‘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.
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.)
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.
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.