If you plan to have family knocking on your door December 24th, it’s very important to prepare your dog for holiday guests. The last thing you need is your dog barreling into your mother-in-law after she cracks your door open. From greeting family at the door, to enduring the stress of a packed house, the holidays can be an overwhelming time for dogs and dog owners. With a little bit of preparation, you and your dog can be prepared to enjoy Christmas, New Years, and any other festive celebrations that pack people into your house.
Environmental changes are difficult on any dog. It’s important to identify your dog’s weaknesses. If this holiday season will be like others that your dog has experienced, you probably already know his or her weaknesses. If this particular holiday will be crazier than normal, try to anticipate areas in which your dog will struggle, based on his or her current behavior. Work specifically on those weaknesses for weeks, if not months ahead of time. We’ll review a few of the most common weaknesses and preparation tactics in the points below.
How to Prepare Your Dog for Holiday Guests
1. Practice Front Door Greetings
If you dog is uncontrollable with a delivery person at the door, you can’t expect him to maintain sanity when a pile of guests come into the house. Here’s how you can train your dog to be ready when friends and family knock on your door.
Make sure your dog a solid grip on “sit” and “stay” before starting.
1. Tie a leash on your dog
2. Have her sit next to the front door.
3. Get a friend or family member to knock on the door or ring the doorbell once.
4. Allow your dog to go through his process of sitting, jumping, or barking.
5. Have your dog sit and stay again in the same spot.
6. Start to open the front door.
7. If your dog gets up to look through the door (which he will), close the door and reinforce “sit” and “stay” in the same spot.
8. REPEAT 6 and 7 until your dog stays as the door is opened.
9. Have your friend come in, walk by you and your dog, ignoring you both.
10. If and when your dog tries to greet (or attack) the guest, reinforce “stay” in the same spot.
11. REPEAT until your dog allows the friend to walk by without getting up.
12. Remove the leash, and try it a few more times.
Use this exact same method of “sit” and “stay” when your actual guests arrive. Then, relieve your dog from the stay position once the guests are comfortably in the home.
2. Teach Your Guests Boundaries
Unless your guests are all hard-core dog people, your friends and family will probably do something that may put your dog at risk of misbehavior. Be sure to lay out the ground rules right away, especially for kids. Don’t be pushy. Request calmly, and most people will remember and respect your requests.
Here are some starter ideas for holiday grounds rules and advice for guests:
- How much attention your dog likes
- Signs your dog gives that he or she is annoyed
- Human food regulations
- Areas your dog doesn’t like being touched
- Sounds your dog doesn’t tolerate well
- Area in the house where your dog likes privacy
3. Prepare for Kids
A dog biting and injuring a child is every dog owners nightmare. If you have a little cousin Johnny that loves to hug, kiss, and torture your introverted dog, you need to be prepared. Like we said in the last point, it’s important to establish boundaries ahead of time. However, with kids, you should prepare for the worst.
If your dog is good with kids, keep and eye on her to make sure she doesn’t exhibit any microaggressions during play. If a child does something that may irritate your dog, be sure to stop it before it gets out of hand.
If your dog doesn’t love kids, start with the kids. Introduce your dog to the kids, and show them how they can pet and play with the dog from a distance your dog is comfortable with. We’ll talk about this more in point 6, but make sure your dog has a safe place to escape if the action is too much. Be sure to spruce up on basic obedience training.
4. Be Careful With Food
Before Thanksgiving, we wrote an article about popular holiday foods that can kill dogs. Chances are, the human food laying around this Christmas could be fatal to your dog. Even the most well-behaved dogs may not be able to handle a plate of juicy human food left on the edge of a table. Make sure you educate yourself, educate your guests, and make sure human foods are kept far out of reach. Again, basic obedience training will prove useful on this one.
If you don’t want to risk it, there’s nothing wrong with crating your dog around human meal times. That’s much easier than cleaning up your dog’s vomit.
5. Get Some Exercise
No matter what dog breed you have, don’t neglect exercise around the holidays. Give your dog plenty of exercise before guests arrive. If they are staying multiple days, make sure to take some time away to get him extra exercise. It’s easy to forget with friends and family around. Go walking, running, play fetch, do whatever your dog enjoys. Dog behavior almost always improves dramatically with proper exercise.
6. Establish a Safe Zone
One of the best ways to take care of your dog during the stress of the holidays is to give him a place to escape away from the chaos. Crate training is an awesome way to do this. Typically, dogs love their crate during the holidays. Make sure everyone else is aware of your dogs safe zone, so they can respect it as well.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
As much as you can, replicate situations you may encounter over Christmas. Have a get-together ahead of time with some friends and see how it goes. Practice door greetings, like discussed in point 1.
The more practice you can do, the better. It will not only prepare your dog, but it will prepare you as well. You have to be ready to command your dog appropriately, or even remove her from a situation if necessary.
As always, refine your dog’s obedience training. Training is not only a great way to bond with your dog, it can get your out of a lot of sticky, stressful situations over the holidays.
How do you prepare your dog for holiday guests? Let us know in the comments below!