Puppy’s First Christmas
Celebrating Christmas with our puppies for the first time is a milestone in their life. It is a chance to make memories and start new traditions, finding fun ways to include our new family member in all the fun. It is also a time when our puppy will be exposed to lots of new things – new sights, sounds and smells, as well as a change of routine in the household. It can be quite a full-on time for our young dogs, so it’s important we take time to plan ahead to make sure everyone can enjoy the festive season.
It’s worth making sure we can recognise the signs that things might be getting a bit much for your pups. Some things to look out for include:
- Overtiredness: puppies need a LOT of sleep, and with more people at home and things going on throughout the day, they might not be getting the sleep they need. Signs of overtiredness include irritability and excessive puppy biting, frustrated vocalisation and being less able to focus or listen.
- Overwhelmed: with so much going on, especially with lots of new things and people in their environment, it can be easy for puppies to become overwhelmed. Overwhelmed puppies may seem withdrawn and quiet, and you may see them yawning excessively. They may appear agitated, unable to listen and become nippier.
- Sensory Overload: it’s likely the household may be abuzz with people laughing and talking, TVs and radios blaring, musical Christmas ornaments, crinkling gift wrap, food smells, flashing lights and more; this can all become a bit much for your puppy. A puppy dealing with sensory overload will show similar behaviours to the above – increased vocalisation/whining, avoidance, pacing, seeming agitated and may be more likely to nip.
- Overexcitement: hopefully there are also going to be lots of things going on that our puppies really love! However, don’t be surprised if you then find pup getting a bit TOO excited! This can look like the classic “zoomies!” It can be fun to see our puppies getting so enthusiastic and excited, but bubbling over in this way is probably a sign that they’re heading toward sensory overload or overtiredness!
- Scared: when our puppies get scared, they might cower, tuck their tails and avoid the scary thing. However, it doesn’t always look this way – sometimes, fearful puppies will show “manic” behaviour instead. This can look very similar to the “zoomies” we see when our puppies are excited, but will be accompanied with our signs of stress such as frustrated vocalisation, harder nipping and stress yawns.
NOTE: Yawning can just be a sign our pups are sleepy, but if you’re seeing frequent yawns when your pup is wide awake, this is probably a sign of stress.
Another important consideration during the holidays, is making sure we are aware of what potential hazards we are bringing into our homes and how to keep our puppies safe. Check out our recent blog on Christmas Hazards for more info on which festive treats pose a danger to our pups, and how to manage these risks!
How can we make sure the holiday season is fun for our pups and set them up for success?
- Safe Space: Set up a safe place for your dog – a puppy pen or crate full of cosy bedding and toys, in a quiet area of the house, is perfect for making sure our dogs have somewhere they can feel safe and decompress from the activity of a busy household. You can scatter treats to encourage your dog to forage and sniff – a natural, calming activity – as well as offer interactive feeding toys such as stuffed Kongs to help them to settle. Low level, relaxing background music may also be helpful. Make sure everyone in the household knows not to disturb pup when they are in their safe space.
- Down Time: Make sure you continue to provide your pup with lots of downtime throughout the day. Puppies need lots of sleep, and it’s easy to forget that they might be missing out on their regular daytime naps now that more people are at home throughout the day. Set reminders and pop them in their safe space to settle down. A well-rested puppy will be more able to cope with new things and less likely to become stressed or irritable.
- Calm Interaction: With everyone getting into the festive mood, there is often a lot of high energy activity happening at home! Our pups are still learning how to interact with the world around them, so it’s important we are still showing them how to behave appropriately and not teaching them the wrong things. Make sure your puppy is still getting regular, calm interaction from people – soothing cuddles and low-energy games are good.
- Make Time for Training: Training is a great way to develop our bond with our dogs. We might not have as much time to hang out with them while we are preparing Christmas dinner and wrapping presents, so factor in a few minutes here and there throughout the days to work on learning new tricks and practicing old ones to ensure your dog isn’t missing out on these important interactions!
- Buy Pup Presents: Every pup likes to feel included! Buying presents for our puppies is a great way to make sure we get them involved in the festivities, and gives them something novel to enjoy! This is especially important, as any new, exciting human gifts in the house may be a big temptation to our dogs – pop these out of reach, and offer them their very own gifts! You can find our top recommendations in our recent Gift Guide!
- Make Experiences Positive: We don’t want our pups to associate Christmas – and the people and things in the environment that are often only in the house at this time of year – with anything bad. Make sure you take the time to introduce pup to new things slowly, and make it a positive experience for them with treats and praise, so they can build positive associations and learn to love this time of the year! Make sure you use management, such as baby gates and pens, to keep puppy out of trouble. We never recommend scolding dogs, but we appreciate that everyone is human and it’s hard not to seem outwardly annoyed if our dog has just ruined Christmas dinner or chewed up a brand-new gift! So, do everyone a favour by keeping them safely out of the way when no one is available to supervise them, to avoid these harmful interactions that can cause lasting fearful associations and damage our relationship.
- Desensitisation: Christmas is full of new experiences for our dogs, and this is a great opportunity to take the time to desensitise our dogs to new sights, sounds and smells. Introduce new things gradually – don’t push puppy to interact or approach things before they are ready. Present new things briefly to begin with, and at a distance. Always make sure your puppy is able to move away from the new things freely and easily, and be ready to remove whatever it is yourself if needed. Praise and reassure puppy no matter what they do; whether they approach, watch from afar or even if they choose to move away. We never want to push our puppies past their comfort zone, as this risks them having a scary experience and developing a phobia of whatever the thing may be. You can find a video all about systematic desensitisation on our Dogversity platform.
- Visitor Training: Check out our Visitor Training and Pub Dog Training Course on Dogversity, to work on teaching your pup how to behave when visitors enter the home and to work on settled behaviours around the dining table, to ensure a successful and relaxing Christmas roast!
What can we do to make the most of this extra time off?
Many of us have extra time off work during the holidays, and this is a great chance for those of us with young pups to work on some important aspects of raising a puppy!
- Small Car Journeys: Take pup on short car journeys, to get them used to travelling.
- Visits to the Vet Car Park: Trips to the vet when there is nothing wrong is a great way to build positive associations to that environment, so our puppies feel less uncertain and worried when they do need to visit the vet.
- Take Pup out in Sling: If your pup is too small to walk outside yet, you can use a puppy sling to take them out for short walks so they can take in the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors!
Dogversity: Making the most of your time at home to work on your pup’s training is a great way to work on building that close bond we all want with our dogs, and to stay on track with our training goals. A Dogversity subscription is a great way to work on training at home during the holidays, and offers access to experts who can offer advice and support whenever you need it.
Book Classes for January, Now: Plan ahead, and get booked into group classes to start the new year right! Group classes are the perfect environment to socialise our young dogs, teaching them to be calm, polite and focused in the presence of other dogs. You will learn lots of handling techniques to manage every situation, and build excellent communication and engagement with your dog. Dedicating time to spend with your dog each week is a great way to make sure you continue to work on their education and develop your relationship as they head towards adolescence.
By now, you probably have lots of ideas of how you can set up your home and manage your time off to make the most of your first Christmas with your new puppy! We’d love to hear how you’re getting on, so follow us on facebook for more top tips and all of our customers can join our facebook Community group to keep in touch!
We hope you all enjoy your first Christmas with your bundle of joy!