Dog Behaviourist Reveals 4 Tips on Keeping Your Pup Safe at the Christmas Market

As Christmas is all about spending time as a family, no one should miss out, including our furry friends, so with searches for dog-friendly Christmas markets up by 114%, expert holiday letting agents Canine Cottages have shared their picks on the UK’s top six dog-friendly Christmas markets. 

Additionally, Canine Cottages has teamed up with clinical animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers MCs to advise on the best ways to keep your pooch safe when visiting the markets this year.

For the most part, the idea of taking your beloved pooch to the Christmas market is a fun activity, but it can be a really overwhelming experience for your dog and for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you and your pooch have to miss out on the festive fun; rather, it’s valuable to understand how to ensure your dog’s happiness in a bustling environment.

Clinical animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers has listed her top tips for a happy pooch.

1. Prepare your pooch 

Dogs can find it difficult to adapt to certain environments. Rachel explains that “If you normally walk them in the quiet countryside, then a busy city centre Christmas market is a big leap! They should be familiar and comfortable being around unfamiliar people and ideally going to unfamiliar places.

“You could even try using some of the sounds from Dogs Trust on SoundCloud to prepare them for people chatting and beeping of any lorries reversing.”

2. Use the right equipment  

Ensuring that your pup is comfortable is crucial to the experience you have at the Christmas market, as they’re likely to be busy.

Rachel suggests “a flexi lead, or a long lead that you may use in the park, is not the lead for this outing. Your dog could get themselves into all sorts of mischief by sneaking behind the stalls and stealing food they shouldn’t have; your flexi lead could also trip someone up and injure them. Instead, just avoid them; take your dog to the markets on a Y-shaped harness, and a fixed normal length lead of 3 feet and 2 metres is ample.”

3. Know when your pup is comfortable  

It’s important to pay attention to your dog. Rachel advises, Give them comfort breaks; take them over to patches of grass to go to the toilet. Give them treats when you encounter weird and wacky things, and most of all, be prepared to leave. I know it may not be what you want to hear or read, but your dog’s enjoyment and safety really should come first.

“Look out for any signs of discomfort, such as their tail tucked between their legs, their ears back, and maybe really subtle signs like them licking their lips, then be prepared to continue your festive fun at home.

“Remember that busy social events are not for every dog. Some will be scared by the big crowds, noise, and bright lights.”

4. Pay attention to potential dangers 

There are a few hazards that could endanger your dog while you’re at the Christmas markets. It’s important to look out for them so you can have an enjoyable experience.

Rachel mentions that alcohol, chocolate, onions, and grit can put your dog in harm.

“Alcohol, this is toxic to dogs. Christmas drinks like mulled wine make it very tempting for them to take a sip. Make sure you keep them away and take a bottle of water so you can keep them hydrated.”

Rachel adds that it’s specific, but beware of onions: “The bratwurst stand always has lots of chopped-up onions for the hot dogs.

“Onions are not good for your dog. Perhaps visit the markets in the daylight so you stand a better chance of spotting some of these dangers.

“Grit! While this is obviously helpful, it’s dangerous for your dogs. Make sure you wash their paws when you get back from your trip so that there’s no chance of them licking the grit.”

Here are some dog-friendly Christmas markets to visit this year:

  1. Edinburgh Christmas Market: 17th of November to 6th of January 2024
  2. Manchester Christmas Market: 10th November to 21st December 2023
  3. Sheffield Christmas Market: 10th November to 24th December 2023
  4. Bath Christmas Market: 23rd November to 10th December 2023
  5. Kensington Christmas Markets (not as overwhelming for dogs as Winter Wonderland): 16th November to 31st December 2023
  6. Oxford Christmas Market: 30th November to 23rd December 2023