Woman with her dog
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: Nov./Dec. 2021

Make the holidays safe for your four-legged friends, and embrace mini breaks to beat the stress of the season.

Holidays & Your Dog
Decorations, new foods and visitors can break your dog’s routine (and lead to trouble). Here’s how to keep your best friend safe and happy. 

Holidays are exciting for dogs, too, especially with the cookie trays within a nose’s reach and an indoor tree with its water-filled stand and enticing ornaments. But those joys of the season create a risky situation for our four-legged friends. “It’s surprising the amounts of accidents that happen to pets during the holidays: accidental poisonings, ingesting foreign objects and so on,” says Mary Walters, a certified dog trainer through Animal Behavior College and owner of Magnificent Mutts Dog Training in Bay Village. Here is her advice for keeping your dog safe this holiday season.  

Tree Safety: It’s not a bad idea to invest in a barrier around your Christmas tree if your dog is especially interested in it. “Trees are treated with chemicals, so if your pet drinks the water, you don’t know what they’re ingesting,” Walters says. Tinsel, ribbon and tree needles, if swallowed, can cause serious issues, and chewing cords or lights can lead to electric shock. The safest bet: make the tree off limits. 

Party Time: When you’re having guests over, put your dog’s crate in a quiet room so they can get away from the action. If your dog’s crate is in the heart of the family room, make the transition gradually prior to having guests over. Also, keep your dog on a leash when company arrives to address jumping. “You can also tether them to a heavy piece of furniture,” Walters adds. “It’s about managing the environment.” 

The Power of Routine: “Dogs especially are creatures of habit,” Walters says. “The best thing you can do is keep to their routine.” That can mean hiring a dog walker if you know the holidays will keep you too busy or assign dog duty to a responsible member of the household. Also, avoid feeding human food to dogs. Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis and many foods are toxic to dogs. 

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Mini Breaks, Big Impact 
Even just minutes of movement or meditation can help you fight holiday stress. 

The holiday hoopla can feel endless and exhausting. How are you supposed to fit in a proper workout, while also tackling your growing to-do list? Taking even five minutes to meditate, walk, stretch or do a quick exercise routine can combat stress, build confidence and provide a shot of feel-good endorphins. Yes, it is worth it to even take the smallest wellness mini break.

“It helps with resilience to stress, and you’ll feel better, sleep better and have increased energy,” says Nicole Breeden, clinical exercise coordinator at ProMedica in Toledo. “You don’t have to go to the gym to work out for 30 minutes to benefit from exercise.”

Here are some practical, can-do ways to build mini wellness breaks into the holiday season.  

Capturing Found Time: You just popped a batch of cookies into the oven. How will you spend those 10 to 12 minutes while they bake? “Do a round of squats or push-ups, and then after you put the next batch of cookies in, try a plank or another exercise,” Breeden suggests. Make a list of fast exercises you can do. Basic movements like jumping jacks or marching in place keep your muscles moving. “Even pacing around your house is better than sitting in a kitchen chair while you wait for coffee, so when those times come up, take advantage of them,” says Alissa Kembre, physical therapist at Kettering Health in Dayton.

Meditation, a Five-Sense Exercise: Falling into the “om” zone is not so easy during the holidays. Julie Manuel, clinical program manager at Kettering Health in Dayton, offers a simple way to practice meditation. She calls it the “five-sense exercise.” Set a timer to remind yourself to take breaks during the day: Identify five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. “Using all five senses brings you back to center and in the moment,” Manuel says. “It helps you find clarity and focus and slows down the lists running through your mind that can lead to anxiety and stress.”

Creating Simple Habits: Carve out 10 minutes to get moving right after you wake up. “If you start your morning with movement, you’ll get your heart rate going, boost your mood … it won’t be a task looming over you,” Breeden says. She also suggests identifying ahead of time when you will exercise during the week. “You don’t have to have the same routine — that’s hard during the holidays,” she adds. “And it’s good to have a backup plan, so if something happens when you usually do a workout, maybe you have a routine of core exercises to keep moving.”

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