Watch out Fido – here come the relatives!

Watch out Fido – here come the relatives!

The holiday season is upon us again.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner and for many of us that means hosting friends and family for an evening or a few days.  While we are making plans, Fido, who is sleeping comfortably in his bed, is totally unaware that in a few days he will be overrun with 3 screaming, running, crying, mini-humans and that a canine invader named “Precious” will be eyeing his favorite chew toy!

So as we are making plans for the guests, I recommend that you also include your dog in the plans. Needless to say just like with family, there is no “one size fits all” plan, but here are a few things that you might want to consider:

How does your dog generally react to visitors?  Even if he loves people, too much of anything might not be good, so be sure that your dog has a place to retreat from the hustle and bustle where he won’t be bothered.  If he is not fond of visitors, letting him chill out in a crate or a low traffic room for a few hours might be the best alternative.  Even a doggie daycare visit might be better than everyone being stressed about an anxious dog.

Children always pose their own problems.  Some dogs like children, some don’t.  If your dog has never been around children do not assume that just because the initial meeting the kids went well that your dog will not get overwhelmed after a while.  Children should never be left unsupervised with a dog – and that means a responsible adult in the room at all times.  Being overcautious is better than finding out you underestimated the situation.  Nothing puts a damper on festivities like a dog bite!

Again make sure your dog can have “alone time”.  Also make sure that the kids know the house rules:  No bothering the dog when he is sleeping or eating or when he walks away and does not want to play.  A lot of dogs will just walk away or turn their backs to say “I’ve had enough!”  Don’t kiss the dog in the face!  In the dog world direct eye contact is very “rude” and can lead to a dog fight because it is interpreted as a challenge.  So, needless to say a child (especially a strange child) staring at a dog while moving in on his territory would in dog language not be sending friendly vibes.

Here are some indicators that your dog is feeling stressed and might need some ‘time-out’:

  • Turning his back to you or moving away
  • Yawning, even though not tired
  • Licking his chops, even though he has not eaten
  • Stiff body posture or moving in slow motion
  • Growling
  • Panting, even though he is not hot
  • Furrowed brows – “ stern look”
  • Pacing
  • Won’t accept food.



As far as those “canine visitors”:   It is best for dogs who have not met before to meet on neutral territory.  So, if you can, let them meet initially in a park, on the road, or at least in the front yard.  Having the visitor dog then check out the house before the resident dog re-enters seems to also help calm some of the excitement.  Be mindful that your dog might not share your view on “mi casa es su casa” – so be on the lookout for possible arguments over favorite sleeping spots or toys and bones, and if that proves to be a problem,  it might be best to just remove the “bone of contention” for a few days until the visitor goes home.

Bottom line – what makes holidays fun?  – Have a game plan, not just about the meal – turkey vs. ham- but about all the game players:  The cats, the dogs, the kids and Auntie Em.  Be watchful, have downtime, be safe, have fun!