The holidays seem to bring so much – cheer, good will, presents, food, and fun! They can also introduce guests to your home, where you have a dog.
Handing the holidays is tough enough, but if you have a dog that is not exactly a social butterfly can make it far more stress filled. What do you do? Lock him away? Put him a kennel? Tell your guests to not come? Let him mingle?
It is a complex answer as every situation can be different, however we will try to boil down some thoughts and experiences for you to consider. Not every experience is the same and as always, you know your dog and guests best, so err on the side of caution!
Mr. McBarky Doorman – Yes, some dogs bark when people come to the door. They can growl, scratch at the door or other notifications of the sort. Typically a dog will do this out of fear or being startled. It should not be condoned but it often is challenging to stem off. First try and put a barrier between the door and your dog permanently. A gate is excellent if the layout allows. This way he can hear and see, but not touch. You can get him to quiet then open the door, without having to try and hold him back at the same time. Use a spray bottle of water to get him to sit and calm down. Ask him to “go to your mat” or some other designated place so he is not focused on the person entering the door. It takes practice but it is worth the time and effort.
Charge! – If you do not have a gate just remember, they train dogs to fight by holding a collar when they are upset then letting go. NEVER hold a dog back by the collar. This will excite them and have them work up a real lather before you let go and they make contact with your guest. Instead use a leash or simply walk them to another room until your guest is settled.
Kennels – For Great Danes putting a dog in a kennel off site from your home can be very traumatizing. If they are used to doggy daycare or using that particular kennel it might make sense over the holidays. But if not, try getting a Colossal Crate (for Danes) or sacrificing a bedroom to allow the dog to be in the home, but not mingling with your guests. Some dogs do great with all types of people and animals, some do not. Even if you have another dog coming over your dog would be just fine in a room with a TV and soft bed to lay on after you get him settled. When you need to take him out for a potty break, you go out the back while the visiting dog is in a room or out front. Simple coordination and communication can keep dogs in their homes over the holidays and not have to mingle. If you do not have the space maybe a neighbor they know or a friend can have the dog over it its just a few hours. This is all dependent on your dog’s ability to trust and be alone. These are ideas only!
Kids – If your dog is not used to kids and your guests are only coming for a few hours it may not be worth the effort to allow mingling. It can be a time to introduce them supervised for a bit and let them get socialized, but given the busy nature of the holiday season, eventually the two will be unsupervised with kids who don’t live with dogs don’t know the rules. Remember dogs interpret things much differently. A tug on the ear, or a poke to the head from this little human they don’t understand could cause undo stress. If the guests are here for the week or more, then gradually you can see how your dog does but NEVER have the two alone unsupervised, and always make sure the dog also gives kids space through a verbal correction when they get too close (face to face for instance). There are a million articles on kids and dogs – well worth the research!
Eating – Never feed your dog in the same kitchen there are a hundred guests coming and going from; Even though he might be used to eating there, think of things from his perspective. He might not be food aggressive but he also doesn’t understand why all these humans are around him. It is simpler to be safer and feed him in a closed off bathroom, mudroom or porch (heated!) such that he can enjoy his food solo!
Food – You need to be diligent about reminding guests not to feed your dog human food and what foods are toxic to your dog. Also what to do if your dog does consume a large amount of a toxic food – know where your ER vet is on a holiday! Here is an article on toxic foods for dogs; http://www.caninejournal.com/foods-not-to-feed-dog/
As always you need to see the world from the eyes of your dog to know what the best setup is for success. Err on the side of caution and give him some space. While you want to see your guests, he may not be all that into it! If your dog is super social then have a great day – just keep an eye on the guests that they don’t feed him that onion dip and all will be well.
From GDRNE – have safe, fun and furry holidays!