During the Christmas season, schedules fill up with visitors, parties, Christmas shopping, baking, family time, and delicious long draughts of eggnog by the fire. It is important in the midst of all the bustle, to see that our loyal pets don’t just get thrown to the wayside, or neglected in all the thrills and excitement. Here are some fun ways you can include your dog or cat in the festivities instead of allowing them to become a nuisance or an inconvenience. After all, prioritizing your pet is a great way to stay off of Santa’s “naughty” list!

Take a family Christmas card photo: There are plenty of humorous or original ways to jazz up your Christmas card by adding your canine or feline buddy. Have everyone in the family wear matching Christmas sweaters (that means Rover gets one too!) and gather around the fireplace place for an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” shot. Hang some mistletoe, and hold up your kitty so everyone can give him a kiss for the picture. If you live by the beach, go build a “snow man” out of sand, and pose with your pooch next to him. If you are in a more “wintery” setting, get everyone a Santa hat and take a picture in the snow outside – but make sure your kitty and your pup have on their reindeer antlers for the picture!

Stroll down Christmas Tree Lane. Most towns have an area where everyone on the block decorates their houses with Christmas lights. Instead of taking your dog out for a walk around your own neighborhood, bundle everyone up (this might include dog or cat booties if you live in a snowy or icy area) and go to the neighborhood with the most Christmas decorations! It will be fun to explore a new area filled with fresh sights and smells with your eager pet!

Go on wintery exercise excursions. There is nothing like a frosty walk in the morning, or a snowy hike before dinner to get your blood pumping! As long as your pet has the proper winter wear and protection for his feet, this would be a great way to help him get a good work out in winter. If you want to go build a snowman or collect kindling, bring your dog along with you whenever you go for a romp in the woods!

Organize a pet-centered cookie exchange. But this time, instead of making goodies suitable for humans only, enlist some of your pet-parent friends to each make a batch of homemade dog biscuits, or kitty treats. This is a great way to bless your friends, and enjoy baking without adding extra pounds to your waistline during the dessert-heavy holiday season. Plus your pet will be so happy to have a variety of new treats to chomp on!

Bring your dog Christmas Caroling! If your pup is particularly talented, (like some singing and warbling Huskies and Dachshunds we can think of), bring your pet Christmas Caroling with you, and see if he will go for those high notes in “O Holy Night.” Some dogs love howling away when their owners sing, and even if he gets tongue tied, the walk will do your dog good, and bring even more cheer to whoever opens the door.

Put on a Christmas play, and cast your pets! Nothing is more adorable than children lisping out Christmas songs, and dressing up as angels as Joseph and Mary put baby Jesus in the manger in front of all the relatives. Maybe your wooly Golden doodle could have a winning role as the camel carrying gifts from the three kings, or maybe your Pomeranian can play a sheep carried by the visiting shepherds. This will give your children a chance to add one of the favorite pals to the performance, and it presents a great opportunity to practice training the dog to display obedience during the show.

‘Tis the season to give good gifts. Does your pet need some extra pampering? Christmas is a great time to sign your dog up for that blueberry facial you have heard so much about, or a massage, or deluxe package at the groomer’s. Better yet? Order some gourmet pet food and treat your kitty to a quail dish, or your dog to some seasoned lamb. When in doubt, getting a new pet toy is always a great idea!