4 Ways to Prep Your Dog for Holiday Company

Here’s how to help your dog be on his or her best behavior when you have a houseful of holiday guests.

Rebecca Golian has 15 years of experience in dog training and behavior modification. She joins us monthly to offer advice on building trust and respect with our four-legged family members.

Have houseguests this holiday, or headed to a loved one’s home with your four-legged family member?

There’s no doubt many dogs love the extra attention, treats and table scraps that “accidentally” hit the floor during seasonal gatherings.

But keep in mind the festive noise and unfamiliar faces and places can be stressful for them, too.

To help you both enjoy the week ahead, we’re bringing you our best tips for prepping your dog for holiday gatherings. Let’s dig in.

Brush up on the “place” command

This is an essential obedience command any time of year, but it’s especially helpful in a hectic holiday environment. “Place” helps teach dogs to relax, which allows them to be included in our holiday festivities without being “in the way.” It’s also key to preventing unwanted behaviors like barking for attention, jumping on guests and counter surfing.

Bring out the reinforcements

If your dog hasn’t mastered “place,” consider using a crate or keeping him or her on a leash so you have control over his or her behavior. This is particularly useful around distractions when your dog isn’t yet under voice control.

Remember, we have to teach dogs how to focus and be obedient when their surroundings compete with us for their attention. We can’t expect them to listen amid the fun and excitement of a houseful of company when we haven’t done the proper training prior.

Be mindful around children

If your dog hasn’t been socialized around children, or he or she is uncomfortable around kids, it’s best to keep them separated. In particular, dogs shouldn’t be left alone with small children – especially ones they don’t know well.

Dogs communicate with their mouths. If a child does something your dog doesn’t like or finds threatening, you could be risking a potential nip or bite. Triggers can be anything from well-intentioned hugs or face-to-face snuggles to rowdier interactions like tail-pulling and chasing.

If being around kids is relatively new, it’s safer and less stressful for all involved to let your dog enjoy the gathering in peace in his or her crate or even a separate room.

Get some exercise

My final tip for preparing your dog for your holiday get-together: Make sure he or she gets some exercise prior to when your guests arrive. Exercise isn’t a substitute for training, but it’s vitally important for every dog and might help yours stay a bit more calm during all the commotion.

Whether you’re headed over the river and through the woods or the company is coming to you, we wish you and your pups a happy, calm and well-behaved holiday season!

About Rebecca Golian

Rebecca Golian is a licensed and certified professional dog trainer and the owner of Love in the Lead Canine Training, which offers dog training, behavior modification and a service dog training program. She lives in Charlotte with her dogs Benji and Mistletoe.

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Have a dog training or behavior question for Rebecca? Send it to us at contact@dogclt.com and she’ll answer it in an upcoming column.

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