How to Minimize Stress for Your Romanian Dogs at Christmas
Christmas and New Year can be a frazzling time of year for everyone with so much to do and so many people to see, so I thought it might be helpful to give you some tips on how to minimize stress for your Romanian dogs at Christmas. This information can of course be applied to any dogs, especially nervous, anxious or fearful dogs.
Many of our Romanian dogs struggle with how busy our lives are at the best of times, so the Christmas period can send them into a real spin! Their routine’s get messed up, there are all sorts of weird and wonderful people floating in and out of the house, some of them even stay for ages! The horror!
The weather is usually shite, and everyone has a million things to do, so walks may be a bit shorter or irregular. They might be left alone for longer periods than they are used to and of course, many of them are super skilled opportunists and with all that food flying about, it can be all too easy for them to get their paws on a whole bunch of stuff that’s not good for them.
Many people are unaware of how change can have a significant impact on our Romanian dogs and that all these kinds of things can really ramp up their stress and anxiety levels, which of course impacts on their behaviour. Whether your dog already has any existing challenges or not you will definitely want to be looking at providing them with additional management and support over the festive period.
I’ve put together some tips and advice that will help you do just that, and hopefully limit as much as possible escalations in stress levels (at least for your dog!)
So how do you prevent Your Romanian Dogs escalating up their stress tree
while you enjoy the festivities around your Christmas tree?
Try to stick to your dogs routine as much as possible. Throughout periods of change and upheaval this is one of the best ways to help your dog maintain some emotional balance. Try to stick to the usual feed times, walk times and periods your dog would normally spend resting. If necessary create a safe space away from all the action where they can go an enjoy some naturally calming enrichment activities (snuffle mats / Likkimats / Chewing activities) and have some much needed down time.
Just like with children, our dogs can become over stimulated, over aroused and over tired! They don’t know when they need a break so it is up to us to support them and ensure we help them get some rest so they don’t get stressed and cranky! This is of course especially important for anyone with dogs that are nervous, anxious or fearful. These dogs will need more down time and perhaps quiet company in their safe area as well to help them fully relax.
Make sure you give your dog regular pressure breaks when you have visitors to the house. Take them out for a walk, put them in their safe area or even some time in the garden (weather permitting) so they can decompress a little from all the excitement and cafuffle. This little piece of proactive management can go a really long way in helping prevent our Romanian dogs feeling the pressure of the busier than normal Christmas period.
Make sure all your visitors understand very clearly that when your dog is having quiet time, whether you put them there or whether they took themselves off THEY ARE TO BE LEFT ALONE. This is especially important of course for the children to understand. If you have a dog that is not entirely comfortable with visitors, then I would recommend you find a way to secure them in their safe area so nobody can accidently encroach on their personal space.
Even if your dog isn’t shut away, it’s important that everyone clearly understands that if your dog has taken themselves off to lay down, or they are simply laying quietly in their bed, they are to be LEFT ALONE. Sorry, I know I keep shouting, but I can’t stress this enough.
With elevated stress levels it can be all too easy for everyone to miss the signals that their dog has been feeling uncomfortable for quite some time. When you miss those early signals they give to communicate how they’re feeling, THAT is when a ‘bite comes out of nowhere!’… but it didn’t, your dog had probably been trying to tell you and your visitors for quite some time how they were feeling.
It is your job as their guardian to help them out, and ensure you manage their environment as necessary to keep everyone safe.
If you have a dog that is fearful or reactive to visitors in the home, Christmas really isn’t the time to be trying to do training or visitor habituation with them unless you have already done all the foundation work and your dog is already able to remain under threshold when visitors are in the house.
This kind of behaviour modification requires that you be 100% focused on your dog when visitors are present, hence why it’s not really the best time. Have your management protocols strongly in place, support your dog and minimize their stress in any and every way you can using all of these recommendations and then crack on with their training once the holidays are over and it’s quieter.
PLENTY OF SELF SOOTHING ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES
Have plenty of self soothing enrichment activities either prepared or readily available to provide your dog with naturally calming things they can do to help them relax. Sniffing, licking and chewing are all naturally calming activities for dogs. Even simply taking them in the garden for a pressure break and tossing a big handful of treats around the garden for them to snuffle up can help them rebalance emotionally and reduce stress build up.
Snuffle mats, likkimats, Kongs, chew toys, puzzle toys are all excellent enrichment activities. Get creative and I’m sure you can come up with many of your own DIY versions of these.
HELP THEM REBALANCE & REGULATE STRESS LEVELS
If there are going to be situations or events that are likely to stress your dog out, again get ahead of the game and proactively set up calming activities or situations that will balance these out. So for example, if you know your dog gets a bit unsettled or over aroused when visitors come, take them out for a slow, sniffy walk somewhere very quiet to help them settle and get some mental stimulation that will help them relax.
Bring them back and have them in their quiet space with something to lick or chew. Let them mingle with your visitors if they’re not reactive or fearful (but with pressure breaks) and after your visitors have left, spend a little time with your dog doing relaxing activities such as scent games or find it games followed by some TTouch or massage to help them release tension and rebalance any elevated stress levels.
AVOID EXCESSIVE OR OVER AROUSING EXERCISE
It’s a popular misconception that taking a dog out for a super long walk or playing lots of fetch with them will tire them out. This is not always the case and for the majority of dogs (especially sensitive ones or reactive ones) it can actually have the opposite effect and leave them amped up, wired, anxious or full of energy but with no outlet for it once they return home.
Scent games or problem solving games/training activities are more tiring and relaxing than overly stimulating walks. This also provides your dogs with the benefit of one on one connected time with you, which they of course love! (and may not get quite so much of over the festive period)
If you feed them a bunch of shit they are more likely to get upset tummies, be hyperactive and even more reactive than they normally might be. We are what we eat and so are our dogs, especially our sensitive Romanian dogs. Food and diet have a major impact on behaviour (think children on blue smarties and coca cola!) so be sure to set your house and kitchen up right so your dogs cannot get access to all the Christmas goodies!
Of course, in addition to this, many of the foods we have more of over the Christmas period are poisonous to our dogs, so an even more important reason to make sure your food management is top of the tree! (See what I did there) Things like mince pies, christmas cake, christmas pudding, chocolate, alcohol, onions, grapes and Xylitol, which is found in many sweets, are all highly toxic for dogs.
If your dog does ingest any of these food items, please contact your Vet immediately.
With All of That Out of The Way, all that Remains is for The Dog’s Point of View to Wish You All a Very Merry Christmas & A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. xxx
Don’t forget, The DOG’s Point of View Community Facebook group has lots of tips, information and resources for Romanian Rescue or foreign rescue adopters. You are very welcome to join that group HERE.
If you would like more in depth information and resources, to help you really understand the true nature of your Romanian dog and how to deal with some of the most common challenges faced by adopters, you will find lots of options available over at our ROMANIAN RESCUE RESOURCE PORTAL HERE