Happy holiday season and 2018 everyone!
OK, so we’re a bit late with getting this post up, as the (Christmas) holiday season is mostly over. And New Year’s too. And we initially drafted it after last year’s holiday season.
But really, that’s ok, we think, because parties and celebrations actually happen all year.
So, while we’ve written this post mainly about the winter holiday season, these tips will hopefully be useful for any of your celebrations throughout the year.
We hope you enjoy and find it useful!
(Enter our original holiday post).
It’s that time of year that’s filled with get-togethers, visitors, and travelling whether you’re hosting or being a guest.
Christmas, holidays, and New Year’s celebrations have some extra considerations for managing the occasions with a dog, so that everyone stays safe and has fun. Here’s your guide to jingling all the way this holiday season, and throughout the year, with a dog.
Ahead of time
Guest comfort level with dogs
Ask guests ahead of time if they’re comfortable with dogs. This consideration applies just as much in your own home as it does if you’ve been invited to someone else’s house and your dog will be going along (hopefully with an invitation too!). It’s also a respectful gesture to ask about the comfort levels of anyone else who will be there as well. If you’re having people over, (hopefully they’re already aware that you have a dog), but it never hurts to remind them or check on their comfort level again.
Many dog owners have pretty accommodating friends and family who understand what life is like with a dog. But we can’t assume that everyone will be happy with a dog around. Often showing that you and your dog have some basic commands down (down, off, leave it) or gestures (the sit – bend your forearm and hand upwards by the elbow towards your chest) can help them feel more comfortable about their experience with your dog and that you’ve got the situation under control.
Check with your guests about whether they have any allergies to dogs. Allergies can develop and change over time, so it’s a respectful move to check with the guests, particularly if you’re having someone over for the first time. If people do have allergies, they’ll appreciate you letting them know about your dog so they can decide whether they’re comfortable attending, instead of having to leave suddenly if their allergies kick in when they arrive!
The day of the get-together
Take your dog for a good walk before you host or head on your way, potentially leaving them alone.. This helps maintain your dog’s routine just before it gets otherwise disrupted by guests coming over or you leaving (dogs take a lot of comfort in routine), and it helps to proactively burn off some of your dog’s energy before they greet your guests or are left to their own devices at home. Hosting, particularly, can be an excitable time for dogs, so putting a dent in the canine energy level ahead of time can be a helpful practice that you, your guests, and your dog will appreciate.
Setting ground rules
Let your guests know your rules about feeding the dog. No one wants to be up all night after a party with a dog who was given too many ‘free samples’ or got into something they shouldn’t have – eggnog and chocolate covered nuts, anyone? Some other helpful tips for your guests include how to tell dog yes or no, and which words you use for other basic commands like sitting, staying, lying down, leaving something alone, etc.). This can also help your dog to know that the guests, while perhaps “strangers,” are still leaders of the pack. Hearing familiar commands can help put your dog at ease with new people and situations.
Make sure there are opportunities for your dog to relieve itself outside. It’s easy to forget how long it’s been since the dog last went out. If you’ve got to go, maybe that’s a good time to see if your dog has to go too. And remember to make sure the dog gets back inside again – it’s winter after all!
Plan for spills
Something will happen and the dog will likely be implicated. Watch for tails meeting glasses on tables. Or plates, candles, or decorations. Our Labrador Retriever’s tail is exactly coffee table height, and when it gets moving, it doesn’t stop, leaving a lot in its path! We’ve had several glasses get knocked over by a tail over the years, the most notable being a pint of dark Guinness on our friends’ newly-laid white carpet. (They understood and invited us back!). Also, glasses can break and shards can end up on the floor and carpets, endangering paws, baby knees, and sock or stocking-clad feet that are otherwise having a great time. To prevent extra cleanup and stains, gently remind guests to keep their glasses up, or at least to keep an eye on them and in reach when your happy puppy bounds into the room.
As a dog owner, you likely already have clean-up products on hand. It’s never a bad idea to stock up for the holiday party season, just in case your dog knocks over causes a spill on carpet, floor, or onto a guest’s clothing or furniture. These things happen; best to be prepared and take it all in stride.
Watch your decorations
Similar to the point above, low-lying decorations can be unwitting targets for tails or mouths. Tails can easily send them flying and break them, and mouths can result in the unhealthy ingestion of plastics, glitters, and glues. While older, mature dogs are likely to leave decorations alone (their tails are a different story!), puppies can be quick to grab a decoration off a table or Christmas tree and make quick work of chewing it up. A puppy pulling decorations off a tree can also cause the classic tree-topple: sending decorations flying, breaking them and, as we discovered personally, spilling tree water onto the hardwood floor where it seeps through the boards and through the basement ceiling as well. Yup, true story!
While dog owners might be used to keeping breakable items out of tail-range of their dogs, non-dog owners might not be as prepared and may get upset if a favourite decoration or other household item is broken by an unwitting canine. If someone does get upset in this circumstance, we’d suggest handling the situation like you would if it was you that broke it. Here are some options to ease the situation: apologize, emphasize that it was an accident/unintentional, offer to replace it, offer to clean up any mess, and consider bringing them a surprise replacement gift in the near future as a token of acknowledgement. These gestures can go a long way to smoothing over broken treasures and the memories attached to them.
Dogs and kids
Supervision is the key here, parents need to be engaged, and the presence of a dog at a party can be a wonderful opportunity to help children become familiar with being around dogs (how to speak to them, touch them, when to leave them alone, such as when the dogs are sleeping), as well as helping puppies become exposed to people and children (but do watch for nipping). Social situations can heighten nervousness in people and dogs, so again, we emphasize the need for supervision and teaching. But what a great opportunity in a friendly, familial environment!
Extra household precautions
At holiday parties, there are often people sitting, standing, and moving around from room to room. There are foods, drinks, fireplaces, candles, electrical wires for decorations, cheese trays and kitchens with knives that can fall onto the floor or onto dogs that are moving about underfoot. Many of the seasonal extras might pose a potential danger to your dog. No need to be paranoid, but keep an eye out. Safety’s always great to keep top of mind.
For some additional tips, check out this holiday safety info-graphic courtesy of our friends at Puppyspot.com:
When guests arrive in the winter, particularly in snowy regions, they’re usually bringing in boots or shoes, coats, scarves, gloves, hats, gifts, etc.
These items, if left about, can become wonderful chew toys for dogs, especially if they’re still in the puppy phase, or if you’ve just got a mischievous dog on your hands. An easy solution is to store these guest items up and away, like in a closet or room with a closing door. You’ll be able to save some money by not having to replace chewed up guest belongings.
The disappearing act
Ah, the enticement of fresh, crisp winter air as the front door opens and closes with the arrival and departure of guests! The disappearing act occurs when your dog slips through the open door and heads out to greet the neighbours or whoever’s arriving next. You definitely won’t want your dog to run off without a collar on and not be able to be identified or returned, and you definitely do want to avoid an accident out on the street (it’s winter, maybe dark out, snow is piled up, visibility is decreased, cars and snow plows can’t see as well as they move through your neighbourhood). Preparation is the solution here: keep your dog’s collar and ID on for the duration of the party, and see if you can get your guests to keep your dog in another room as you greet your new guests at the front door. Backyard doors usually aren’t as much of a problem, but make sure your pup isn’t forgotten outside in the cold out back!
What if the dog eats off a plate?
Hopefully vigilance prevents this problem from happening in the first place, but if it does, address the behaviour quickly and firmly (non-violently). Although, in our experience, dealing with the dog may only end up happening after raucous laughter at your dog gobbling down that fresh cheese ball while you scamper after it trying to get it to stop (photos and video are probably being taken by other guests at this point).
Set up a new plate with fresh food, higher up, wipe up the table of any crumbs, and carry on with the party. Some grand entertainment was probably just had!
How to deal with people who hit or push your dog out of their way
Hopefully, the likelihood of this problem has already been minimized ahead of time (refer to Guest comfort level with dogs, above). However, if this situation does occur and the owner is not comfortable with of their dog, we would suggest that the owner quietly speak with that person, asking politely to not hit/push the dog away (you, as owner, “would really appreciate that”), and highlight some tips that DO work and ARE effective for your dog. These approaches might include a more positive course of action, such as calling the dog in the direction you want it to go (reward it with some festive back or ear scratches), or the use of a treat, if acceptable.
Dogs love to be part of the party! Plus, they sleep for hours, or even days afterwards to recover.
We wish you wonderful and successful parties, with happy guests and happy dogs, celebrating whichever holiday is meaningful to you, your family, and friends throughout the year!
Bonus tip: try not to get any squirrels in your house. Remember Christmas Vacation? 🙂
Anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!
Best wishes to you all for a healthy and happy 2018!
As always, thanks for reading. We’re glad to have you with us.