The holidays are a time for visiting with friends and family, but your dog might not love the out-of-the-ordinary excitement. Watch for signs that your dog might be getting overwhelmed by guests and use the tips below to keep him and your visitors comfortable, safe and happy.
Signals Your Dog is Stressed by Holiday Guests
- Your dog slinks off into a corner, trying to be alone.
- Your dog is repeatedly yawning or licking his lips. This indicates your dog is stressed.
- Your dog keeps turning his head to the side when someone approaches him. This is a stress signal called a “Look Away” and indicates that your dog is uncomfortable.
- Your dog growls at someone. Do not punish your dog for growling! Instead thank him for letting you know something is wrong and remove him from the situation immediately.
- Your dog is pacing or panting.
- Your dog is drooling excessively. Excessive salivation indicates stress.
- Your dog is unusually hyperactive, this indicates over-stimulation.
If you see any of these signs, simply remove him from the situation. This is the kindest thing you can do for your dog before he gets overwhelmed. Put him in his crate in a quiet room and shut the door to the room. Add a note asking visitors not to enter. Put a baby gate across the doorway if there are children around.
While he is removed from guests, give your dog a marrow bone or stuffed kong to chew. Chewing is a good stress reliever. Perhaps play some quiet music (there is music designed to calm your dog and help him relax. Visit www.throughadogsear.com and you can listen to samples on their website as well.)
Removing Your Dog Prior to Guests’ Arrival
If your dog has a history of growling or barking at visitors, please remove your dog from the scene before visitors arrive. You can crate him in another room for the duration of the visit (if it is short) or board him overnight for longer visits. Please keep this in mind, especially if you have lots of children visiting and your dog is not 100% comfortable with them.
Don’t Let Your Dog Overwhelm Guests
Keep in mind that not everyone will love your dog’s face kisses as much as you do. Some guests might even be afraid of him. One solution is to provide a bed for your dog in the main socializing room. Ask your dog to go to his bed and stay there so he can be present without being underfoot. Provide him with a marrow bone or stuffed kong to keep him busy. If your dog is at risk for knocking over an elderly family member, keep your dog tethered to a heavy piece of furniture to keep him in his spot. Never leave a tethered dog unattended.
Ask your guests (including children) not to pat your dog on top of his head or stare him in the eye because these actions make dogs uncomfortable. Let your guests know a better way to interact with your dog, like petting him on the chest. If your dog knows the Touch cue, Touch is a great thing for guests to do with your dog. Ask children not to run and scream in the presence of the dog or pat him without adult supervision. Don’t leave dogs and kids unsupervised.
Not every guest will respect the way you want your dog to be treated, unfortunately. Visitors might tease your dog, yell at him, or otherwise harass him. This is absolutely is not okay! If you see your guest interacting with your dog in a way that upsets you, you must be his advocate. If someone will not respect how you want your dog to be treated, remove your dog from the situation and do not allow your dog to interact with this person.
The holidays can be a busy time, but a little extra attention given to your dog’s signals can help everyone have a pleasant and safe visit. If you think he might be overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to sneak off with him for a break away from the visitors, you might just need it too.
By Pampered Pets Lead Trainer Valerie Balwanz PMCT, CPDT
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