For most, December is a month filled with long shopping lists, ugly sweater parties, stretched budgets, holiday parades, internet flash sales, decorating cookies, coping with relatives you don’t mind seeing annually, and on and on. All this on top of your already hectic life. How does one hold it together?

Lucky for you, you have a magic bullet at your side, and oftentimes under your feet. Your ever-faithful dog can be your sanity savior. Since his stress level is relatively low by comparison, you can balance each other out. Don’t overlook these ways you can engage with your dog to de-stress. Sit, stay and read on.

Talk to Your Dog. You may not be as accessible for belly rubs as you scramble around the house deep in holiday preparations. But I bet your dog follows you around as you wrap gifts or bake cookies. They love the sound of your voice, so tell them about your holiday woes or things you love about the holidays. Whether you say, “Not looking forward to seeing Uncle Ralph!” or “I can’t wait to put the kids on a treasure hunt!” all they hear is “(their name), blah, blah, blah, blah …” They just know you are including them in your day, and that will bring them, and you, joy!

Take Your Dog to Bed. Getting enough sleep is key to being able to handle holiday stress. Your dog is an automatic sleeping aid – a furry, snuggly one. His warmth next to you on those colder nights can act like a cozy comforter. Hearing the rhythmic sounds of him sleeping soundly will help soothe you to sleep. Leave tomorrow’s stresses for tomorrow and get a great night of pet-aided slumber.

Make Your Dog Your Exercise Buddy. Do you stress out about holiday weight gain, or turn to food when you’re stressed? Break the vicious cycle by teaming up with your dog for twice daily walks. Starting the day off with a morning walk will put you in the right frame of mind for whatever the day brings, and another walk in the evening when you get home will clear your mind. Plus, let’s face it, our dogs get more treats during the holidays from us or our guests, so this routine will help them as well.

Laugh Out Loud. It’s a well-known fact that laughter is very beneficial to our health. So, if the top of the blender pops off midstream or all the lights malfunction on your tree, stop for a second or two and watch your dog. They can be very amusing just by being themselves, especially if you have a mischievous pooch. If you have more of a couch potato, then channel surf for an all-time classic like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Works every time.

Take Advantage of the Cheap Therapy. A private therapist would cost you about $200 per hour to relieve your stress and anxiety. Playing with your dog, giving him belly rubs or dressing him up in his holiday outfit will de-stress you for free. Your dog is a live-in stress ball, so take advantage of the savings to buy gifts for your loved ones.

We wish you all a joyous holiday season!

           Related: Put Your Dog to Work Spreading Joy During the Holidays

This blog is brought to you by Under the Weather®, provider of freeze-dried bland diets for dogs. Holiday stress can often set off a temporary bout of vomiting or diarrhea until things settle down. Vets often recommend giving them a “bland diet” until their digestive systems return to normal. Until now, this required you to cook chicken and rice. With Under the Weather’s bland diets there is no more cooking – just add water!

Under the Weather is also an avid supporter of finding homes for shelter dogs. We finance the Ruffy Rescue Transport Fund to cover the transport cost of bringing dogs from overpopulated kill shelters to Vermont for adoption. A portion of every dollar in sales is channeled to supporting this cause as well as financing the spaying and neutering fees of shelter animals. Get to know more about Ruffy.

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