Pets and Holiday Guests: 5 tips for better time together

For many of us, the holidays involve spending more time with family and friends – and often they’re at our house. And while that may make you start planning the shopping, cleaning and cooking, it’s important to also plan for your pets. Their house is about to be invaded, so you need to make sure it all runs smoothly – for your pets’ sake, and your guests’.

So, how can you prepare your pets for extra guests this holiday season?

  1. Respect allergies. These days, many people are allergic to cats, dogs or both. Just like you may ask about food allergies before preparing dinner, ask ahead of time about pet allergies. If your guests are allergic, first tell them about your pets (they may have to cancel the visit). If they can still attend, be sure to lock up the pets away from common areas, run the vacuum right before visitors come over, and change out sheets, towels, and other soft materials where fur may have stuck. It may seem like a pain, but it sends a better message than letting your cat run free while your guests suffer.
  2. When guests don’t like dogs: Keep the dog away. Don’t try to “win over” guests with your well behaved dog. This one holiday visit is not the time to try to dissuade your guests of a long-held fear (even if your dog is super cute). Dogs read body language, and even well-behaved dogs may get nervous or act out when a visitor is clearly scared. It’s best to keep dogs completely away from scared visitors, so put the dogs in a crate or closed room.
  3. When guests like dogs: Don’t let them be indulgent. Your friends and family may very well be “dog people” who are happy to play with your dogs, and don’t complain when jumped up on or licked incessantly. But your dog shouldn’t be allowed to forget all his manners. Tell your guests that it’s OK for them to say no to your dog. And if your dog continues to misbehave, put his leash on or put him in the crate. Just because guests are over does not give him permission to misbehave (even if they’re okay with it).
  4. Maintain control and keep the calm. Your dog will likely be excited about visitors. Even well trained dogs can start barking or stop listening to your commands when people visit. But don’t let him lead the greetings with jumping, licking or overly enthusiastic interactions. Keep a leash on excited dogs so that you can enforce boundaries. If your dog is in a crate (which is a good idea for first interactions), wait until he is completely calm before allowing a release. Don’t be indulgent with your dog just because guests are over; manners matter even more during this time, so use it as a learning opportunity.
  5. Train before, enforce during. If your dog is not well trained before visitors come, she won’t behave well when they do. Take the time to train your dog to lie on a mat or sit and stay when people walk through the door. Well trained dogs should not approach visitors until allowed to do so by you. This kind of training takes time – and lots of treats. Offering treats when visitors come can help remind your dog to do well – but only if she has already learned what to do. So attend a dog obedience class, hire a trainer, or work on it yourself – but make sure that your dog knows how to behave well before you invite people to visit. That’s good dog ownership, and good hospitality.

With all the stress you have this holiday season, worrying about how your pets will interact with your guests should not be one of them. If your pets or your visitors’ interactions with your pets present too many problems, consider boarding your furry family members until the rest of the family leaves. Or better yet, book a hotel room and make a restaurant reservation for your visiting family.

Happy holidays from all of us at Animal Clinic of Woodruff!

Posted in Pet Behavior

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