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How to Help Your Dog Feel Comfortable With Holiday Guests

These tips will help both you and your dog enjoy holiday gatherings in your home.

Abbie Mood, Dip. CBST  |  Dec 21st 2016


Oh, the holidays. A special time of year for joy and good cheer, but also a time that brings about a significant amount of stress — about giving gifts (did I remember everyone?), managing a packed schedule, and most of all, hosting your annual holiday party. The last thing you want to worry about is how your nervous dog will handle all the guests in your (their) home. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some great tips that will not only help your dog, but help you, too!

If your dog is very uncomfortable around people (she barks, shakes, hides, or even nips), don’t force her to be involved in the party. Put her in another room or in a crate in a bedroom so that she doesn’t have to worry. Give her something to keep her occupied, like a bully stick or stuffed Kong, spray the room with a calming product, and turn on some classical music. Resist the urge to check on her. If you disturb her every time she starts to settle down, it could take her longer to relax.

If your dog is just a little nervous, ask your guests to let her approach them in her own time. Arm your guests with treats for when she does come over to say hi. At first, use a baby gate to keep your dog in a separate room, but within eyesight of the people so they can toss treats and say hello. The barrier can help your dog feel more comfortable. This is also a good strategy if your dog gets overwhelmed by or needs to be separated from children, or if you have a new rescue and you aren’t sure how she feels about groups of people. Knowing your dog is safe and calm will put your mind at ease, too, so you can enjoy the party.

Dog behind gate by Shutterstock.

Dog behind gate by Shutterstock.

Regardless of your dog’s comfort level, never feel bad about separating your dog or not letting her meet your guests. It’s far better for both of you if you don’t have to stress about your dog cowering in fear in the corner. Some dogs just aren’t comfortable being the life of the party and that’s OK!

Have you heard the saying that a tired dog is a good dog? Well, it’s true! A tired dog is a less anxious, less barky, less nervous dog. Exercise is good for both of you, so no matter how busy things get, carve out at least 30 minutes a day to either go for a walk or run, or play games together. Games might include hide-and-seek (go in different rooms and call your dog to “find” you), nosework (hide treats in boxes and encourage your dog find them), or puzzle toys.

Top photo: Relaxing dog by iStock.