During the busy holiday season, be sure to protect your dog’s health. Here are some tips from animal behaviorist Cesar Millan, author of Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems and Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar’s Way to Transform Your Dog…and Your Life.

Exercise your dog before taking him to visit, or receiving, holiday guests. Holiday visits may involve more excited energy than usual. Your dog is more likely to behave if it has just had a nice long walk.

Don’t forget rules, boundaries and limitations. Holidays bring many new temptations in the form of smells (freshly baked cookies, a tree in the house), sights (bright lights, visiting relatives) and sounds (Christmas carols, sleigh bells). Use this opportunity to reinforce household rules.

Protect your dog from the cold. Many breeds are not built for cold weather. Check out your local pet store for suggestions (doggy boots, paw waxes) to help your dog handle the elements.

Stick to your dog’s normal diet. It’s tempting to share those tasty table scraps with your dog, but too many rich foods (like turkey and sauces) can lead to serious inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life-threatening.

Beware of hazardous holiday items. Ingested poinsettia plants cause dogs to vomit. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Tinsel has sent many a dog to the emergency room. Keep fragile ornaments toward the top of the Christmas tree; place only sturdy ones near the bottom.

Do your holiday boarding research in advance. You want to feel confident that your pet will be safe and comfortable while you’re away. Start by getting recommendations. Find two or three facilities that meet your requirements, and investigate further.

Think twice before giving puppies as gifts. Millan doesn’t recommend giving a puppy as a holiday gift. He strongly believes the whole family needs to have basic knowledge about the commitment and responsibility of pet ownership before receiving an animal.

Include your dog in your New Year’s Resolutions. Make a commitment to be a pack leader 365 days a year. Practice calm-assertive energy in all aspects of your life, and work toward achieving calm submission from your dog.

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