Preparing your puppy for their first Christmas
A guest blog by Joanna Toscano, our head of media.
Like so many other families this year, we have welcomed a new puppy into our family. Peanut is a small but mighty terrier crossbreed who has completely taken over our home and our hearts since we picked her up from RSPCA Leybourne in the Summer. Now five months old, she is a bundle of energy who has filled the gaping dog-shaped hole left by our 16-year-old miniature schnauzer Maisie, who, sadly, we lost last year.
Lots of pets rescued or bought in lockdown have not been able to socialise. We've been really lucky that we brought Peanut home at a time when lockdown restrictions had lifted, which meant we have had loads of opportunities to give her all the really important experiences a young dog needs to help them to grow up being happy and confident.
Read more: How to look after a puppy.
"All the hustle and bustle might be a challenge for her"
And now, like many new pet owners this year, we're looking forward to our first Christmas together. My two young kids are already excited about getting her a stocking and a special toy for Christmas and making sure she has her own doggy decoration on the tree. But I know that all the hustle and bustle might be a challenge for her, so I'm taking some steps to make sure that she (and the rest of us!) have a great time.
We have made sure that Peanut has had lots of opportunities to meet new people and pets but, even so, she's never had to contend with a house full of guests and all the chaos that comes with Christmas. She loves meeting new people but I know that it could all get too much on the big day so I'm going to make sure I put her bed in a quiet corner in the hallway so she can escape if it all gets too much.
Read more: Have an animal-friendly Christmas.
"Peanut is used to kids but they can still get over-excited"
I have two children so Peanut is used to kids but they can still get over-excited, especially on a day like Christmas. I'm always ready to step in if they are not giving her enough space or want to shower her with too much love.
If new pet owners have children visiting their home it could be a good idea to have a chat with them when they arrive about how to keep calm around the puppy and how best to interact with her. Children should not be left alone with dogs and must be closely supervised.
"It's really important to plan ahead for the festive season"
Christmas is a busy time, with lots of socialising, so there may be times when we need to leave Peanut on her own at home. We've prepared her for being alone since we brought her home, gradually building up the time she is left to make sure she can cope. She is happy being left for a couple of hours but if I know we need to be away for longer, I'm lucky enough to be able to leave her with my mum.
It's really important to plan ahead for the festive season and the team here at the RSPCA suggest considering a pet sitter or a friend to look after your pet if you know you're going to be away for more than a few hours. This could mean the difference between coming home to a very stressed pet and potentially a Christmas tree destroyed!
"Many of our favourite festive foods can be poisonous to dogs"
As well as all the people, Peanut is going to be surrounded by decorations, the tree and lots and lots of food. I've had to explain to my children that, although Peanut looks adorable when she stares at us with her puppy dog eyes, desperate for a bite of their sandwich, it wouldn't do her any good.
And Christmas is going to be full of temptations - turkey, pudding and so many chocolates! But apart from teaching bad habits, many of our favourite festive foods can be poisonous to dogs. As well as telling guests not to be tempted to give in to her begging, I'm going to make sure I shut the door to the kitchen with all the food around, so we're not left with a ruined dinner and a poorly puppy!
Read more: Festive food for your pets.
"I'm going to make sure I make lots of time for taking Peanut out on lovely winter walks"
I know that some of the traditions that are great fun for us might also be scary for Peanut. The sudden bang of a cracker could be a shock for dogs who aren't used to it and many pups will have just had their first experience of fireworks in November.
We were lucky that Peanut didn't react to fireworks this year but we know that they can be a terrifying experience for many animals. You can read our fireworks advice about how to prevent fear from developing or getting worse and how to care for your pet on New Year's Eve.
It's going to be really busy this month, and, after lockdown last year, it's going to be great to have a normal Christmas again. But I'm going to make sure I make lots of time for taking Peanut out on lovely winter walks and make sure we don't forget she needs attention and play despite all the parties, shopping and visits to see Father Christmas.
With a bit of planning, I'm sure Peanut is going to have a wonderful first Christmas with us. I just hope she likes her present!
If you've got pets - why not check out our pet Christmas gift guide?
We need your help this Christmas
Every winter, thousands of vulnerable and innocent animals are abandoned and left out in the cold. Can you help?