How to Make Your Dog Comfortable During a Party

‘Tis the season for parties. In between planning the guest list, the food, the decorations and all of the other details, it’s helpful to think about our dogs and make sure the party is festive for them as well.

We hosted our annual Christmas party recently, and here are some of my tips to keep your dog comfortable during a party.

1. Make sure your dog has a place of his own.

For Baxter, that meant his bed in his usual corner of the living room—party central. While Baxter is not a party animal, he did want to keep an eye on the festivities.

If your dog is shy, anxious around crowds, nervous around children, aggressive with strangers, overly exuberant, it may be better to put her in a quiet place, like a bedroom or a crate.

2. Let your dog say hi.

Even if your dog prefers to be away from the hubbub of the party, he may still want to know who’s in his house. Have a plan to help your dog and guests meet each other as politely as possible.

How to keep your Make your dog comfortable during a party

It may be hard for your dog to contain his excitement with lots of new people arriving. Leading up to the party, work on proper greeting behaviour.

And be aware of who’s at your party. Some people are afraid of dogs. Now is not the time to help them work through their fear.

3. Tell guests that you have a dog.

If your guest list includes acquaintances or people you don’t see very often, it’s polite to let them know that you have a dog when you invite them.

My brother-in-law is allergic to dogs. When he comes to visit, he makes sure to prepare with his medication, so that he can enjoy the party.

4. Let your guests know how to interact with your dog.

Some people have not spent a lot of time with dogs or may not be entirely comfortable around them. Telling them, “She really likes it when you scratch under her chin” can help them get off on the right foot with your dog.

I’ve had some experiences where people—usually people who call themselves dog people—grab Baxter by the collar or the tail. They think they’re being funny, and don’t seem to realize the fun is all one-sided.

It can be hard to rebuke family or friends, but you need to stand up for your dog. Be calm and polite. Say, “Please don’t do that. Baxter doesn’t like to be held/touched/handled that way.”

5. Be aware of what your dog eats.

The best part of parties is the food—but food can present a lot of issues for your dog.

If people are sharing their food, your dog can end up eating way more calories than he needs, having an upset tummy or even ingesting something toxic.

Play it safe and tell your guests not to feed your dog. (And make sure your dog doesn’t eat the decorations.)

Make your dog comfortable during a party

However, special food can also help your dog to associate the party with goodness. For us, that meant mixing some of Baxter’s favourites—turkey and squash—in with his dinner.

6. Make your dog comfortable during a party—keep everyone safe.

Safety has to be your first consideration in any decision you make for your dog.

It can be simple—watch that wagging tail around the wine glasses—or serious—keep the dog out of the kitchen so that no one trips and spills a hot pot on him.

Baxter can sometimes be a bit growly if strangers pet him while he’s snuggled in his bed. Letting people know that Baxter should be left alone when he’s in bed protects both Baxter and our guests.

The most important part of planning a party is to be real about your dog and what’s best for him. That way, you, your guests and your dog can all enjoy the party.

Baxter on the couch - Make your dog comfortable during a party

P.S. A final tip from Baxter:

“I told you not to vacuum. Aunt K invited me to sit with her on the couch. And she’s wearing black! Everyone should have fur. Vacuuming is a waste of time—and that machine is not nice.”

What would you add to this list? How does your dog do when you have visitors?

Julia Thomson is a regular writer for That Mutt. Visit her blog Home on 129 Acres here.

12 thoughts on “How to Make Your Dog Comfortable During a Party”

  1. We have a runner. We continue to work on “wait” near the front door but with so many people coming in and out it stresses me out a bit. Any tips? Thanks so much, Abby

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That is a challenge, isn’t it! As you know, the real key is to practice this when no one is around and then gradually try working on “wait” with familiar people, maybe a family member, then maybe 1 “stranger” and only when your dog is really solid with those “easier” distractions would it be reasonable to work on this during a party. Do you keep a leash on your dog at the door? Sometimes I just step on the leash.

    2. That can be very stressful. In addition to the practice that Lindsay suggests, you might also want to enlist a family member on party day to help keep an eye on your runner. A sticky note on the door (both outside and in) can also let people know to enter and exit carefully.

  2. Lindsay Stordahl

    Ace is like Baxter and likes to say hi to everyone and see who is here. Then he prefers to just be on his dog bed in the corner. He’s been known to even sneak off and go to bed during the party when his usual bed time arrives.

    Remy … complete opposite. I have to keep him in a kennel (where he is likely to bark) or on a leash and basically tell everyone to ignore him or he jumps and bites. He has a long way to go!

  3. Our dog starts barking when people arrive and then again when they leave. He does not like our hugging guests that are coming or going. (jealously, right?)

    1. Arrivals and departures can be the hardest parts. Make sure to check out Lindsay’s post about how to keep dogs calm when guests arrive (linked in the post above). Barking could be excitement over the activity of people coming and going, or it could be jealousy. You know your dog best and what might be driving his reaction.

  4. We have four big happy dogs and I’m thankful that 99% of the people who visit our home are either dog lovers or they love our dogs. We spent a lot of time training them to keep their paws on the floor and to be gentle with people so they’re pretty well behaved after the first few seconds of crazy excitement that SOMEONE’S HERE!!!

    Everyone knows the rules, everyone knows how to interact with our dogs, and it’s really great for the dogs. They love the extra attention.

    The only people who we don’t allow over to our house to interact with our dogs are children; they’ve never been socialized around children. We don’t have kids, our friends don’t have kids, our neighbors don’t have kids. That’s just a bad situation waiting to happen. 🙁

    1. If your dogs do well with extra attention, parties can be a great place to get it. I understand your concerns with the kids factor. It’s important to be aware of your dog’s comfort zone and not put them in uncomfortable situations.

  5. Great tips, and especially the one about watching what your dog eats. I don’t know what it is, but even I have a hard time not sneaking food to dogs when I’m a guest – I think I just want them to be my new best friend 🙂

    1. I know what you mean. Especially if they’re like Baxter and they’re staring at you as though they haven’t eaten in months! I don’t mind when people ask, “Can I give him something?” That way I can monitor what and how much he’s eating.

  6. Cheryl Hoglund

    We have a trained, 10.5 yr old Collie and a 3-4 yr old M rescued Lab mix. They are not playmates because of age. We still have to do obediece with our Lab X, Rocky. He barks at anything on leash. I am not sure if he is guarding or not, but I feel if he was off leash he would be alright. We’ve had him about 7 months. He loves our grandkids and accepts their friends. He attacked their dog (St Bernard, M) when he came over to visit. We want to get Rocky a female for a playmate, but we are not sure he will be ok with her either. Do you have any suggestions.

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