Prep Your Dog for Holiday Guests – 6 Things “To Do”

Cody enjoying a stuffed Kong, while Willow lies patiently during a 2012 Holiday Party

Oh no, it can’t be!  Those two words that always make me cringe the first time I hear them:  The Holidays.  Yes, indeed, it’s that time of year again.  Before I remember the warm fuzzy feelings of how lovely the Holidays can really be, my mind runs to everything I need to get done before those days arrive, including preparing my dogs for greeting a host of known and unknown guests.

Most people think a dog trainer’s dog has perfect behavior.  Does any PERSON have perfect behavior?  No.  Dogs are no different.  And, of course, it all depends on your definition of perfect.  Perfect to me means a friendly, social dog who enjoys being with me, with my friends, easily accepts unknown visitors in my presence and is an active part of my life.  Does my dog jump on guests?  Yes, sometimes.  Does my dog bark when guests arrive?  Yes, sometimes.  We rarely have people to our home and thankfully when we do, our dogs are excited and happy to see our visitors.  I work with too many dogs who are fearful and aggressive with unknown people, so consider yourself lucky if your dog is exuberantly happy when company arrives.

Here are 6 things TO DO to help you and your dog survive the onslaught of Holiday guests:

  1. Physical Exercise:  Make sure your dog gets plenty of regular off leash exercise, but particularly on the day guests are to arrive.  Throw a ball.  Play tug.  Go for a hike with your dog. If you’re physically unable to walk or run with your dog, buy a Flirt Pole, a piece of exercise equipment for dogs that entices a dog to chase a fast moving lure.  My girl, Willow, loves the game and during the game, it’s a great way to work on impulse control.
  1. Mental Stimulation:  Give your dog some brain work an hour before guests arrive. Brain work can tire a dog as much as physical exercise.  Use an interactive food puzzle toys there are hundreds to choose from these days or play the Find It Game.
  1. Put Your Dog on Leash:  With your dog on leash when guests arrive you can prevent your dog from jumping on guests and also reinforce your dog with a food treat for any calm behavior, preferably sitting, when guests approach.
  1. Give Your Dog Something to Do:  With children or grandchildren we give them games to play or books to color.  With dogs, stuff several Kongs (a rubber toy with hollow center) with something you dog loves (soft cheese, peanut butter, soft dog food) and let your dog enjoy these throughout the evening.
  1. Teach an Incompatible Behavior:  If you teach you dog to Go to Mat at the sound of the doorbell, then your dog won’t be jumping on guests.
  1. Crate Your Dog:  If your dog is too exuberant or fearful when new guests are in your home, it’s oftentimes easier for you and your dog to crate them in another room of your home with a stuffed Kong to enjoy and keep your dog busy.

    Cody sleeping peacefully amongst the party-goers.
Willow’s tired out from the pre-party exercise, the during-the-party Kongs and the enjoyment of our friends.

Whatever you do, don’t complain about your dog’s short comings.   Make a decision to teach them what you want them TO DO.  In essence, quit complaining and start training.  You AND your dog will be much happier!

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level 2, a dog*tec Professional Dog Walking Academy Instructor, a Peaceable Paws Canine Behavior & Training Academy Instructor and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina.  She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities for dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S.


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