I know everyone in Northeast Ohio is saying this, but I truly “can’t believe it’s November”! With the holiday season upon us, whether you’re traveling or not, let’s take a moment and consider how our dogs fit into the Thanksgiving plans.
Managing an excited dog and having guests over is a common conundrum for pet owners; however, it is possible to spend quality time with your guests while managing your dog’s behavior. In this post you’ll find tips to help you prepare your dog for guests, and also ways to manage your dog’s behavior after the company arrives. This is sure to help you and your dog get the most out of the holidays.
Preparing for guests:
- Do you occasionally slip Fido a little bite of your dinner? Though it’s tempting to pass a snack to your dog, this only creates a dog who begs, and one who ends up begging all the time. If you really can’t help giving your dog something from your meal, use it as a food bowl bonus. This simply means that while your dog is enjoying their kibble from the bowl, you drop in a tasty treat. We mainly use this as a prevention tool for resource guarding, but it’s something to keep in mind if you really want your dog to have a nugget from your dinner.
- Does your dog go crazy when they hear a knock on the door? Condition the sound of a knock or the doorbell. To do this, position some treats out of sight or in a small container near the door and enlist a volunteer to act as the guest. As soon as your dog hears the knock or the doorbell, start popping those treats in their mouth. As you continue practicing this, your dog will begin to look at you for reinforcement when they hear someone at the door.
- Is your dog a jumper? Hint: read this blog post for tons of anti-jump exercises. The most important thing you can begin doing today, is stop reinforcing the jumping with yelling or pushing your dog away from you. Instead, ask for a sit and then give attention or a food reward.
- There’s a counter-surfer in the house! Are you worried your dog will steal the turkey? Start giving time outs for any counter-surfing.
- Exercise! It may seem like a given, but don’t forget to take your dog for a walk before the guests arrive. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog, so use that to your advantage!
- Have your dog on leash. If your dog is close to you, they are less likely to get in trouble or jump on your guests. You are also able to quickly reinforce the good behavior, and time out or ignore the unwanted behavior.
- Give your dog something special. This is the time to have a stuffed kong (or two) in the freezer. A kong stuffed with something high value (canned dog food; pumpkin mixed with kibble) is a great way to keep your dog occupied just as guests are arriving.
- Designate one person to “dog duty”. If you are in charge of the family meal, assign a trusted family member or friend to keep your dog in check. Make sure they have treats and know which behaviors to reward.
- Give your dog a break. Is the event too overwhelming for your dog? Maybe it’s just too much for your dog to be involved in the festivities, or there are lots of kids, and your dog isn’t used to children. In this case, a crate is a wonderful tool. If your dog needs to hang out in the crate, this is another opportunity to give them a stuffed kong. Remember, your dog’s safety and the safety of your guests is most important. Keep tabs and watch for any signs that your dog is getting overwhelmed.
- Baby gates aren’t just for babies. If your dog doesn’t have a crate, or you’d like them hang out in a hallway or a certain room, use a baby gate to safely keep them contained. I brought out the baby gate when my daughter had a friend over who was terrified of dogs. My dogs were able to stay in the kitchen and office with me, while the kids played in the rest of the house.