It’s that festive time of year again when there are quite often more family gatherings and parties involving many people and dogs in the same space! In these types of environments there are some common situations that can occur, which can be stressful for both dogs and humans. These include:
- Barking at the sound of the door and people coming in
- Jumping up on people
- Taking food off the table
- Taking food out of children’s hands
- Not settling, e.g. pacing around people’s feet
- A guest who’s nervous of dogs
With regard to the dog barking at the sound of the door and when people enter the house, there are several things that you can do. These include control and management of the situation by putting a baby gate up and having the dog behind the gate in a different room or asking people to call when they arrive instead of ringing the doorbell. You could also train the dog to settle on a specific mat at the sound of the door, which involves teaching that the sound of the door and people arriving equals amazing things happen on the mat, e.g. they get delicious food on the mat. You could also answer the door while someone else plays with and engages with the dog in another room or takes them for a walk while people are arriving.
If you live with a dog that loves to jump up at people when they arrive you can teach them another behaviour to do at this time instead. This may be a “sit”, going to their bed or even teaching them to go and fetch a toy! This one can be really fun to do with your dog. If the dog is excited and just wants attention, ask your guests to only give attention when the dog has all four paws on the floor rather than when they jump up.
If you don’t want to share the food on the table with the dogs, then just keep it out of reach! If there are going to be children in the same environment as dogs, the easiest way to avoid the dog being tempted to take food out of a child’s hand is to ask the children to only eat at the table.
If your dog gets very restless when lots of people are in the house, for example they pace around and don’t settle, this could indicate that they are either anxious or over aroused. In this situation you could see if they’re more comfortable being in another room with something they really love, such as a stuffed Kong or a chew, you could take them for a really long walk including some mental stimulation too before people arrive, they could go to a friend’s for the day or you should consider asking someone else to host and not have lots of people round in the dog’s home if they’re not comfortable.
If one of your guests is nervous of dogs there are a couple of things that I would consider doing, I would speak to that guest and see if they would be willing to spend time with you and the dog before the event and maybe come for a walk with you. This way, the dog is engaged in the walk and they can both get used to the other one. If this doesn’t work or they don’t want to do that, then either maybe someone else can host or they consider not coming. In my opinion, it’s not fair if the dog is sent somewhere else for the day in this situation as it is their home.
In the majority of situations, it is a mixture of common sense and thinking about things from the dog’s perspective that prevents stressful events from happening. I hope everyone enjoys the festive period and has a great time with both dogs and people!