Hosting the holidays? Tips for good dog behavior

Photo: Mitchel / CC BY

The best part of the holiday season is spending time with family and friends. Chances are you will end up hosting some sort of event at your home, which is exciting, fun and so-so stressful, especially when you have a dog in the house. Visions of perturbed guests and a crazy, hyper dog may swirl through our head. But, it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. In fact, you can have an awesome holiday experience by following these tips.

Work with your dog beforehand
In the weeks leading up to your big event, spend some time reinforcing your dog’s training. Practice sitting, lying down and other commands you will use when your guests are over, and be sure to reward your pup for good behavior. Yes, your dog knows these skills already, but with practice, they’ll be top of mind when you need them most.

Exercise your pup before company arrives
A tired dog is more likely to be a well-behaved dog. Assign someone in the family to take Rover to the dog park or out on an extra long walk before people show up and wear out your pup as much as possible. The more tired your dog is, the less likely he or she will cause trouble.

Assess the situation
No situation is the same. First off, evaluate how your dog will react to the situation. For some dogs, it is overwhelming to have a full house of people they barely know. You may want to sequester that type of dog away in a bedroom away from the chaos. If they are especially skittish, place them in a kennel to give them an extra sense of security. For other dogs, being away from the action is far worse. These types of pups need to know who is in their house and what is going on.

Another thing to think about is your guests and their comfort level with dogs. Some families are full of dog lovers and more than happy to wrestle around with dogs and get coated in hair and slobber. Others barely have been exposed to dogs and are quite uncomfortable around them.

Thoroughly think about the needs of both your dog and your guests and then create a plan of action.

Prevent temptations, increase safety
Before your event begins, take 10 minutes to audit your home and get rid of any temptations or safety hazards for your dog. Make sure the food is far away from the edge of the counter, the poisonous plants (mistletoe, holly, poinsettias) are out of reach and dangerous items like ornaments, wires and batteries are put away. This sounds like a no brainer, but when you get busy preparing and time gets tight, you don’t always think about these things.

Set ground rules with guests
To ensure the best experience at your event, it’s OK to diplomatically suggest some tips for how to best interact with your dog. Nothing out of hand, of course. (“If fluffy barks at you, you must turn around and walk the other way!”)

But you can request that they don’t feed your pup people food or that they don’t pick up your little dog and play with him like a snuffed animal. Unfortunately, I’ve seen both of these happen at holiday events, mostly by non-dog people who don’t know better. You can either point this out if it happens, or if you have an idea a certain guest will do something you don’t approve of, find a polite way to prevent the behavior.

Correct bad behavior
The doorbell starts ringing and the guests start rolling in. Everything is fine until you see your dog doing something you disapprove of. For example, maybe your pooch stopped jumping up on people long ago, but with all this excitement he’s suddenly bouncing like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and putting his furry paws all over guests.

Stop the behavior right away. Take your dog aside and correct him. Let your pup know this behavior will not be tolerated for the rest of the day.

Relax and have fun
And don’t forget, relax and enjoy yourself. Dogs can sense your energy level. If they feel you’re hyper and stressed out, they’ll mimic your behavior. Stay calm and make sure you have a good time with your friends and family this holiday season. It’s good for your pup!

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