Holidays are family time, and that includes our fur babies. But unlike our real family (alright, maybe there are a few exceptions), spending time with our canine cohabitants can actually help reduce stress.

Along with just making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, studies suggest that regularly spending time with animals can help increase our oxytocin levels which leads to reduced anxiety and an overall enhanced mood, among other positive benefits. (If only seeing the in-laws could feel this good.)

So, this holiday season forget what’s on your wishlist, the best gift you give yourself might just be spending more time with your pup. Here’s our list of  5 ways to get in some serious bonding with your four-legged friend for a stress-free (well almost) holiday.

  1. Walk It Off

    When your surly uncle tells you to take a hike, do it. Remember to bring the dog. Not only will you get a chance to walk off some steam, but there’s also evidence to suggest that walking the dog can lead to lower body max index and fewer doctors visits.This is also the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the extra time off and immerse yourself in Mother Nature with a trip to a National Park that allows dogs.

    BONUS: If you visit a national forest, you can also reap the benefits of forest bathing (nudity optional), another practice that can lead to reduced stress and enhanced well-being.

  2. Roam with Rover

    Over the river and through the woods… Is holiday travel stressing you out? No need to ruff it (or draw straws on who has to share the bed with Fuller). Book a hotel room that allows pets. “Pleasant tactile interactions,” like petting your pup, are thought to play a role in the release of oxytocin, which in turn can help reduce stress. So by booking a room for you and your canine cohabitant, you can make the most of any downtime between family festivities by getting in some extra snuggles with your pup. Plus, there’s nothing like a little pampering for you and your pooch.

    BONUS: Making your pup a part of your travel plans can help remind you to stick to your daily exercise routine.

  3. Dine with your Dog

    Between the holiday parties to the family dinners, you might need a wingman. So, next time eating out is mentioned, go to a restaurant where you can bring your dog. Letting everyone gush over your adorable four-legged friend is the perfect icebreaker, and it could help reduce the anxiety that comes with awkward conversation. You might still end up the subject of your brother-in-law’s political rant. But it’s nothing that a few tail wags can’t help diffuse.

    BONUS: Heading out with your dog is the perfect time to show off your new matching holiday sweaters. (Like you needed an excuse.)

  4. Canines and Cabernet

    Does getting in the holiday spirit mean wine time? Now you can bring your precious pup. With corkhounds.com, you can find wineries and tasting rooms across the country that allow dogs. (Talk about tidings of great joy!) Plus, wine tasting can be a fun group activity, especially if you’re trying to find a way to fill time while family or friends are in town. Either way, this is a unique way to experience wine by getting to sip with your schnauzer by your side.

    BONUS: If you’re a red wine fan, you can also drink in the health benefits of resveratrol for good skin. Because those twinkling lights shouldn’t be the only thing glowing this holiday season.

  5. Get Beached with Benji

    Seas the day this holiday season (with your dog)! If you’re heading to a beach destination this winter, make your pup a part of the plan for the ultimate in fun under the sun. There are many dog-friendly beaches for the whole family to enjoy. Just make sure to pack provisions for your pooch like extra water, a towel, healthy treats (SmartyPaws) and possibly sunscreen.

    BONUS: Up the anti-stress benefits of beaching it with Benji by going for a walk or run in the sun. Plus, by soaking up some rays, you can also help your body produce vitamin D.

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Posted on November 20, 2018