by Stacy Braslau-Schneck
Holiday guests can be exciting, but they might also be more than your dog had on his wish list.
Preparation is the best way to make sure your seasonal entertaining goes well.
Give Your Dog a Break
Does your dog really have to play host? Consider giving the dog his own space in a quiet part of the house -- like his crate in the bedroom -- or perhaps give him a complete respite from the madness with a day or two at a doggy day care or boarding place.
This is especially important for shy, fearful or overly excitable dogs (especially if there's any chance that an injury might occur). This gives you an opportunity to play host, without having to worry about your dog's behavior, while your dog gets a fun vacation!
If you're going to try to train your dog, start weeks before the guests come and do fire-drill practices.
Guests Are Good!
If your dog is hesitant about meeting new people, ask all of your guests to give your dog a few treats as they come in -- and then tell them to ignore your dog. Many people seem to feel that if they've handed out treats, they've earned the right to touch any dog. Explain that your dog won't be ready to socialize until he's really warmed up, so it's best that they initially keep their hands to themselves.
Dog-loving guests and children can often be overwhelming for a dog. Don't be shy about telling guests (of any age) to tone it down if you think your dog is being overwhelmed. Notify guests that your dog doesn't like being petted on the top of his head (unless of course he's one of the rare ones that do); direct them to pet his chest instead. I often tell children or strangers that a particular dog is a look-but-don't-touch type. Often a toy works great between strangers' fingers and your dog's jaws; get the insistent dog-fan to play fetch or tug (by the rules!) instead of roughhousing or chasing.
Keep Routines and Rules
Make sure your guests know the household rules -- whether the dog is allowed on the furniture, and whether the dog is to be left alone near his bed or food bowls. If you keep a fairly consistent routine through the rest of the year, try to keep it up through the holidays as much as possible. You might both appreciate that morning walk away from the madness even more!
If you do change your routine, be sure to give your dog plenty of opportunities to go potty outside. Often the chaos results in a few accidents from missed chances (and perhaps unfamiliar treats).
Finally, while it may be tempting to let your dog join in on the feast, try to resist the temptation; a number of edibles are poisonous for dogs (chief among them being chocolate and alcohol).
Stacy Braslau-Schneck is a longtime dog trainer and a professional member of the Association of Dog Pet Trainers. She works closely with the Human Society Silicon Valley and is the owner of Stacy's Wag'N'Train, which offers small group classes and private lessons in San Jose, Calif
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Pets | Dogs: Help Your Dog Cope With Holiday Guests