By Christen Fisher
Maintaining your holiday shopping list, cooking agenda, airport pick-up schedule and your sanity on a daily basis is a full-time job when the kids and pets aren’t on holiday overload, but when they are, it can be a nearly impossible task.
When kids are excited, their voices are higher and faster. They run more, shout more and fall apart more often. And the dogs pick up on it. They, too, run more, chase more and lose control or become overwhelmed more easily. Then add in some visitors, candles and tinsel - now you have the perfect recipe for holiday mayhem.
Don’t invite the dog.
If you’re planning to host a holiday soiree, make arrangements to keep your dog out of the party. While it’s fun for most humans to socialize in a crowd, it can be overwhelming for your pup. Options include crating your dog with stuffed chew toys in a quiet room away from the festivities or hiring a dog walker or recruiting a friend or family member to take your dog on a long walk just before the party starts.
Upon return, your dog will be tired and more interested in a nap than in sniffing your guests or stealing hors d’oeuvres. You could even board your pet for the evening at a friend’s house or a reputable kennel. (Note: Kennels don’t take kids or in-laws. I’ve asked).
Adventures in Babysitting was only a movie.
With kids delirious with holiday excitement, the babysitters we hire to care for them while we attend to our seemingly never-ending lists of holiday social obligations, often have their hands full. My kids routinely whine and wheedle their way into making holiday crafts with my sitter and staying up way too late to watch Christmas specials on TV.
Handling wound-up children is one thing, but saddling my favorite teenager with an excited dog is quite another. Make sure your sitter, first and foremost, is comfortable with your dog, whether you have a 4 lb. Chihuahua or a 115 lb. Rottweiler (that’s me!). Then instruct her how to ask your dog to sit, down, stay and leaveit; how and when to let your dog out to go to the bathroom, and any other special considerations or concerns you have for your canine.
A little due diligence in the beginning can save you a sitter and a headache in the long-run. (Note: Overpaying helps too!)
Trying to be nice can land you on the naughty list.
A small person in your life has been dying for a dog for as long as you can remember. Whether they’ve finally worn you down or you’ve had too much eggnog, this is the year you’ve decided to go for it. If you’re planning to get a pet as a holiday present for your children, be sure it is a gift that everyone in your household wants and is equipped to handle. Then put a photograph of a dog in a box and wrap it. Don’t present a live animal on Christmas morning. Assimilating a new pet into your life and household is a heavy task best left for quieter times when total attention can be devoted to your new family member and when your house is free from guests, decorations and parties. Wait until January to embark on that wonderful journey.
When all else fails…
So you’ve read the tips, followed their advice diligently and still the world is crashing down around your ears to the muzak version of Jingle Bells.
When all else fails, put the kids to bed and the dog in his crate. Then make yourself a cocktail and surf the Internet for a big sparkly piece of jewelry. You deserve it!
For the first installment of this story, click here.
By Christen Fisher
Well, it’s that time of year again. The weather turns colder. The days get shorter. Shopping lists get longer. And the relatives descend.
If your kids are anything like mine, the excitement, or rather, insanity, gets a foothold just before Halloween and is really making a healthy ascent by Thanksgiving before peaking with some kind of candy-Santa-Festival-of-Lights-induced meltdown just in time for the visiting in-laws to witness and pass judgment on your child-rearing skills. And if your pack of wild-eyed little ones includes one or two of the four-legged kind, well, then double your pressure and, in a word (well, two): the holidays.
In an effort to stave off some of the insanity of managing kids and dogs together around the holidays, here are some quick tips for keeping the emotional altitude of your home from climbing too high:
Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.
Exercise reduces stress and increases endorphins in the brain for humans as well as animals. Be sure to take your dog on long walks or on a run each day. Make it a family walk to give everyone some fresh air and burn off some energy. Or take Fido on a run or walk by yourself to help relax and clear your head as well as his. (Note: You may be tempted to read “run” as “run away.” Don’t. They’ll find you.).
If you can’t get out each day for a walk and have a fenced yard, let him out to play outside (and if your kids are older, let them take the dog and you’ll burn off extra energy for both). Or even toss a ball or play with your dog in the house for a few minutes each day (before visitors arrive). Any stimulation will help create a calmer dog when you really need it.
Supervision is the key to success
Just because your pooch loves (and tolerates) your children doesn’t mean he’ll regard visiting children the same way. Moreover, visiting children may also have limited experience with the canineset and, therefore, make mistakes that can lead to trouble. A visit to the ER for a dog bite that happened when they were “only playing” or rushing to the emergency vet clinic for a belly full of tinsel fed to your dog by your 2-year-old nephew on Christmas morning is no gift for anyone. Instead of letting them and hoping for the best, make a decision to supervise.
Introduce the kids to your dog when he’s on a leash and under your close supervision. (And if you’re too busy pulling the family feast out of the oven, have a trusted adult handle the leash). Have each child give a pat and feed your pup a small treat (or toss one if your dog has a hard mouth or a child is afraid). Then herd the kids off to a dog-free activity and let Fido alone in peace.
Your dog will have a favorable impression that all children are kind, controlled and come bearing cookies. And the kids will be satisfied and safe.
For more tips, check our second installment of Surviving the Holidays with Kids and Pets.
Animal House Blog
Do you live with animals and kids? Well, then your home life is probably filled with flying fur, toys underfoot and more mayhem.
About our Authors