Christmas is a time for family, friends, presents, great food, parties – and guilt. As if it isn’t bad enough wondering whether you’ve missed anyone from your present list, worrying whether you’ve got enough food ordered for everyone (and how on earth you are going to juggle cooking it all), then you look at your dog lying in their bed, waiting patiently for your attention and you get a kick in the feels for not spending enough time with them.
Step aside, Santa. There is a Christmas visitor standing ready and waiting to make sure that no matter how many items you’ve crossed off your Christmas to-do list today, that you know it isn’t enough. A visitor more than happy to put you on the Naughty List. Yes, folks, Christmas is a prime time for a visit from the old Guilt Monster.
An uninvited guest
The Guilt Monster is a sneaky creature. He comes uninvited, unwelcome and unbidden into your life. He catches you unawares, creeps in when you are vulnerable and puts thoughts in your head that don’t serve you. He likes to make sure you can’t rest easy at a time when every moment of rest is precious. He sidles into your mind and takes over with what ifs, shoulds, musts, haven’ts and if onlys while you are hanging baubles on the tree, wrapping gifts and preparing the turkey. He gives you looks of disappointment and tuts while shaking his head at your efforts. He is a horror. He needs ditched.
How to ditch the Guilt Monster
Change your mindset
So how can we ditch the Guilt Monster? The best way, Gamechangers, to banish the guilt-beast is to flip your thoughts, turn that struggle into a strength and see the Christmas period for the wonderful period of opportunity to work on concepts that it is. Novelty, tolerance of frustration, optimism, resilience: all of these concepts are going to be getting a workout. And that is in YOUR brain (before we even think of the dog!) Embrace the challenge and relish the chance to strengthen your concept superpowers!
And the top-scoring secret weapon in the battle against the Guilt Monster? Acceptance. If you can recognise where you are at and learn to be ok with that then the Guilt Monster just doesn’t have a way in. He can’t get you. Yes, Christmas time is crazy. Things can get tough. Energy levels are all over the place and tempers can get frayed. Festivity can be tiring. Sometimes your dog will be home alone. Sometimes training will slip. Sometimes walks will be missed. But through it all, if you practice acceptance of what’s going on, where you are at, and what you can do then you’ll boot out the Guilt Monster and find calm in the madness.
And if you need a few practical suggestions to help your brain accept that you are doing everything you can to make sure your dog is content this Christmas, then check out our seven top tips to keep the Guilt Monster at bay.
1. Take three minutes – the beauty of our absoluteDogs games is that they can be effective in just three minutes! Three minutes – the adverts in a TV programme or the time it takes you to boil the kettle for a cup of tea – three minutes are all you need to make a real difference to your dog’s day. Why not play a quick game between wrapping presents for instant bonding and a top up of your relationship bank account.
2. Get energy savvy for a chilled out pooch – take every opportunity to help your dog manage their energy through the Christmas period. Keep an eye to the household schedule. If you know that there is an extra busy day coming up with guests and extra activity going on in the house, try to get some extra activity into the days leading up to it so that your dog will be ready to chill when the busy time comes. Squeezing in some extra movement for your dog doesn’t have to difficult: use your games, Gamechanger! Add games like Whip-It and Funder to your usual walk to help your dog use extra energy and tire body and mind.
3. Actively create calm – boundary games are amazing at any time of year but they really come into their own around Christmas. Who doesn’t want a dog that can chill out happily on a raised bed while visitors come and go, or you are cooking Christmas dinner for 20 people! Check out our Boundary games Digital Download for training games for a happy, relaxed pooch this Christmas.
Always make sure that your dog has their own space that they can go to, where they will be able to rest and not be disturbed. It can be a crate or a room, or a bed that is placed out the way of the household traffic, anywhere that gives your dog a chill-out zone. Don’t be shy to let your guests know that this is your dog’s rest spot and that they should not be disturbed there.
4. Share the food love – there are so many things that are dangerous to your dog on the Christmas menu (chocolate, Christmas cake, mince pies, cooked bones, etc.), but there are also some fabulous training treats to be found right there on your Christmas table. Turkey is an awesome treat. It is something that many dogs don’t get throughout the year. It is low in fat, delicious and super easy to work with. Carrots are another Christmas dinner staple that work as a treat and also help with cleaning your dog’s teeth. Bonus!
5. Take a moment for the present – your dog is the gift that keeps on giving. There is no better gift than having a dog in your life. Take a moment to snuggle up with your dog, touch their fur, look into their eyes and connect with them. Our dogs offer us succour in a mad world and all too often we are too busy and preoccupied to even notice. Grab a moment with them. Show them your appreciation.
6. Give them the gift of your time – we all love to buy our dogs tons of toys when what they really want most is our time. Why not give your dog the gift of games every day in 2020 – promise that you will play at least one game every day for a year.
7. Ditch the routine and get creative – if walks are out, play games! Get the family involved. Many dogs love to work with children. Create the next generation of Gamechangers. Trick training is fab fun. Why not have a competition to see who can come up with the best game to teach your dog a new trick? This is a perfect way to keep the kids and the dog happy for a while!
Ditch the guilt and embrace the moment
Christmas in all its madness and busy-ness is a wonderful time. Enjoy it. The beauty of living a reinforcement rich, routine free, Gamechanger life is that our dogs are well equipped to deal with novelty and change. Christmas time can be a challenge for everyone, but there is so much fun to be had, and things to do, to appreciate and to revel in. Seek out the time when you can spend quality moments with your dog.
And during those other times, when lists are calling and people are arriving and things are busy and mad? Well, just relax, ditch the guilt, go with it and know that your dog is happy in their life with you. They’ll forgive you the odd day when your attention is diverted because you are the best present in their life and they know that you, Gamechanger, will be bringing the awesomeness when the Christmas madness is all done and dusted.