Doggy Training

Puppy’s First Christmas

Christmas is a magical time, and what is more magical than expanding your family to enjoy a new furry bundle of fun?!

However, those dreams of family time in front of the fire and frosty winter walks can often be far from the reality of bringing a puppy home at Christmas.
Even for the puppies that came home in the summer and have settled in, the change in routine and set up over Christmas can throw even the most settled dog. The following article is jam packed full of ways to keep your puppy settled, settle them in to your home, and ensure Christmas runs as smoothly as possible.

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Sleep Schedules

Christmas is where all routines get thrown out of the window. Chocolate for breakfast, all day pyjamas… anything goes! But for our puppies, the disruption to their sleep schedule can cause some over-tired naughtiness to arise. Puppies should be getting 18-20 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. That’s a lot! Even with the hustle and bustle of everybody being at home, your pup should still have a quiet place to get some good quality rest. This should ideally be out of the noisy areas of the house so that they won’t get woken up too often. Don’t forget that lots of puppies quickly move past the ‘sleep anywhere’ stage and they need to have their naptimes implemented by us – think an overtired toddler who doesn’t want to sleep!

Don’t play ‘pass the puppy’

With all the novelty of Christmas; decorations, presents, new noises, people visiting, Christmas can be an AMAZING socialization opportunity. But don’t forget the key point of socialization – quality not quantity. It is far better for your pup to see a few things and take them in their stride, than to be thrown in at the deep end and not enjoy themselves. This means, as tempting as it is to show your puppy off to your family and friends, this should be done in a careful way. Make sure your guests are aware that just because puppy is tiny, it does not give them the right to scoop puppy up and carry them off. All socialization should be done in a way that gives the puppy choices over their interactions – picking them up takes away all choice.

Visiting children need to be aware of this rule too, as well as the stand like a tree game if the puppy starts to become chasey or bitey. Puppies will like to chase and mouth fast moving things, so if the children are starting to play games that involve lots of running, maybe it is naptime for puppy.

If your puppy starts to look overwhelmed at any point, take them out of the situation and give them something familiar – a nap in a safe space, a quiet wander round the garden, or their favourite enrichment in a different room. Whilst they have a break, consider if that situation is right for them, or if there is something you can do to make them feel safer.


Christmas is not usually the time to be embarking on new training plans. The ground rules should stay in place, obviously, but if you are hoping to teach your dog to auto-leave a turkey before the big day in a weeks time… maybe think again. We have to pick our battles, and any kind of training that is unachievable or is likely to cause you lots of stress should wait until the new year. Instead, utilize management so that your puppy is set up for success. This may look like…

  • Puppy pens or baby gates blocking off the tree / presents.
  • A long lasting chew whilst you eat Christmas dinner.
  • Clipping a lead on for a few minutes when people first enter the house.
  • Less enticing ornaments on the bottom half of the tree.
  • Chocolates and mice pies only when puppy is away napping.

This kind of set up is not cheating on your training – you can train these things when you are well rested and have a plan in place after the madness of Christmas has died down. These management protocols will even set you up for more successful training when you do start, because the dog hasn’t had the chance to practice the undesirable behaviour!

Appropriate Enrichment

Over the Christmas period there are likely to be times when you are just too busy and can’t give your puppy what it needs at that moment. That is okay. (Apart from toilet breaks, you’re going to want to keep those pretty frequent… you have been warned!).

If you puppy is full of beans and probably needs a good play in the garden or a training session, and you’re busy sorting the kids out ready to go to the in-laws, there is nothing wrong with providing some good independent enrichment instead. Think of it as a built in puppy babysitter!

We have some great ideas for enrichment CLICK HERE.

You are going to want your enrichment to be something you can grab easily, so think about prepping some bits a few days before Christmas to last you through. Some ideas for things that can be made in advance or easily grabbed are as follows…

  • Kongs. Even better – frozen kongs. Let your puppy try the easy version first, but a freezer with 4/5 kongs prepped and ready to go makes life easy, and they last AGES.
  • Chews. Think natural and long lasting; pizzles, tendons, ears. The grosser the better!
  • Puzzle games – they don’t last so long but they do require some thought which will help tire your puppy.

If in doubt, it’s time for the classic… a big handful of kibble thrown into the garden and let them snuffle!