Pets deal with stressful times during holidays

November 24, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

FAIRPLAY - The holidays can be festive and fun, but they also can raise stress levels, both for people and their pets, according to Pat Miller, a certified dog behavior consultant who offers classes and tips for pet owners.

"Behavior can change when new people come around, so often it is best to just put the pet away for at least part of the time," Miller said. "It's less stressful for everyone."

If a dog or cat is crate-trained, that would be the best place for them when company visits during the holidays, Miller said. Using baby gates or putting the pet in a quiet room with water, food and toys are also good ideas.


Miller said these preventive measures will cut down on the possibility of an indoor pet slipping out when people are coming and going.

Miller, who operates Peaceable Paws from her Spielman Road farm, recommends putting possibly toxic plants up high where pets can't get to them during the holidays.

"Christmas decorations, chocolate candies in dishes on low tables and turkey carcasses in the garbage can also be dangerous for pets," Miller said.

A proponent of feeding table scraps to dogs, Miller said before the days of processed pet foods, dogs always ate table scraps and fared very well. With some care, most everything that people eat can be fed to dogs.

"Pork isn't good nor are fats and cooked bones," Miller said. She tells people that raw poultry necks and wings are fine for dogs to eat because they are soft and digestible.

The author of two books on pet training, Miller is married to Paul Miller, executive director of The Humane Society of Washington County.

A native of the Midwest, she and Paul Miller met in California. From there they spent several years in Tennessee, working their way back to Paul Miller's hometown of Hagerstown about 1 1/2 years ago.

Through Peaceable Paws, Pat Miller conducts group training classes in manners for dogs from 8 weeks of age and older. There are usually seven classes in the series with up to five other dogs and their owners participating.

For more information, call 301-582-9420 or visit

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