Expert advice from Baileys nutritionist on preventing unplanned seasonal indulgence

Q: Help! We are having the whole family to stay at Christmas and I’m worried that it will all be too much for my six-month-old pointer puppy. I am also concerned about the amount of food that will be easily accessible at low level e.g. sweets on the tree, boxes of chocolates, turkey sandwiches etc., which will encourage him to beg and even worst steal!

Is there anything you can suggest to help?

Liz Bulbrook, Baileys Director of Nutrition replies: Christmas should be a fun and stress-free time for all of you, however it is often easier to make some minor adjustments to the day than train a young dog to completely resist all temptation at his first Christmas!

Ensure that sweets on the tree are placed high up the tree out of temptations way, the same with boxes of chocolates and sandwiches on tables. Keeping chocolates up high is important as not only is it naughty for the dog to steal, but large quantities of chocolate can be harmful to dogs.

If you need to have food on low tables then try to ensure that the dog is notleft alone in the room at any time. Do not place presents containing edible gifts under the tree until the last moment dogs have a particularly efficient sense of smell and could easily be tempted to investigate further.

As well as food, be careful about berries from mistletoe and holly falling off, as these are poisonous to your dog. Maintaining the use of basic training commands would be useful in teaching your puppy to stay away from the tree and tables of food, reward him with praise when he responds so that he soon loses interest in the tree and presents.

You mention your concern about your Pointer learning to beg and steal. Assuming that up to now he hasn’t begged, then providing that you do not actively encourage it, it ought not to become a problem.

Politely ask your family to resist the lovely begging eyes and expressions that dogs are so good at and not to sneak him any treats and scraps. Table scraps are not ideal additions to his balanced puppy/ junior diet, especially if they have salty gravy and bones in.

If you do give him any doggy treats or meat scraps then put them in his dog bowl. Depending upon the time of day you sit down to your Christmas meal then if this corresponds to near a time he would normally be fed, then feed him at the same time so that he is more interested in his own diet than what you are serving.

With these few points in mind you, your family and your dog should have an enjoyable Christmas.