Yes yes, it’s only November and we’re talking about Christmas. However it’s okay, because we’re not going to encourage you to buy some over-expensive electrical goods from a slightly fancy department store.
Instead, we’re going to encourage you to think forward about the needs of your dogs as the festive season starts to pick up and your routine changes. Perhaps you have people over for drinks or dinner? Or maybe you go travelling to visit family, or they might all descend on you. Whatever happens, now is the time to start thinking about how your dog might cope and how you can help.
Just as some dogs are fine with fireworks whilst others are terrified, many dogs are okay with noise, crowds, and change of routine, but there are those who find it scary, unsettling and even upsetting.
Here’s a few tips on what to do to help your dog stay safe and secure this Christmas.
1. Safe Space
Every dog should have a safe space all the time, but this becomes increasingly important when the house can get busy and confusing for your wee pal.
A safe space is somewhere your dog can go where he won’t be disturbed, where he can sleep in peace and feel calm and protected from the chaotic life we humans lead.
This could be a corner of a room, a dog crate, under a table or another room entirely - so long as you and everyone else in the house knows that when your dog goes there, he is not to be disturbed, poked, or in any way involved with your life until he decides to come out.
It might only be a couple of minutes, or it might be the entire time people are visiting. Your dog should be able to take whatever space and time they need. He’ll come out when he is ready - maybe to investigate the chances of some food, or maybe, once everyone is in and settled, he’ll come out for a cuddle. The key is not forcing your dog into any situation he is not comfortable in, and letting them settle whenever they need to.
Chewing is something which reduces anxiety, so if you do put your dog in a crate (or your dog chooses to go himself) then why not try filling a Kong and freezing it for a healthy, long-lasting treat?
If you are able to put on some calming classical music for your dog, that has been shown to be relaxing to dogs too. Classic FM recently did a dog friendly session for Bonfire Night (even though they added firework sounds to their adverts - d’oh!) and that’s the channel we like to put on.
We did for a time use Radio 4 but then they had a report on hunting with lots and LOTS of dog barking, which wasn’t the calm effect we were hoping for...
2. Darned Kids!
This might be a time of year children come to your house. It might also be the case that your dog hasn’t met children before, or the children haven’t met a dog. So long as you can give them your full attention (and not just a casual glance when basting a turkey), this is a great opportunity for them to learn about each other.
Make sure you are vigilant when they meet, keeping in mind your dog’s body language, and that a wagging tail does not always mean he is happy.
Children like to get up in the face of dogs, which is never a good idea. This is a good time to teach a child new to dogs how to give one a clap, show respect and how to feed him treats.
It’s also a good time to show your dog not to be scared of this tiny human, but also that it’s okay to go to their safe space if they feel nervous. And remember, don’t let the child go to the dog’s safe space, as that would be further increase your dog’s anxiety levels.
3. Travel Time
We often visit friends and family at Christmas, and it’s always best when we can take our dog with us. For those dogs not used to vehicular travel, this can be a stressful time as they might find themselves in a car more often, and for longer periods than usual.
As always, make sure your dog is secure in the car. We use these EzyDog harnesses which come with a seat restraint to keep our dogs from flying around in the back. If you can, have someone sit in the back with your dog for comfort, and who doesn’t want to cuddle a dog on a long drive anyway?!
You’ll know what is best for your own dog’s security - some go in the boot, some don’t like to see out windows, some like to be in a crate. Whatever works, just keep in mind to take breaks for your dog to wee and poop, make sure they are offered water regularly.
4. Adaptil Spray
If your dog needs that little bit extra help to stay calm during busy periods, we recommend Adaptil spray. We’ve been using it for years, and have seen its calming effects on a range of dogs. You can also get it in a spray and as part of a collar.
We used it for a few weeks straight in the house when we were expecting baby Sam, as this was going to be a major change in the house and we wanted our dogs to be as calm and anxiety-free as possible during this time as things were going to get very different.
It doesn’t have any negative effects on your dog - it doesn’t make them lethargic or go off their food - but do keep in mind any allergies your family or your dog may have, and plan accordingly.
5. Safety Present
No matter if you’re an old hand at dog keeping or you’ve just got your new puppy, Christmas can always catch you unaware with nasty surprises.
Specifically, you know how we like to wrap presents and put them under a tree? This can be a problem if someone has given you a box of chocolates. You might not know what they are, but your dog’s nose knows, and if they are tasty fancy choccies then the next stop after your dog ripping through the packaging in the middle of the night will be the vet.
Chocolate, of course, is one of the most well known human foods that can be lethal to dogs, but it’s worth becoming familiar with the larger list of food you shouldn’t give to dogs, which includes macadamia nuts, cinnamon and ice cream.
It’s wise to keep presents somewhere dogs can’t get to before Christmas day, and keep an eye on your dog when you are unwrapping. You don’t want to get so caught up in the fun that you misplace that Toblerone bar and your dog runs off with it! A disaster on two fronts there, because Toblerones are amazing.
6. Home Boarding
Finally, if all else fails, perhaps thinking about somewhere else for your dog to stay for a few days might be best.
Somewhere calm, run by professionals who have your dog's best interest at heart, who have had loads of gorgeous reviews from visiting dog's humans, and who take the dogs out on a gorgeous walk every day.
If only we knew somewhere...!
Thinking about getting a dog?
Dogs can encourage a healthy lifestyle, are great companions and are always there for a cuddle. But getting a dog is not as simple as getting a new phone or ornament. They require hard work, patience, attention and a fair amount of your time. Here's a few things to consider before getting a dog.
1. Do you have the time to take care of a dog?
Many people will say that if you work full time, you shouldn't get a dog. We wholeheartedly disagree with this. Dogs are not the sole resource of rich, retired, unemployed or work from home folk.
However, you do need to keep in mind the welfare of your dog if you are out the house a lot throughout the day.
There are professional dog walkers who will come and spend time with your dog throughout the day, or ddoggy daycare where they can spend their days with other pups. Do keep in mind the costs associated with these, but also consider alternative options. Can you get home at lunchtime to walk the dog instead? Do you have friends, family or trusted neighbours nearby who would like to help out?
A dog is a huge responsibility, and not something you can ignore for hours on end, which brings us to our next question:
2. What breed of dog is best for your lifestyle?
We all have our favourite breeds of dogs, from little Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to ma-hu-sive Bernese Mountain Dogs. But if you live in a tiny flat, a large dog is probably not right for you - that much is obvious. But it’s not all just about space.
Think about how much exercise a dog will need. If you can only afford an hour a day, this will mean only a specific range of dogs would be suitable for you, compared to if you are out and about all day with a dog getting hours of exercise all the time.
Some dogs will generally need more exercise throughout the day - sometimes two, three or more walks. Do you have the time, and can you realistically commit to this for the next decade?
A dog that doesn’t get enough exercise quickly becomes what people regard as a “problem” dog, as it starts racing around the house, ripping carpets and howling. This destructive behaviour can be the result of not enough exercise and stimulation, and is the fault of the owner, not the dog. Plan carefully your situation now, and in the future, to ensure your dog doesn't develop any separation anxiety.
Speaking of which..
4. Are you planning any major life changes in the next decade?
We all want our dogs to live forever (as cute fluffy pets, not dog zombies, just to be clear). Hopefully, your dog will be your best pal for at least a decade - can you be a best pal back?
A decade is a long time, but can you commit to offering a home for your dog for that long? Not planning any round the world trips, or anything?
We hear stories of dogs handed in because the owner’s new girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever doesn’t like dogs.
Personally, I’d rather find a new girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever, but if you think you could so easily give up something that adores you, should you really get one at all?
We all move home, but what if you move somewhere that you can’t take your dog? Is it worth waiting until you can offer a more stable home environment?
Are you planning on having kids? If so, congratulations! There’s no reason not to take on a dog, but again, remember point three that even with a li’l ol’ baby, your dog will still need all those walks and attention. Can you afford that?
5. Puppy or rescue?
There are thousands of dogs up and down the country who don’t have a home anymore, and are currently in shelters, rescue homes and foster homes. Perhaps you can help one find a forever home?
Some rescues specialise in specific breeds, and some focus on re-homing animals from other countries. These are fantastic options when looking for a new dog, and staff at the homes should be able to advise you one what particular dogs would suit your needs.
We’ve previously discussed the dangers of puppy farms, but buying a puppy is still a valid option, so long as you go to a respected breeder that you trust. As ever, make sure you get to see the puppy’s parents, make sure they are all living in a happy environment and being cared for.
Perhaps there are some Facebook groups you can join where you could get breeder recommendations, and even get some advice about the breed you are interested in before getting one.
6. What are you going to do when you are on holiday?
Many people feel that once they have a dog, they have to either stay at home all year, or only go to dog friendly places.
Well we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to!
There are many boarding options available to you, but of course, we’d love for your dog to stay with us here at Happy Home Dog Boarding!
Get in touch with us to chat about taking your small dog whilst you jet off to the sun.
Find out more about us here, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get a feel of what we’re about!
As much as we love sending our dogs into the river on hot days, take a moment to check it's safe before they dive or swim. You never know what's under the surface...
Here's Cheryl with our quick tip for river swims.
All dog owners understand that one of the hardest things to do is to leave them for any length of time. This might just be for a night or a weekend, but it gets even harder the longer you are away!
There are two main options for boarding your dog for any length of time. The first is kennels, where your dog is kept in a secure area and looked after by trained staff. This is perfect for many types of dogs.
The alternative option is what this blog will focus on, and what we offer - dog home boarding. It’s important that you choose the right option for your dog, and you’ll probably have a gut instinct about what would be best. Home boarding might better suit dogs that are used to being a part of a home environment.
With so many home boarders available though, how to separate the good ones in it for the love of dogs, from those only interested in earning a few spare pounds for minimal effort?
Here are five important questions you should consider asking any potential home dog boarder before you even think about taking your dog to them.
1. Are you a licensed and insured boarder?
Top of the list is this question, and by asking if they are licensed first, you could potentially narrow down your list of home boarding possibilities very quickly.
Because if you want to leave your dog with someone who takes their business seriously - and so the welfare of your dog seriously - they will be willing to take all necessary steps to ensure they are a trustworthy business. Having a license is a good indication of this.
Many areas of the UK require premises who house dogs to earn a license. For us, this means undergoing annual visits from the council to ensure our premises are suitable for keeping dogs, i.e. clean and safe. We also had a vet visit in the first year to make sure everything was fine from a welfare point of view.
Does the boarder you are looking at have such regular visits? If not, how can you be sure they are following best practice for keeping your dog in a safe and secure environment? It might save you a few quid, but is that worth it in the long run if your dog isn’t being kept in the best conditions? Our license and first aid certificates are always on show in our home for visitors to check when they arrive. Any dog boarder should be willing to do the same.
You should also make sure your boarder is insured. Like any small business, insurance is vital to cover any costs that might creep up unexpectedly, and also gives you the peace of mind that protection is in place should anything unfortunate happen.
2. Do you have good, recent reviews outwith your own website?
Reviews are key to gaining trust in any new company or business, and especially one in which you’ll be trusting your beloved dog. It’s easy to add reviews to your own website - we’ve got a nice selection on our own - but key is finding independent reviews elsewhere.
This might be on their Facebook page (and you can find our Facebook reviews here) because Facebook reviews can’t be edited by the page owner. If you can’t find any reviews on Facebook for a particular business page, this is a warning sign as it means the owner has turned their reviews off. Why have they done that? Was it because they were receiving too many negative reviews? Maybe. It’s worth asking the question.
Some businesses also keep reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, so it’s worth checking as much as you can to see what you find. Why not also do a general Google search? Has the business or business owners ever appeared in the news, for good or bad reasons? How will that affect your decision to board with them?
3. Will you meet me and my dog before boarding?
Would you be comfortable sending your dog somewhere he's never been before, to people neither he nor you have ever met? We wouldn't, which is why we insist new boarders come to meet us first. Not only will this help settle them and put your mind at ease at the fact we are real people with a genuine love of dogs, it also helps us confirm that your dog would be happy staying with us in our home environment.
If you are looking at a home boarder who doesn't let you see where your dog will be staying, ask yourself if they have your dog's best interests at heart.
Do they take any and all dogs? Big and small, no matter what their temperament?
Do they do any assessment at all on suitability?
This should be a warning sign as a home boarding experience should be calm and pleasant for your dog. They want to feel loved, not cower in a corner if they get bullied, or if the environment is too noisy.
We think it's important that you and your dog meet us first in our home, and from then we make sure your dog has a one-night trial before staying here. This is important to ensure that they are suited to our home boarding environment, and we can work out if they will be happy with us for a longer stay.
If we don't think your dog will enjoy staying with us, we'll explain why, and give you other options.
4. Will my dogs be exercised?
Don't take it as given that just because someone will take your dog in for a night or longer that they will give them the amount of exercise they need or are accustomed to. This is especially true when you give a pet to friends to look after!
Make sure you receive assurances from the boarder that whatever the weather, come rain, hail or plague of locusts, that your dog will get enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy.
We've heard before of "problem dogs" who just won't settle down and chew up the carpet. Most of the time this is because they haven't been walked enough. A dog needs more than just a quick visit to the garden. Luckily, we live in a beautiful area with plenty of river walks, fields and woods to explore, all safely away from busy roads.
Our customers love the pupdates that we send them on Facebook or WhatsApp each day on what they've been up to, what friends they've made and, if we're especially unlucky, what poop they've rolled in!
5. Are you dog professionals with an understanding of dog behaviour?
Are the boarders you are looking at professionals, or is this just a hobby? Are they at work all day? How often will they be with your dog, and how often will the dog be able to get outside? What happens if there is an emergency and nobody is home?
Please do keep all of this in mind when looking for a dog boarder. Seek reassurances that your dog will not be left alone 9-5 every day if they are used to cuddles and getting out regularly. Cheryl works from home, with Harry soon to be joining her. When we both need to go out, it's never for long and we have cameras in the house to keep an eye on everyone. We can even speak through the camera should we need to!
Cheryl has worked with dogs for many years, through boarding and also her Edinburgh Dog Photography business. Read more about Cheryl and her voluntary work with the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home here.
So there you have it. We hope this has been a helpful first step in finding a reputable home boarder for your dog. Obviously, we'd love for your pup to stay with us, so please get in touch to discuss your needs by clicking here. If you have any other questions, please feel free to comment below, or on our Facebook page!