As the holidays approach, commitments begin to fill our calendars, and we look for aspects of our lives that we can set aside until after the New Year.

Unfortunately, some people put their dogs on the back burner, and that is a problem.

As a thinking, sentient being with needs and desires, your dog will not be content to be ignored for the next few months.  His unhappiness may impact all of your lives in ways no one will enjoy.

Your dog relies on you for companionship and affection.  Saying, “I love you” doesn’t do it for him. He needs your time: time to pet him, play with him, teach him something new. If he doesn’t receive the attention he needs, he will likely become bored and stressed.

This, in turn, will resort in him finding ways to entertain himself. He might choose to empty the contents of your 13 gallon trashcan onto the floor and strew them throughout the house, with the messiest and/or smelliest contents distributed on your carpet. Alternatively, he might choose to remove the wainscoting, eat one shoe of every pair you own or unstuff your sofa. A bored dog, even a typically well-trained, obedient dog, can be unendingly creative in the way he chooses to relieve himself of stress.

In order to keep your dog from destroying your environment while entertaining himself, you need to be proactive in keeping him occupied despite your busy schedule.  A great way to do this is to hire a dog trainer to give the two of you lessons.  While it may seem counter-intuitive to add an activity to your already busy schedule, a training schedule is a wonderful way to spend some time focusing on your dog.  When you pay for training, you’re more likely to devote a few minutes every day to working on the skills you’re learning, if for no other reason than so you won’t be embarrassed the next time the trainer comes. Your dog won’t care that the reason you’re focusing on him is to teach him something, he’s just excited to have your attention. As an added benefit, Fido is learning skills that will make him a better companion year round.

If your dog’s obedience skills are already up to par, consider getting involved in a dog sport or activity. Again, it’s a way to spend time with your dog while doing something fun together.  You and your canine companion can try out Treibball, Rally, Agility or Flyball, learn dock-diving or take a herding lesson. WHAT you do is far less important than the fact that you’re DOING something together.

If you can’t involve yourself in a new activity, don’t let your busy schedule dictate the time you spend with your dog.  Plan to do something with him every day, whether it’s a long walk, a retrieving session in the backyard, or a nose to tail massage. Keep him from feeling ignored during the holiday season.

If you’re totally overwhelmed with holiday business and can’t find time for your dog, don’t leave him alone and neglected. Find someone else who can give him attention. Hire a neighborhood teen to come over and walk him and play in the backyard. Your dog will be thrilled to be getting some attention, and the teen will be happy to earn some Christmas money. If you can’t find a teen you trust, hire a dogsitter to come walk your buddy or explore doggy day care options.

Reindeer antlers, leftover turkey and wrapped toys don’t mean nearly as much to your dog as your time and attention does. As the holidays approach, plan now to spend some special time with your special friend.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.