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.
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