Dog under blanket

It’s my turn to do the family Christmas and there will be 12 adults, six children and four dogs. How can I make sure we don’t have any chaos or mishaps with the dogs? Only one of them is ours.

Nik Oakley advises…

Christmas may be a time of great cheer, but it’s also the time when there’s so much going on that people often don’t see what their dogs are up to. The chances of an incident or two increases with the number of guests. Everyone is so busy cooking, eating, drinking and opening presents that people fail to spot when dogs are up to no good.

I also recommend that one person is charged with looking after the dogs and knowing where they are at all times. By all means, split the duties into shifts so that one person doesn’t feel lumbered. However busy the day, make sure they get their walks.

People coming and going provides the ideal opportunity for dogs to slip out – often unnoticed. You’d be amazed how many missing dogs get reported to DogLost over Christmas and that some of them may have been missing for several hours before anyone’s noticed. So, rule number one has to be about keeping exterior doors closed at all times and preferably locked. It’s also worth checking that fences are OK before the big day and making sure the dogs are not left out in the garden on their own – a bored dog will always think the grass is greener on the other side.

Dogs are opportunists and some dogs are much more cunning than others. Never leave anything at dog level that they can snaffle – chewable children’s toys for one, edibles for another. Watching a dog flick chocolate decorations off the tree may be amusing, but if consumed, they can kill. And having Aunt Mabel saying it never did her Charlie any harm is no help. Charlie was just lucky. A lot of people don’t know that dried fruit is absolutely fatal to dogs. Even a few raisins can lead to kidney failure. So that means no Christmas pud, cake or mince pies. It’s also worth noting that many nuts are poisonous, as are grapes and onions.

If you have the urge to dress your dog up, check whether there are bits of plastic or fastenings that could make them choke if they chew them. They make look cute, but many dogs will just want to pull the whole thing off and shred it.

Keep the dogs away from the dining area while you are eating. That way no one can slip anything under the table and the dogs can’t swipe anything. No one will thank the small child who stuffs sprouts into the nearest dog’s mouth. Feed the dogs before you eat, and with any luck they may have a little nap while you enjoy yours.

Ideally, invest in some Kongs or other toys that will keep them amused. You can stuff the Kongs with treats or even turkey. Keep them busy, content and out of trouble.

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