs. Stressed dogs are more likely to growl and bite. Almost all dog bites do not appear to happen out of the blue.
Multiple Dogs Increase Risk
If you have more than one dog, there is one more added thing to be aware of. The dogs might get on each other nerves more than usual. They may want to compete for people’s attention, treats, even resting places. If there has ever been any tension between the dogs, you may see more of it now. This is particularly the case if you have one dog that is anxious or aggressive. They are used to living in a social group and therefor are sensitive to tensions. If one dog is not behaving “normally”, this dog will actually cause more stress for any other dog even if the behavior is not direct.
Planning Ahead to Avoid Dog Growling and Bites
Planning a head of time can go a long way towards keeping things running smoothly. Allow your dog to have a break away from guests (or even others in the home) and have a quite place to chew on a food-stuff kong. In fact, starting to do this before the holiday season starts is a good idea to get them used to the routine.
Plan how you will communicate to guests about how they should or should not touch your dog. Give children boundaries and activities they can do to interact with your dog safely. For example some dogs might not like to be petted, but might not mind a child reading them a book. Teach kids (and adults!) what they should know about petting dogs.
Try to keep your schedules as close to what they usually are as much as possible. Dogs become stressed when they can’t predict what will happen.
If you can, try to exercise your dog just a little more. Exercise is often one of the first things to do during the busy season. Aerobic exercise can be helpful in combatting some of the stress. For both of you! In addition, dogs can really enjoy getting out of the house to explore the worlds with their noses.
Below, there are some common signs to look out for that indicate your dog is getting stressed. It is not a comprehensive list, but you can teach the children in your home to be “dog-detectives” and look out for some of these signs. When you see them, it’s time to move your dog to a place where your dog can be more relaxed. Please share to keep people and dogs safe!
Bites happen more often during holidays
If you are interested in this infographic on Why Dog Bites Happen More Often During Holidays, you’ll probably be interested in our other holiday infographics too:
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- About Dog Aggression
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- Cognition, the Mind and the Brain
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- Safety and Dogs
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- Tools and Resources for Dogs
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- Treating Dog Aggression
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