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Here we are again — the end of the year and beginning of the holiday season. For my American fans, I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving with good food, surrounded by friends and family. For everyone else, it’s time to count down to the finale of 2017 and get ready to celebrate.

And by the way, I’m going to give you a big reason to celebrate, but I’ll get back to that later!

Prior to that, though, since so much of the holidays revolve around gifts, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The best gift you can give to your dog.

People might assume that the best gift, from a dog’s point of view, would be a tasty reward, like a steak or a bone, or a favorite toy, but the important word here is “gift.” Rewards are a form of affection for dogs, and they need to be earned. If you give your dog nothing but unearned affection, then you’re going to create behavioral problems.

Your dog will most appreciate calmness and consistency, especially at this time of year when everything can go a little crazy with holiday planning and with the holidays themselves. It can be chaotic from a dog’s perspective. Schedules change, there may be a lot of people coming and going, or the whole family may go to a strange place. All of these can make a dog anxious or confused because they don’t know that these changes are temporary.

Because they live in the moment, dogs don’t plan for the future. As far as they’re concerned, something that changes now is forever and permanent. Holiday celebrations also bring a lot of excitement and energy with them and, in some cases, can create a lot of tension in the people involved because the planning can be so stressful. The combination can leave a dog feeling really out of sorts.

In a study published in The Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, researchers looked at veterinary emergency admission records and found a definite connection with major holidays and an increase in admissions. While they did not break down reasons for those admissions, it’s not hard to see how holidays can represent an increased danger to our dogs — whether it’s because they eat something they shouldn’t, or get injured or escape because people aren’t paying attention.

Remember that to dogs energy is everything, and the way that you act is the way they’re going to react. And although the holidays are a big deal to a lot of people, we have to remind ourselves that the world is not going to end if everything doesn’t go exactly perfectly. A holiday cannot be “ruined” if you don’t let it be. The only thing that can ruin a holiday is our belief that it has been ruined.

That’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a trap we should avoid if we want the season to be a success for everyone, canine and human.

How can we avoid this, though? As with any complicated thing, plan ahead. Prioritize the pieces, figure out how they work into your schedule, and then proceed one step at a time. Think of it as the human version of a dog dish with the bumps in it designed to keep a dog from wolfing everything down at once — it’s better for you and your dogs to take it slowly, one mouthful at a time.

Don’t panic and don’t forget to breathe!

And, as you prepare for the holidays, don’t forget that your dog still needs exercise and discipline before affection, which is why it’s even more important to stick to that schedule this time of year. It will drain excess energy and help maintain a sense of things being normal despite the chaos all around.

Your dog will appreciate that part the most of all!

Previously, I said I was going to give you a reason to celebrate. Well, here it is: Tomorrow, November 27, is Cyber Monday, and the last day for the lowest prices of the season in my online shop. And to make the day even more special, we’re offering free standard U.S. shipping* on all orders! Tell your friends and family and don’t miss these

Stay calm, and happy holidays!

*Free standard shipping is valid on orders shipped to a single U.S. address, after promotions and discounts are applied. Eligible customers must select the Standard Shipping option during checkout in order to receive free shipping. Offer and delivery times are subject to change without notice. International (non U.S.) Customers: Orders shipped using Standard International Shipping are not guaranteed to arrive by December 24. Only at cesarsway.com.

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