Getting together with family and friends over the holidays is both one of my favorite things about the season and one of the things I most dread.
While it’s always a joy to see loved ones that I don’t get to see often throughout the year, I know that it’s going to be crazy stressful on my dogs.
If you’re in the same boat, keep reading for a few tips to help you get your dog ready for holiday guests!
6 Steps to Get Your Dog Ready for Holiday Guests
1. Decide where your dogs will spend the majority of their time
My niece and nephew are used to small dogs, and they’re kind of terrified of my two girls, a Pharaoh Hound and a Lab/Pit mix. While they’re here, we have to keep the dogs away from them.
For many of you, the crate will be the best option. My dogs hate the crate, pardon the rhyme. We contain them in the den just off the kitchen. We choose this spot because we can gate the doorway and let our dogs see everyone while still keeping them away from the little ones or any guests with dog allergies.
Whatever option you choose, decide early and get your dogs used to hanging on there.
2. Lay down ground rules with your guests before and during the visit
Let your guests know what to expect of your dogs (and how much they can demand regarding them) before they arrive.
For example, if you’re willing to contain your dogs during daytime visits but not at night, let guests know that while they are welcome to stay, your dogs will not be locked up the entire time.
Likewise, if your dogs are a bit overzealous when it comes to greeting guests, warn family with small children ahead of time so they know what to expect.
You’ll also want to make sure your guests understand your rules when it comes to feeding your dogs table scraps. When we visit my brother, we know not to give his dogs anything without asking first. My fur-nephew Owen is allergic to just about everything on the planet.
3. Reinforce the basic training commands
If your dogs don’t know the basic commands, like sit, stay, leave it, etc., now is a really good time to teach them! If they’re already pretty well-trained, just take a few minutes each day to brush up on the commands and reinforce them.
I recommend working on the training commands in the room where your dogs will be staying. Freya, in particular, seems to think that certain rules only apply when she’s in the living room. All bets are off in, say, the kitchen.
4. Stock up on special chew treats and toys
You’ll want to keep your dogs occupied during your family gatherings, so grab a few special treats or toys that they don’t get every day, then dole them out throughout the gathering.
The key is to go with chews and toys that are long-lasting. Bully sticks or dental chews are a good option for treats. If your dogs are on a special diet (and even if they’re not) sturdy “teething” toys make a great alternative. Freya has a rubber teething toy that she’s had since she was a baby (she’s two now), and she JUST finished destroying it a few days ago. I know what she’s getting in her holiday stocking!
Just a head’s up: plush toys are not a good option here, unless you have that magical unicorn dog that never destroys his lovies. My girls shred plush toy before I’ve even made it out of the room.
5. Give them a cozy place to relax and sleep
Whether your dog will be sleeping in a different room or just spending the afternoon there, make sure they have a comfy place to rest.
I am a big fan of large dog couches for two reasons: they’re comfy and they remind my dogs of the sofas where they usually rest during the day. Of course, you should choose the size and style that works best for your dog.
I highly recommend getting their new bed ahead of time, so they can get used to it. Again, reinforce the “lay down” command by putting a few training treats on the bed to entice them to use it.
6. Tire them out before company arrives
A tired dog is a peaceful dog! Before everyone arrives, take them out for a long walk or run around the back yard with them to tire them out. If guests will be staying overnight, make sure you schedule in some rigorous playtime each day while they’re there.
Too cold to take a long walk? Play some indoor training games! My Freya loves to play “dot.” She chases the laser pointer up and down the steps and all around the living room. Then she crashes for a few hours.
A little planning goes a long way towards preparing your dog for holiday guests. With a little extra care (and maybe some extra treats), there’s no reason why your dog and guests can’t harmoniously co-exist during family holiday parties.
How do you get your dog your dog ready for holiday guests? Please share them in a comment below!
About the Author:
Nicole Etolen is a writer and editor at DogVills.com, a site dedicated to helping both new and seasoned dog parents lead the very best lives possible with their canine companions. She’s a pet parent to two dogs, a Pharaoh Hound named Freya and a Pit/Lab mix named Mocha.