Teach Your Dog Party Manners

Behavior and Training  •   Jasey Day  •   Dec 18, 2019

Your dog is a valued family member and you want him at your festivities. Read on to ensure that he is ready for the happy hub-bub of shindigs and to help keep him safe from holiday hazards.

Train Skills Before You Need Them

Master basics of polite pup party skills before the function. Your dog will need to first learn these skills with minimal distractions and then gradually perform those skills in harder situations. Increase the difficulty by doing the skills in new environments, with more people present, and for longer durations. In other words, go small before you go big! Before the social event, gain proficiency in these important skills:

Go to your bed cue. 

Your dog will hold this “place” behavior of “going to bed” by lying on his mat until released. This is a fabulous behavior for when you are preparing food, eating meals, and exchanging gifts.

Polite greetings. 

Avoid having partygoers get knocked over, spill food and drinks, or snag their clothes during your dog’s over-exuberant greetings. Establish a solid, appropriate greeting before asking your dog to attend social gatherings. One of the easiest ways to have your fellow humans help you train your dog is to ask them to only touch your dog when he has four paws on the floor. Any time your dog starts to jump, ask your human helpers to stop touching your dog and to take a step back. When your dog calms down, the person may start petting him again. Your dog will learn that affection only happens when his paws are on the ground.

Not stealing food.

Train your dog to keep all four paws on the ground in the presence of food on counters and tables. Instead of being frantic and overly excited, you want your dog to be acclimated to being around food (for humans) and not getting any. If your dog has a history already of getting a huge payout for stealing from counters, it will take you longer to retrain this behavior than if your dog has never had the chance to steal. You can also use the “go to your bed” technique mentioned above to give your dog something to do while in the presence of human goodies. Reward your dog with his kibble when he displays appropriate, polite behavior around food on counters. In the long run, teaching your dog to quit counter surfing, can be extremely helpful in keeping him healthy.

Remove Temptations

Create an environment for your dog that allows him and your guests’ belongings to stay protected. To do so:

  1. Have guests put shoes and coats away (from your dog) in a closet or room. If a guest has food, gum, or dog treats in their pockets, your dog may eat something that will make him sick and you may be responsible for any damage to the personal items.
  2. Have food out of reach – yes, even if your dog is not usually a counter surfer. The delicious smells of the holidays may entice his nose enough to have him grab a forbidden snack.
  3. Use gates so that your dog can only access certain areas and can stay in your view. Perhaps you gate him out of the children’s toy area, food room, or gift exchange zones so that he doesn’t break into any gifts containing harmful food, such as chocolate.
  4. Tether your dog to you, especially if you are attending a gathering not at your own home. You can loop his short leash handle around your belt. If the host has children, a creative toddler may have stashed hazards – such as raisins or half-eaten lollipops - around the house. You don’t want your dog consuming anything he shouldn’t. If he is tethered to you, it’s easier to keep an eye on what he is doing and how comfortable he is with his interactions with others.
  5. Kindly educate your guests that your dog should not be given any non-dog food. Non-dog food may result in a very sick pup. Illnesses such as pancreatitis, often caused by eating something fatty, or gastrointestinal upset, could result if your dog snatches or is given something from the holiday food table.
  6. Crate your dog in a separate room if needed. Be sure that no guests enter that room – have your dog nap serenely in his crate or enjoy a stuffed food toy without disruption.

Give Your Dog A Vacation

If you don’t have time to master these skills for this year’s holiday season, consider training those items in the coming year. It is better to plan for your dog to miss the celebration than put him into a dangerous or unsafe situation. Some dogs may not do well at parties or at the homes of other people; in these instances, your dog may be less anxious if he is boarded overnight, goes to doggy day care, or stays at a quiet friend’s house during events. Plan ahead so you have a good place for your dog to peacefully relax during your bash.

Enjoy the Holidays!

Training your dog to behave at parties or arranging for him to go on a mini vacation during celebrations is a great preventative measure to protect your pup. Accidents do happen though, and pet owners who have pet insurance also enjoy the peace-of-mind that they will be protected against unexpected vet bills. Get a quote today and ensure your pets are protected before the holidays!

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