Silent Night

I’m enjoying this whole Christmas Carol theme I have going on here. I hope you are, too. I think I’ll milk it as long as I can . . .

Over Thanksgiving, I had a house full of both people and related dogs. In addition to my fur babies, my mom brought her little Shih-tzu, Gibbs, who were joined by my niece, her hubby and my two little great nephews, ages 2 and 4. The nephews adored Gibbs. He’s tiny and friendly and looks like a living stuffed animal. They wanted to hold him and pet him nonstop. Gibbs, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as enthralled with the nephews. He’s used to living a very quiet life, and the two energetic little guys, although very gentle, were a little more than Gibbs is used to.

On one evening, Gibbs growled at a nephew. I wasn’t sure how my mom would react, but she handled it just perfectly: she told the little boys that Gibbs was just trying to say that he didn’t want to play anymore and that we should let him have some quiet time. Then she took Gibbs to the guest room and let him snuggle down in the covers, away from the commotion. Later, when Gibbs had decompressed, he was ready to come out and play again, and everything was fine.

I wish all pet parents would react this way. I’ve seen people get mad at dogs for growling or nipping, even at someone who is causing them pain! But folks, what other way do dogs have to say, “Hey, stop it! You’re bothering me?” I know some people get furious at cats if they scratch, but again, how else are they able to say they’ve had enough or something is hurting them? Pets don’t deserve to be punished for setting boundaries or letting someone know when a boundary has been crossed. That’s healthy behavior for anyone – pets included. It’s also a great teachable moment for people to learn how to respect and care for animals.

If you’re expecting guests over the holidays, keep in mind that all the extra noise and commotion can upset some pets. Make sure they have a quiet room to retreat to, with bedding to snuggle in, fresh water, and maybe a favorite toy. Shy pets may want to hide under furniture or in their crate. This allows your pet to get some quiet time when they feel overwhelmed. Also, make sure that guests know the rules for your pet: what or how much to feed them, whether they’re allowed to have treats and which ones are off limits. Encourage guests to start a nice play or petting sessions with your pet. Make sure the little ones know how to be gentle and respectful of pets’ boundaries. That way all members of the family—two-legged and four-legged—can enjoy the holidays.

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  • Blog Author

    Dee Perez

    Dee Perez is lifelong animal lover and animal welfare proponent. She developed and taught a year-long series of university-level classes called Two-Legged and Four-Legged: Exploring Human Relationships with Animals that explored myriad issues around ... Read Full
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