Get Ready for Guests

As the holiday season descends upon us, along come family and friends.  It’s a fun and busy time of year.  If you have confidence in your dog’s hosting qualities, hats off to you.  If you have a few nagging doubts, here is a pre-season checklist to consider.

Guest and Party Basics

Let’s start at the beginning.  The doorbell rings.  An attached leash or drag line can help set up for success.  Dogs can be de-sensitized to the sound of the doorbell, too.  This makes a polite set up to incoming guests easier.  What is your dog’s ritual when guests arrive?  Train in a “sit and wait” cue to change his ritual to a calm and polite welcome.

Moving on to food and drink….  Parties involve a sumptuous spread of great food.  What a potential haul for a counter-shopping, food-snagging canine!  Train in a “leave it” avoidance cue as well as a “go to your spot/down/stay” cue.  Set up for success by providing your dog with compelling self-engagement, such as a food-stuffed toy, antler, or hooves.  This strategy also helps redirect excessive attention-seeking behaviors.

Have a Plan

Puppies and young dogs are especially susceptible to the over-stimulation that comes with guests and parties.  Nervous dogs aren’t comfortable with “out of the ordinary” commotion either.

In addition to menu planning, have a plan for your dog.  Pre-party walks and playtimes expel energy.  Use a crate in a quiet, but not remote, area.  Set up your dog in the crate about 10-15 minutes before guests arrive to avoid reinforcing undesirable behaviors.  After arrival – when the dust has settled – allow your dog a brief and under control (on the leash) greeting.  Do this only if you want to take the time and are confident your dog can remain below a threshold to process your “sit and wait” cue.  Any sign of over-arousal, calmly exit back into the crate.

Be fair by providing your dog with a stuffed toy or yummy chew while crated.  Start now to condition your dog to time in his crate while the family is home.  Party day is too late to start!  (See Blog article – The Crate:  Beyond Housetraining.)

Safety First

Everyone knows about the dangers of dogs’ ingesting chocolate, grapes, poinsettias, gift wrapping materials and decorations.  During the busy holiday season, be aware of items left on the counter.  Even a dog who doesn’t routinely shop the counter can be tempted!   Dogs are opportunistic scavengers by nature.

Door dashing is dangerous.  Ask your dog to “sit and wait” – even if it’s for a second while you bring in a box from the front porch.  Mind the candles!  Some dogs love to fling plush toys around.  A dog, moving around the house playing, can bump into furniture in a heartbeat.

Years ago, my adolescent German Shepherd Dog, ate the bottom branches of the Christmas tree.  Thankfully, that feast didn’t include any decorations.  AND – this behavior was evident sooner rather than later…..


Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2015 all rights reserved


Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC