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28 November 2022


How Do I Train My Dog to Behave Around Guests?

Getting ready to host or attend holiday gatherings? Use these tips to help get your pup ready to be the star of the party.

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One of the best things about the holidays for many people is time with friends and loved ones. Having open houses and holiday parties is a big part of the season. However, for hosts (and houseguests) with dogs, these visits may need a little extra planning and coordination

Asking your dog to relax in your house full of delicious food and guests or in a stranger’s house full of food and guests is asking a lot. This may require training in advance or modifications to your plan to keep your guests and pup safe and having fun.  We’re looking at common scenarios and offering tips to help keep your pup (and party guests) on their best behavior.

Watch our video on how to get your dog to behave around house guests!

What should I do if my dog jumps on visitors? 

We know having people visit with pets and treats is the most exciting thing for a dog. So, when the door opens, your pup might not be able to contain themselves and start jumping at your dinner guests. While this behavior is generally regarded as impolite, it can also veer into dangerous territory. An overexcited large dog can easily (accidentally) knock down a child or older relative which can lead to injury. That’s why it’s important to help your pup learn to greet people with all four feet planted firmly on the ground. 

If you have an especially young puppy or a high-energy dog, you can set everyone up for success by not having the dog greet visitors at the door. 

  1. Have your guests come in and take any coats and packages while your dog waits in another room or in their crate. 
  2. Leash up your pup and bring them out to say hello. Some dogs have a cue for “go say hello,” but even if your pup doesn’t, you can have your guests ask your pup for a polite sit or have your dog in a stay before anyone goes in for the pets. 
  3. Ask guests to keep their voices and pets calm, as too many high-pitched excited voices and rougher pets can rile up an already excited dog. 
  4. If your pup relaxes, you can allow them off their leash, but if you have a young puppy and/or a lot of guests coming in and out, you may want to keep them leashed for the duration of the event so you can keep everyone safe and having fun. 
  5. Watch for signs that your pup is getting overwhelmed and offer them breaks as needed both to get out and go to the bathroom and to rest quietly in their crate or a part of the house that is off limits to guests, like your bedroom. 
House guests standing with dog

What can I do when my dog barks at houseguests? 

While music and chatter mean that holiday parties are usually anything but quiet, you might not be keen to add a barking dog (or dogs) to the mix. If your dog doesn’t know or suddenly forgets their quiet cue, there are some other things you can do to ensure peace in your home. 

In addition to barking out of excitement, your dog might also start barking when they feel overwhelmed, so, One of the first things you can do is to “make sure they have a quiet place to retreat to if they start to feel overwhelmed. Like their crate or a designated room in the house where they can go to take a break.” Suggests Ari Pomo, CPDT-KA dog trainer at Ollie. She further explains that “You can also try using calming treats or supplements, which can help to soothe your dog’s nerves.” So if you have a gathering coming up, add some Chill Pill supplements to your next Ollie delivery.

 Finally, remember that barking is your dog’s way of communicating. Look around to see what they might be trying to tell you. Is your dog’s water dish being blocked, or is it empty? Are they hungry because it’s their usual mealtime, or do they need to go to the bathroom? While it’s totally possible your pup is barking because of the change in routine, excitement, overwhelm, or to get the attention of your guests, it’s important to make sure all of their needs are being met during the event or gathering. 

How can I get my dog to leave my guests alone? 

While it might start out kind of cute, having your pup attach themselves to your mom or dad or one of the kids can quickly become a little problematic. Especially if your houseguest is used to using the restroom alone. 

If your dog is having trouble leaving guests alone, you may need to step in and manage the situation. You can limit where in the home your dog can interact with your guests. Maybe sitting on the couch together is fine, but your dog can’t go in the guest bedroom or be in the kitchen while everyone is eating. In addition to being frustrated, your pup may also be upset that their routine is disrupted. So, some distractions like fun enrichment toys or a snuffle mat may come in handy when you need to put some distance between your pup and your guests. 

How can I discourage my dog from begging for food? 

When you have guests, like during the holidays, there are often a lot of special and incredibly delicious foods being served. With all the yummy food and yummy smells, it may not be surprising that your dog is especially interested in what’s happening in the kitchen or at the buffet. So, it’s important to keep your pup from begging for their share since you don’t want them to overeat and risk getting sick. 

Ari says, “The best way to stop your dog from begging for food is to never give in to their begging in the first place. That means no table scraps, no matter how much they plead with those big, puppy dog eyes!” If this feels too cruel to you, consider making your pup their own plate with some pup-safe treats. Never feed from your plate or let your dog eat off the buffet. The latter can be dangerous if your dog accidentally helps themselves to something with grapes, raisins, or certain nuts, as these can be fatal. 

Ari also encourages pet parents to make sure everyone in the family is on board with not feeding the dog from the table (especially children). It can be hard to resist those cute little faces, but it’s important to be consistent if you want your dog to learn this behavior.

The bottom line? Getting your pup to behave around guests takes some work and management 

As pet parents, it’s your job to set your pup up for success at holiday gatherings (or make other arrangements if your pup doesn’t enjoy parties). 

Ari suggests that you make sure your pup has had plenty of exercise before a party or gathering so that they don’t have too much energy to burn off with everyone starting to arrive. 

She also encourages pet parents to stick as close as possible to their dog’s normal schedule. This includes both mealtimes and walks. While this can be a challenge during such a busy time of year, it can really help dogs feel more comfortable and secure. 

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.

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