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Christmas 2020: Tips for a happy, healthy festive season with your dog

16th December

After the year it’s been, we’re thoroughly looking forward to some festive cheer in the form of decorations, catching up with family and friends (both near and over Zoom!) and some delicious treats. But while it’s a wonderful time of the year for many, Christmas may cause sensory overload for your dog.

From unexpected visitors to over-zealous family members who aren’t familiar with your dog or their personality, and endless temptation in the form of food and decorations (shining, sparkling toys to many dogs!) there’s a lot for dogs to cope with – especially new arrivals for whom this might be their first Christmas.

We’ve put together some tips to help your dog cope with the festivities, whilst still being included in all the fun.


We all like to indulge over the festive season but sadly there’s more than a few festive treats that can be dangerous to our canine companions…

  • Chocolate – An obvious one perhaps but at this time of year, chocolate takes many forms and so can be easily hidden or misplaced. Avoid putting chocolate on or under your tree, as the temptation might just get too much for your dog.
  • Mince pies and Christmas pudding – Currants, sultanas and raisins are all toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure.
  • Vegetables – Ok, not ALL vegetables but those belonging to the Allium family (we’re talking onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives) can all cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Don’t despair though, there’s plenty of veggies your dog can enjoy below.
  • Alcohol – Another obvious one perhaps, but it’s always best to keep drinks out of reach – not just for our dog’s safety but to avoid those nasty spillages amongst all the excitement.

So, which leftovers can your dog enjoy? Providing your dog is healthy and not allergic to any of the following, there’s still plenty of goodies for them to enjoy…

  • Turkey (no skin or bones)
  • Lamb (no bones)
  • Green beans
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Potatoes

If you prefer to avoid leftovers altogether, don’t forget that many dog food brands like Butternut Box and Tails create recipes especially for Christmas! Full of healthy, safe and delicious ingredients, these offer peace of mind and a Christmas dinner that is all your dog’s own.

Don’t forget to adjust your dog’s meal times accordingly, and that any treats should be given as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

christmas dogs


The run-up to Christmas can bring lot’s of new experiences for your dog, particularly if this is their first Christmas in their new home. Some things to be aware of include…

  • Decorations – Baubles, string lights and other ornaments might not be toxic, but they can cause nasty internal obstructions if ingested or chewed. Keep a close eye on overly inquisitive or young dogs. 
  • Plants – Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly all carry risks, so it’s best to place them up high and keep a close eye on your furry friend.
  • Wrapping presents – Your dog might make a wonderful Santa’s Little Helper, but don’t let them run off with the string, cellotape or ribbon!
  • Choosing a tree – There’s nothing quite like a real tree but bear in mind that it can be confusing for a dog who is used to urinating against the trees outside!
  • Loud noises – Christmas might be a time to celebrate, but be mindful of loud bangs, such as popping bottles of Prosecco, party poppers and Christmas crackers. 

dogs at Christmas


Including our dogs in Christmas gifting has become big business in recent years, with 47% of us buying our pets presents. Some of us go as far as filling stockings for our beloved dogs (of course, the WAHF team wouldn’t know anything about that…) Here’s some things to consider, and some to avoid…

  • Choose your toys wisely! If your dog has a knack for tearing plushies apart to reach the squeaker, consider getting them something tougher that will last longer and pose less risk. Similarly, choose large toys for large dogs to avoid any risk of choking or swallowing.
  • Many pet stores capitalize on rawhide at this time of the year, especially when dyed a festive red or green. While they may look fun and festive, it poses many risks: choking, contamination, digestive irritation and blockages in the esophagus to name just a few.
  • Puzzle toys are a great way to provide mental stimulation, with countless designs to choose from, but be sure to choose one that suits your dog – too difficult and they’ll either ignore or destroy it!
  • Our Ethical Gifting Guide has a whole section dedicated to pressies for your dog. From subscription boxes to dog jackets, these gifts have been tested for safety, fun and deliciousness!
  • Supervision is key, no matter what gifts you’re bestowing upon your canine companions

christmas dog


With Covid-19 restrictions in place, many of our Christmases might feel quieter than we’re used to – but it can still feel overwhelming for our dogs. Here’s just a few tips that will help your dog cope with the extra attention…

  • Routine – Having a routine is a comfort to many dogs so try to stick to the feeding and mealtimes that your dog has come to expect.
  • Distractions – Having a good supply of long-lasting treats (like a chew or a stuffed Kong) will keep your pup well occupied while you get on with the hosting
  • Plan ahead – Especially if you have children visiting who aren’t used to being around dogs (or vice versa). Make sure they understand how to behave, for example, not startling a dog who is sleeping or eating.
  • Offer a safe space – This could be a crate or their bed, perhaps in a room away from all the excitement so they have access to peace and quiet should they need. They’ll no doubt return once they’ve caught up on some zzz’s!
  • Slow and steady – Always let your dog meet your visitors on their own terms at a pace that feels comfortable to them.
  • Travel – If you’re spending Christmas away from home, take some things that smell familiar (their bed, for example) and some of their favourite treats.


We hope our tips have been helpful – if you have any specific questions or would like to share some tips of your own, get in touch at [email protected] or by sending us a message via Instagram or Facebook.

From all of us here at Wild at Heart Foundation, we wish you and your dogs a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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