How to ensure your dog has the best Christmas ever, by top trainer Ben Randall

Dogs can enjoy Christmas just as much as their owners — and perhaps even more so. But there are a few things to be mindful of as we enter the festive season, as Ben Randall explains.

Christmas at my BG HQ in Herefordshire always includes all of our family members, especially the three dogs that live in the house. Everyone is treated the same and everyone has presents, including the dogs. My wife Nikki loves treating them and spends a lot of time choosing gifts and carefully wrapping them up.

In particular, Lady Tweed — our Border terrier — has an innate ability to open any present on command; it’s definitely her Christmas party trick. This unique talent allows her to rip off one inch of wrapping paper at a time and spread it all over the floor like confetti, before she actually reveals the present itself, which is usually a natural chew, a dog toy or something she can play with.

Our other two house dogs, Roe (a Bavarian Mountain Hound) and Nell (a black Labrador), do not possess this talent, so my two sons, Joe and Jack, open their presents for them. It’s become something of a ritual that we enjoy with them every year and never fails to raise a smile, not least because Nell, my perfectly behaved, retired gundog, doesn’t really understand what it’s all about and always looks at the present with a puzzled look on her face.

I do understand however, that some readers who have acquired a puppy or a dog this year might be nervous about the first festive season with a new canine companion in your home.

This is exactly the issue that J.S. from London is worried about, who shared his concerns via our email address:

Dear Ben, after wanting to take the plunge for ages I finally did it this year, adopting a rescue dog from a canine charity. However, she’s an inquisitive little thing and keeps sniffing around the decorations on the Christmas tree and is taking a keen interest in the presents beneath it. What can I do to make sure she stays out of trouble during the festivities?

Please don’t be overly anxious about Christmas and all the fuss and excitement that your dog will need to navigate. There are plenty of techniques that you can use to ensure that the holidays pass without a hitch.

I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years and know that prevention rather than cure, plus keeping things calm and consistent, is the best way to keep your dog happy and healthy at all times. You can learn more via @beggarbush on Instagram and my dog-training app (this link will let you get a free trial) or ask me your own question by emailing

Ben’s top five tips for ensuring your dog has a merry Christmas:

1. Be hyper alert about toys and treats that can be dangerous

We’re really careful about what we give the dogs in terms of their diet and safety during the Christmas period. Squeaky toys with insides that can be easily ripped are a no no, as is anything chocolate-related.

Once they’ve opened their presents, they go into a box and each dog is allowed to enjoy one at a time, so they don’t get too wound up or consume too many treats that might give them an upset tummy.

2. Remember, we are always training

When it’s the dogs’ turn to have their Christmas treat, we always make a point of making each of them sit and wait patiently for their reward.

Always be aware that, even on Christmas day, whether you have a young or an old dog, how you behave around them and what you ask them to do is building the foundation commands and further developing your trust, bond, partnership within the family environment.

3. Take extra care and attention when visitors arrive

Although visitors always have great intentions with our dogs, be mindful and alert to the possibility that, with younger children especially, they might take things like chocolates or sweets off the tree and give them  to your dog, who will happily consume them, which could be really dangerous, especially as chocolate is so toxic to dogs.

Before anyone arrives, we make time to ensure that our house is child proof in order to protect our dogs.

4. Involve young visitors in your training regime

One thing that I am very keen on as a dog-trainer is to educate children about how to act around our dogs as quickly as I can when they arrive. All children — especially my little niece, Amelia — love helping to train our dogs.

When guests arrive, our dogs are usually in their beds or a safe, calm place, such as their bed, so they don’t get too overwhelmed when people come in through the door laden with presents and bottles of wine, etc.

I make sure I show the children some simple techniques on how to give treats or presents to the dogs. Amelia absolutely loves our dogs — it’s the highlight of her visit to learn how to train the dogs with Uncle Ben — and she knows that the dogs always need to sit and wait patiently before she gives them a reward under my direction.

Sowing these small seeds not only maintains our dogs’ training, but also helps to encourage and inspire trainers of the future.

5. Maintain discipline on family walks

Although we want any walks to be super fun and relaxed for everyone, we don’t want things to go wrong or cause potential issues as far as our dogs are concerned. Always remember that, on most outings over the festive period, 90% of people are not working, so every environment is going to be much busier and distraction-filled than it would normally be.

So, get out in the fresh air and enjoy yourselves, but make sure you maintain your usual training regime of not allowing your dog to run off and completely ignore you. Encourage your charge to return to you regularly and remain engaged with you. I do this by taking a dummy or a toy on the walk, dropping it out of sight and asking my dog to run back to fetch it. You can also motivate your dog to keep checking in with you, by giving them calm praise when they come back to you or occasionally rewarding good and attentive behaviour with a piece of their usual food kibble.

For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit

This article was originally published in December 2023.