Prepare Your Dog for Holidays Guests + How to Get Your Dog Involved | Pupford
November 7th, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
The holidays are meant to be spent with family, friends, and loved ones -- four-legged included!
But if this is your dog’s first holiday season in your home, or you have extended family in town (among other things), it may be overwhelming to figure out how your dog will fit into the day.
Whether you’re having people in your home, worrying about counter surfing (and potentially eating something that could make them sick!), or unsure how they’ll handle all the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered.
Read on to learn the best tips for preparing your dog for holiday guests, and how to involve your dog safely and happily in your holiday celebrations.
Or check out this video for tips.
PREPARE YOUR DOG FOR HOLIDAY GUESTS
1. PRACTICE GREETING MANNERS
If you are hosting a holiday get-together, the last thing you’ll want is your dog jumping up on guests, especially children, older adults, or those who may not be used to dogs. Or worse, the hustle and bustle could cause your dog to run out the door.
Start now to get your dog ready for when guests show up at the door during the holidays.
The best way to prepare your dog is by teaching the “place” cue. That way, your dog will learn that when someone comes to the door, they should wait patiently in their place and will be greeted accordingly.
Here’s a quick summary of how to teach your dog place:
- Introduce the “place” cue and get your dog to go to their bed (or wherever you’d like them to go).
- Reward them while in their place
- Use a different cue to release them from their place
- Repeat, repeat, repeat!
For full steps and guidance on teaching place, check out our “Teach Your Dog the ‘Place’ Cue -- A Simple Guide” article.
And if you’re worried about door bolting, check out how to stop your dog from running out the door here.
2. PREPARE YOUR GUESTS
You don’t want your hard work teaching place to go to waste, so prepare your guests for what to expect. Set guidelines or boundaries for when they come in -- like not greeting your dog until they are relaxed in their place.
Also be sure to set expectations for interacting with your dog, since nobody knows your dog as well as you do. For example, be sure to let guests know how much attention your dog likes, and situations where they do not like attention (i.e. when they’re eating).
Although your guests should respect your boundaries, it’s also a good idea to share the body language cues that mean your dog is irritated or overwhelmed, so guests know when to back off.
Finally, prepare your guests for the possibility of your dog trying to use those big puppy dog eyes to get guests to share their dinner. Set rules about sharing table food with your pup so they don’t form bad habits or get sick.
Related Reading: How to Greet a Dog Safely
3. PREPARE FOR KIDS
If your dog is comfortable around kids, it shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment to have your dog around other kids during a holiday -- but it’s a good idea to keep an eye out to make sure your dog isn’t being made uncomfortable by anything that the kids are doing.
On the other hand, if your dog isn’t used to kids or is not quite comfortable around them, you can take steps to prepare your dog so there’s as little stress as possible. The key is to slowly introduce children to your home beforehand in a quiet, calm environment.
Either way, ensure your dog has a safe, calm place to go in case they get overwhelmed by your little guests. A crate is the ideal place but if you are not able to have your crate, a gated off room or dog bed will work too.
Related Reading: Dog Holidays Calendar
4. KNOW WHICH FOODS YOU CAN AND CAN’T SHARE WITH YOUR DOG
While you may be able to load up your plate during the holidays without a second thought, the same doesn’t go for your dog.
Knowing which foods are safe for your dog to eat and which should be avoided is important for a safe holiday gathering.
Some common holiday foods that are safe to share with your dog in moderation:
- Turkey (no skin, seasoning, or bones)
- Sweet or white potatoes (plain)
- Apples (with core, seeds and stems removed)
- Green beans (plains)
- Pumpkin (plain)
And these foods should be avoided, as they pose health risks:
- Turkey bones, skin, and gravy
- Onions, scallions, garlic, chives, leeks
- Seasonings and spices
Print out the PDF version of this graphic here.
For a full explanation, along with hidden dangers in holiday meals and how to include your pup during holiday mealtime, take a look at our Thanksgiving food guide.
And if you’re looking for a simple reference guide for what fruits and vegetables your dog can or cannot eat (including a printout for your fridge!) check out our article Fruits and Veggies Dogs Can and Can’t Eat.
5. GIVE YOUR DOG PLENTY OF EXERCISE
Exercise in the days leading up to the holidays will help your dog be calmer, better behaved, and happier while your guests are here. It will also help them not get so overwhelmed if there are a lot of new people around or in a new environment.
Keep in mind that exercise doesn’t just mean walks. While that’s certainly a great option, it’s not the only one.
And if cold temperatures or bad weather is a concern, there are still plenty of ways to give your dog the physical and mental exercise they need. Indoor exercise is just as effective as outdoor, and can be a really fun way to change up your routine.
Here are 21 ideas for exercising your dog indoors.
6. BRUSH UP ON THE BASICS
While you never need an excuse to make sure your dog’s manners and skills are top notch, holiday preparation is a great opportunity to brush up on training.
Crate training, basic skills, and greeting manners -- practice, practice, practice in the weeks leading up to your holiday event for the best response.
You can find videos and resources led by certified trainers in the Pupford Academy. The trainers cover a number of topics from crate training to enrichment activities, to addressing problem behaviors and so much more!
7. HAVE FUN!
The holidays are a time to have fun with friends and family -- dogs included! Make sure to have fun and create memories with the dogs in your life this year.
Invite your dogs to join your family photos, get them fun enrichment toys and treats, and involve them in your fun traditions. After all, they are family!
We’d love to hear how you involve your dog in the holidays and see pictures of your most festive pups. Share in the comments below or by tagging us on Instagram!