This time of year, many dog owners tell us that behaviors like: jumping up on people, crowding them, slobbering on them, incessantly licking them, hopping into laps (particularly for medium-sized dogs and above), stealing food from coffee tables (and guest’s plates) and knocking things and people over, are behaviors they’d like to find remedies for prior to holiday guests arriving.  Now, you could do the obvious short-term thing and simply put your dog away, but people also tell us that this frequently results in having the Christmas music at your party accompanied by a seemingly endless source of barking from the laundry room.  Don’t misunderstand me, it’s OK to seclude your dog for periods during social events but there are some strategies and some preliminary work you can do (#3 on our list) that can make that a lot easier too.  In the event that you want to have your dog out for a while during the party (and don’t feel like apologizing all night), you may want to check out #’s 1 & 2 on the list as well as well.

1)    A TIRED DOG IS A GOOD DOG:  Start exercising your dog more now! A good solid, tongue hanging out (your dog’s – not yours) workout for your dog once a day will do wonders for, what we call, “annoyance behaviors” (barking, chewing, digging, being overly rambunctious) On the day of your party, make sure you get in two exercise sessions!  Make sure your second session is as close to the party time as possible.  The notion that ‘a tired dog is a good dog’, is true.

I’d like to say I thought of this idea but it goes way back.  You might be surprised to know that this is actually an old breeder’s trick.  If a breeder is showing a dog to a prospective buyer, they always run the legs right off that dog prior to the “get acquainted” visit.  Prospective buyers inevitably comment on the mild-mannered nature of the dog they’re thinking of buying and are surprised when they get him home and find out that he’s really a lot more energetic than they’d been lead to believe!

2)    HOME MADE OBEDIENCE BOOT CAMP:  Start having your dog practice more obedience in the house now.  Many times we let our dog have a free run of the house and they really don’t get asked to do much in the way of listening to you around the house.  Do some mini-homework sessions around your house throughout the day, with whatever obedience you and your dog know now.  Have a sort of boot camp mentality for a couple of weeks and really get into it with your dog.  Do two or three (6-7 minute) homework sessions in different parts of your house where you’re going to be expecting your dog to listen to you during the holiday party.  Particularly take advantage of any smaller number of guests that visit, prior to your big party, and begin to teach your dog that they have to listen even when (and really … especially when) other people are around.

3)    PRACTICE THE RITUAL OF ALONE TIME:  Begin practicing secluding your dog for varied periods of time (meaning different durations and different times of the day) even when you’re home.  Often we only seclude our dogs somewhere when we leave.  It therefore seems strange to a dog if you ever have to seclude them somewhere (laundry room, kennel run, garage, behind a pet gate etc.) when you’re still home and particularly when there’s lots of interesting people visiting.  Also, save a special, time-consuming, treat for your secluded your dog.  For example, a Kong, with peanut butter smeared inside of it, lasts for quite a while and most dogs like it.  If you’re dog only gets one of those when he’s secluded, he will often begin associating going into his secluded spot as a good thing.

Let us know if you have any techniques that you’ve found successful and be sure to let us know how your pooch did at this year’s Christmas party.