Holidays, special occasions, grilling out with friends, your child's sleepover party...there are a lot of reasons strangers, or casual friends come to your house. How can you make your dog, and your guests, comfortable, happy and safe during those times?
Who doesn’t like a party? There’s food, socializing, excitement, new people. If your dog is well socialized and loves people, chances are they love a party or get-together as much as you do. However, there are things that you need to think about before combining your dog and a party to ensure your dog, and your guests, all have a good time.
Evaluate Your Dog’s Comfort and Discomfort
You know your dog best. Think about how a holiday or special occasion might impact them. Are they good with kids? Noise? Strangers? Do they have a tendency to jump on people, bite, grow, get over excited, or bark a lot when there are people around? Do they beg for food when food is being prepared or served? As much as you might want to take the opportunity to socialize them, a party or large numbers of people may be overwhelming for them. If your dog has non-social behaviors, ie. jumping on people, humping people, growling, guarding toys or food, or becoming too excitable, protect them. Crate them, or put them in a bedroom and close the door. Play with them and walk them shortly before the event so they’re tired. Give them treats and toys so they’re not bored, and if people want to visit with them, limit it to a few people at a time.
Let Your Guests Know Your Treat Rules
Pet owners vary according to whether or not their dog gets treats. Some prefer a limited number of treats per day, or only certain kinds of healthy treats, or table scraps are okay, or no table scraps or “people food” at all, ever. Some owners prefer their dogs only eat at designated meal times. The times these preferences are most likely to be ignored, forgotten, or broken in some way is during the holidays or special occasions. That’s why it’s important to tell your guests what your rules are regarding treats and urge them to respect your wishes. If guests insist on breaking the rules and sneaking your dog treats after you’ve asked them not to, it may be time to put your dog away.
As humans we often break our own diets or restrictions to “treat” ourselves — so why not give our dogs a break too? Well, dogs aren’t people and when they see a rule broken they get confused. Dogs don’t reason like people do, and they don’t understand it’s special occasion. They’re more likely to think your power and dominance is weakening. So, they do what comes naturally, they challenge it and push the boundary (beg) to see if they can keep getting treats. It’s important to be consistent with your dog — so they feel safe and comfortable. Dogs actually like rules because that’s how packs operate in the wild.
Don’t Let the Dog Out
When people are coming and going, bringing in food or other items, standing in a doorway to chat, there’s a good chance your dog will find multiple opportunities to flee. If you have a gated yard, that’s one thing, but if your dog tends to “run like someone left the gate open,” that’s something else.
If your dog isn’t trained to stay inside unless invited outside, putting them in a room, crating them, or typing them up in the back yard may be your best option for keeping them safe. When you tell your guests about your treat rules, also let them know the dog should remain inside, and to watch to make sure the dog doesn’t run outside. If there’s any chance your dog will escape and run away, don’t depend on guests to watch out for them. Crate them, or put them in another area of your home until the party's over, or all guests are inside.
Dog Proof Your Decorations and Food
When there are a lot of people, noise, distractions and food around, your dog may be tempted to steal food off of tables, plates, or the garbage. They may also find decorations appealing for chewing on or playing with. If you have candles lit, they can get too close and catch a tail or their fur on fire, or knock over a candle and cause a larger fire. Try to avoid unattended or watched candles.
Electrical cords, small pieces they can swallow, and other hazards can ruin their evening and yours. So keep decorations out of reach of your dog, and make sure guests know to keep their food off of low lying tables. Garbage should be disposed of in a large, secured can or container your dog can’t get into, or turn over.
Give Your Dog a Bone
When it’s time for you and your guests to sit down to a meal, complete with nose tantalizing smells for your dog, put them in another room with a big beefy bone of their own. Not only will it distract them and give them something to chew on, they won’t be begging or picking up treats under the table.
Holidays, BBQs, get-togethers, dinner parties, and birthdays or social occasions of all kinds can be a great way for you and your friends to enjoy your dog. But make sure those special times are good times for your dog as well.