With the arrival of the holiday season, many pet owners will be entertaining friends and family for various celebrations. It's not too late to start brushing up on some of your dog's good manners so that your dog's behavior is one less thing to stress you out on the night of your big dinner party or family reunion. Here are a few behaviors you'll want to work on training if you've not yet taught them or refining if your dog knows them but is a little rusty.
Crate Training and/or Go Settle
If there's one behavior that would help dogs and their owners live more happily together in a residence, it would be "go settle," either in your crate or on a bed. So many "undesirable" dog behaviors are incompatible with the peaceful relaxation of go settle. While your dog relaxes on her mat, she cannot be - stealing turkey or treats from the table, biting at pant legs, jumping on guests, bolting out the door, knocking bags and packages out of people's hands, etc. Click here to read my newest article for Karen Pryor Clicker Training on how to crate train your dog.
Food is everywhere during the holidays. Dogs, having evolved as scavengers, are accomplished food thieves. If your dog does not yet snatch or steal food, congratulations! But be warned - this behavior is so self-reinforcing it only takes a dog once to learn that they can steal food for the dog to develop habits like counter surfing, begging, and garbage raiding. "Leave it" is an important safety behavior - not all of the holiday treats we humans enjoy are safe for dogs to indulge in.
Not sure how to train "leave it"? Check out this great tutorial from Emily Larlham for an effective technique to teach your dog impulse control around food.
Many of your guests will probably want to greet your adorable dog. If your dog likes to jump to greet new people, he'll need to learn new strategies. What do you want the dog to do instead of jumping to greet? Three possibilities are: sit, down, and "four on the floor" or stand to greet. Work on refining your dog's greeting behaviors and develop an action plan - if your dog is an experienced and determined jumper, how will you manage the situation to prevent him from jumping? If your dog is fairly good but not yet perfect, how will you respond when and if he does jump?
There are many other things you can do to set your dog up for holiday entertaining success. To learn about a few of them, read The Life of the Party: Holiday Ent