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How to Make Your Dog the Perfect Houseguest

There’s a party or vacation, and your dog’s invited! Now what?

Beth Ann Mayer  |  Nov 6th 2020


Dogs can make the perfect co-pilots for road trips and when you go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. Whether they make the perfect house guests is, in large part, up to you.

Dogs are at the same emotional level as a two year old,” says Jen Jones of yourdogadviser.com. “You wouldn’t take your two-year-old to a friend’s house and say, ‘You have to behave now.’ You have to have the same rules everywhere you go so whether you are at your house or someone else’s house, your dog will behave in the same way anywhere.”

Jen shared appropriate doggie etiquette and tips to making your pooch a good houseguest.

Two dogs playing tug of war with a toy.

Two dogs playing tug of war with a toy. Photography ©petographer | Alamy Stock Photo.

Properly socialize your dog

Well socialized dogs tend to be able to adapt more easily to new people, pets, sights and sounds.

“Do it at an early age,” Jen says. “If you have a rescue dog and they are passed the developmental age, you can still do a lot of training to help them adapt.”

But Jen notes that older dogs may take longer to be socialized if they have not been, and it’s important to be patient. If your trip is next week, it may be best not to bring the dog along — but that doesn’t mean they can’t come on another one down the road.

“Go about socializing the same way you would a puppy,” she says. “Bring lots of treats and use lots of praise, and slowly introduce your dog to new experiences repeatedly and calmly.”

If your dog continues to have issues, work with a behaviorist or trainer. And remember: Meet your dog where they are.

“If your dog seems fearful of a new experience, it is best to remove him from the situation,” Jen says. “Forcing a dog into a situation that is frightening does not help and actually compounds the issue, often creating risk for everyone involved.”

Related: Have a New Puppy? Here’s how to Socialize Your Dog While Social Distancing

Keep a schedule

At home, you likely generally feed and walk your dog at the same time. Try to keep that when traveling by pulling over to walk them at their normal times and bringing a food dish so they can have dinner on schedule.

“That way they aren’t begging to go outside or feeling anxious wondering what is to come in the next hour,” Jen says. “When they have a schedule, they are more relaxed.”

Teach them basic obedience

Your dog doesn’t need entertain your hosts with fun tricks, but knowing a few basic commands will help you guide them in their new surroundings. Jones suggests sit, stay, stop, teaching them to bark and stop barking on command and housebreaking before taking them to a hotel or someone else’s home.

Training courses and positive reinforcement, like treats, are better than punishment.

“Dogs don’t understand negative reinforcement like putting their nose in pee,” Jen says.

Related: Send Your Dog Back to School

Walking up and down hills is a good endurance test.

Walking up and down hills is a good endurance test. Woman and Akita on a hike. Photography by Blazej Lyjak / Shutterstock.

Exercise them

If you’re worried your dog may be anxious or hyper in a new setting, take them for a long walk or do some extended playtime before hitting the road.

“If you want your dog to be relaxed and happy, make sure you get their energy before you go to that place,” Jones says.

Ask permission

Be sure to notify your hosts you would like to bring the dog to make sure it’s OK.

“Don’t just show up to an Airbnb and think you’re going to have a dog there and hide it,” Jones says. “That always goes south.”

Related: Traveling with Dogs: 8 Things to Pack for a Road Trip with Your Pup

What to do if you’re leaving your dog

If your entire itinerary isn’t dog-friendly, that’s OK, but prepare your pup for your departure. Though you may come and go at home, your dog may react differently in a new area.

“This is a brand-new place,” Jones says. “It’s really important to bring things that smell like you around, and leave their favorite toys out and providing a lot to do, like kong toys with peanut butter, puzzle toys if he’s a brainy breed, safe bones, things that will keep him busy or occupied. You can also leave white noise on like the TV.”

Two dogs eating out of the same bowl.

Two dogs eating out of the same bowl. Photography ©John Mcallister | Thinkstock.

Avoid the food fight

If your dog is one to beg at the dinner table, you may not be able to squash that in time for your trip. The key is to have a contingency plan, like asking if there’s another room for Fido to stay in during dinner or bringing his crate. Don’t feel guilty — it’s best for your dog.

“It’s for the dog’s safety, too, especially at big meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas when you are eating rich food,” Jen says.

Bringing toys, a cozy bed and blankets and white noise can help your pet stay relaxed while you’re chowing down.

Featured Image: Kemal Yildirim/Getty Image

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