Trainers and behaviorists can all tell stories about the calls they get around the holidays. Those of you who are trainers can no doubt tell some of your own. (I’d love to hear them!) Not uncommonly, we hear “Aunt Polly is coming tomorrow and she hates dogs and I have seven of them and they’ve never been alone in a room or in a crate and I can’t board them and I was wondering if you could tell me what to do.” (Answer: Pack dogs into car, drive elsewhere, leave note on front door for Aunt Polly that you’ve been abducted by aliens?)
From the other side of the equation, I’ve heard lots of dog lovers struggle over what to do when company comes and their dog doesn’t do well with visitors. One holiday season, years ago, I had five “do I have to kill my dog cases?,” all serious bites to visitors, on December 23rd and 24th. So sad.
Here’s my generic advice about holidays and dogs and visitors. I’d love to hear what solutions you’ve come up with for yourself or advised for others.
1. Do you REALLY want to take your dog to the big family gathering? How fun is it really going to be when you discover that your nephew is allergic to dogs, or your sister-in-law brought a dog-hating cat, or your uncle brought his three Rat Terriers, all of whom are xxx (insert interesting behavioral issue here.) For everyone’s sake, seriously consider leaving your dog at home, either in a great kennel or with a great dog sitter. This could be a blessing to your dog, to you, or to the rest of your family. (I still blush about bringing my St. Bernard to someone’s house when I was young and stupid. It was so hot in the room we slept in that Cosby, the Saint, panted and drooled so heavily I finally opened a window to cool it off. We woke up in the morning to find their prized house plants dead. Our dog-disliking hostess literally began to shriek, eyes squinched shut, hands clenched, jumping up and down like a five-year old. I still feel badly. Whoever and wherever you are–I’m sorry I killed your fern!)
My line? “Dog Sitters. Don’t leave home without them.” Of course, in some cases bringing your dog just adds to the fun, and if that’s the case, then Eeeeeh Hah, bring ’em on. But if you’re not sure, then discretion is the better part of valor.
2. If visitors are coming to you, do what most professionals do, and thank the heavens for dog crates and X-pens. It seems to be the pro’s who are most likely to put their dogs away to prevent problems, rather than crossing their fingers and saying “I think it’ll be okay…”. Anytime I hear myself asking that question, I know to change my tune and do whatever I need to do to know that it’ll be okay. I even put Willie in his crate for the first hour of Lassie’s birthday party, so that she could get all the attention.
I never hesitate to err on the side of caution if there is even the slightest chance of trouble between a dog and a visitor. Most trainers and behaviorists don’t either; nothing like years of hearing about serious bites and traumas related to dogs and visitors to condition us to be conservative. Kids coming over and not 110% sure about how they’ll behave around your dog, or vice versa? Then start with your dog elsewhere, meet the kids and then decide how they’ll interact. Uncle Johnny, all 6 foot 7 of him driving in from down south? And you with a dog who is uncomfortable around unfamiliar men? Aren’t you glad you crate-trained your dog?
Start carefully (dog in crate when visitors enter?),
Observe carefully (watch interactions like a hawk at first),
Manage obsessively (know your dog and minimize the potential of any problems),
Give everyone a break (why not crate Fido up after an hour with the guests? why wait until after he’s tired?) Note that MANY of the cases I’ve seen have occured after the dog has been with the ‘kids’ or company all day, is tired and finally snaps/bites at the end of the day. Being an introvert (truly), I can sympathize. I love company and being with people, but I get tired after hours of it and need to go to my crate so that I don’t get cranky and bite someone.
This probably sounds excessive, but a dear dear friend just had his beloved dog bite a guest (equally beloved) during Thanksgiving dinner. “Why didn’t I put her in her crate?” he asked, after the bite and the trauma. “Because you’re an optimist and not a prof’l trainer” I said, but in the future, management is going to have to be Job #1 in his treatment plan. This kind of management becomes second nature to trainers, doesn’t it? But we had to learn it, and anything we can do to let people know that it’s OKAY to separate dogs and guests sometimes, the better.
Meanwhile, back on the farm: 4 days off coming up! Whoo Hoo! I’m officially ‘off the grid’ from early Thursday (12/17) morning to late Sunday night (12/20). Not letting myself check email or internet, but back first thing Monday morning. I look forward to reading all your comments.
Bitter cold again, below zero this morning and windy. Brrrrrr. Willie’s paws can’t all stay on the ground at once, he has to lift one at a time when we play outside. Lassie either pees and poops just inches from the door, or I run her to the barn, where she can potty in the straw on the floor and stay off of the snow and ice. But she still doesn’t stay out much longer than 5 minutes at a time.
The cold sure drives the birds to our feeders. I counted 47 birds of 12 species at the feeders yesterday morning. Here’s one of my favorites: A Red-Bellied Woodpecker (I know, I know, I didn’t name it! There is a flush of red on its belly, and there’s already a Red-Headed Woodpecker, thus the name that doesn’t seem to fit!)
Man, hosting a party is hard enough without worrying about your dog! Since we got our anxious pup, we haven’t hosted many gatherings. She had separation anxiety, and developed a real aversion to her crate. One time we put her in the car for a party. She was in the shade, the windows were rolled most of the way down, we popped in to check on her, and she was used to being left in the car when we went shopping. Old Pup was worried, but not nearly so much as she would have been if she had to stay in the house with people.
Excellent and timely post. Thank you!
Thank you for the reminder. We have a house full coming for Christmas and our 5 month old Border Collie is not used to children or adult company.We are having both for 2 days and nights. After reading your article I will feel much better about crating him. I may even move his crate somewhere away from all the commotion. Less stress for him and less worry for me.
Our 2 older dogs are fine with the people and noise. They know and love all of them and if they want to get away from the action they will find a corner and snooze for awhile.
Thanks again and Merry Christmas!
Nicola Brown says
We recently had our family Christmas party. There were 15 children 12 years old & under, plus at least one dog-fearing aunt. Mum & Dad built a special pen at the back of their yard for my dogs under the shade of the orange tree (it’s summer here). I put in a crate, their rugs and various bones and chew toys. They love kids, but they only knew two of the children coming, and I didn’t want to watch obsessively all day. it was the best decision I ever made.
When, later in the afternoon, the Rat Terrier – type escaped. I spent a frantic hour trying to stop all the children (most of whom love dogs) from patting my anxious dog all at once! As soon as I’d shooed away one lot so Poppy could have a rest, another lot would come up. This ended only when it was time to give out the presents. Then the adults has a discussion over who would get to cuddle her while I supervised present time. Result – until people started leaving, I was terribly stressed over the one dog who wouldn’t stay in the pen. When there were only a couple of people left, I let out the other two and they had a nice half hour before everyone went home.
One of the great things about having the dogs there: my aunt is in a high dependancy nursing home, wheelchair bound and increasingly “not there” mentally. She came out for the party. When she saw my little dog, Poppy, her face lit up, and we put Poppy on her lap in the wheelchair for a brief cuddle. We are now going to see if we can get Poppy in to visit her occasionally.
It’s taken me a few years to get all of this reconciled in my head (I hear you about management only being second nature to the professionals!) but I have finally settled on very different rules for my two dogs with regards to my in-laws. My younger guy, Copper, who is very friendly, is coming with us to my in-laws for Christmas this year. We are taking a crate just in case. My older, rescue dog, Izzy, is going to the boarding kennel. My mother in-law is terrified of Izzy from past experiences when Izzy was more reactive (no bites, thank goodness, but very close) than she is now and was never that comfortable around dogs to begin with. No amount of coaching has enabled my mother-in-law or Izzy to relax around each other, and I finally realized that it was not worth it to put any of the three of us through that kind of stress. I’ll miss Izzy a lot while we’re gone, but it’ll be for the best.
Since I can’t fit two labrador-sized crates in my car, when we go to visit my family for holidays, I actually have both of my dogs do a down stay at my feet while we eat dinner (unfathomably, my relatives don’t find the occasional foot lick or nudge from a hungry canine to be very charming! :P). When I finish my meal, they both get a treat from whatever was on my plate. I worked at this for a while at home before taking it on the road, but they can both stay like that for almost an hour. Some of my relatives were a bit taken aback that I fed my dogs from the table, but I figure that if I don’t mind them gazing at me from the floor while I eat and they are not bothering anyone else or counter surfing, then there’s no problem. The other trick that I have found invaluable for good behavior away from home is training them both to “go lie down” on their beds; I can bring the beds with us and then they know where to go hang out and not be underfoot in a house full of people.
We recently hosted a large family get together and decided to crate our dog at nearby home. It was not so much of a concern about his behavior, a body wagging English Springer Spaniel, but about the behavior of our guests. He has allergies to beef and cheese and we couldn’t possibly have kept an eye on 30 people and the dog.
D.K. Wall and The Thundering Herd says
What a superb post. I love my Herd, but I will recognize that not everyone does. For that reason alone, The Herd understands that they are outside when guests arrive so that they are safe and guests can feel comfortable. When appropriate – big dog loving guests – The Herd gets to come inside one or two at a time to say hello.
Not that we are overwhelmed with guests in a house full of Siberian Huskies – grins.
Great reminder and advice!
I have done each and a mix of all.
On a road trip this fall, my Tervuren was both welcomed into the living room and sometimes napped in car crate. During our week, we visited with all sorts of friends and relatives. While all were dog friendly to a point… sometimes my guy can be a bit of an extrovert for a Terv. I try to give him, hosts and host dogs a time out for their own sanity. Then I can also relax and not be watchful of a 60 lb fur covered charger herding the little dogs into the corners and licking human ears! LOL He also got his own walks, which always gives me MY time as well! Hey, I need my alone time during a long visit, too.
Merry Christmas, All!
Very timely! I have a special needs Lab – he is a 3 year old and diabetic. A bit of a challenge since no one wants to board a dog needing insulin twice a day. But he is a great traveler, we bring crates for him and my younger Lab and they are solid temperamentally. My prior dog was very reactive and taught me so much about anticipating problems, planning solutions and managing her behavior for the sake of everyone. She ultimately became a fairly social dog after years of work and creating positive outcomes for her in social settings.
I totally agree with separating a dog from the incoming visitors. The meet and greet is just too much hubub for many dogs. I always start mine off in their crates and once everyone is settled they can emerge and calmly say hi. I also will crate during meals – I can’t have the dibetic one getting scraps under the table from little hands – just less distraction for me.
I have a brother in law who loves to stare my dogs right in the eyes. Not such a big deal with the Labs – they’ll just walk away. But my reactive dog – hoo boy! I had to step between her and him on more than one occasion with her pupils the size of dinner plates! Some people just can’t be taught how to behave with dogs.
My father-in-law loves staring at my pup too Sharon despite me trying to explain how rude and confrontational it is. But we are going out of town this holiday to a pet friendly rental with other family. Old dog and cats are going to kennel as they are comfortable there, young pup is coming with us. Pup is very sociable and crate / ex pen trained. I just can’t imagine going to the lake / mountains covered in trails without my walking buddy. I am getting as addicted to the need for walks as he is! Now if I can just find someone trustworthy to check on the bunnies, chickens and barn cats we can really let loose.
We’re taking our whole pack down to visit my parents, who have even more dogs than we do. My brother and sister in law, and toddler niece, will be there. The dogs will be outside or in their crates quite a bit, and there will be rotating shifts of dogs so we have groups that will get along.
Kait B. Roe says
I have to say Patricia, you are right on the money with this post – as usual. But here is a scenario you may not have heard. I was in week 5 of a 7 week road trip with my 10 month old dog and we landed, exhausted, at my sister’s house. She has three dogs and had just adopted a stray cat this summer. Well, weird of weirds none of these dogs plays with dogs. They really don’t interact with each other at all. One self separates by staying in the master bedroom, and the other two just hang out and bark. Unfortunately, the dogs were not the problem.
The rescued cat was neutered but still seemed aggressive and Levi is one of the most cat clueless dogs ever. He doesn’t think anyone has bad intentions, and believes that arch that cats do is equivalent to a play bow for dogs. Needless to say from this run-up the cat didn’t like Levi. He hissed and spat, but I was sure we could manage it through Levi getting an occasional swipe on the nose. Apparently not. This cat, completely unprovoked, attacked Levi and nailed him just under an eye. Clearly we needed different management. I put Levi on leash and kept him near me. Having been scared and blood drawn, he was more than willing to stay away. Unfortunately, the cat had other plans. One emergency vet visit later, meds in hand, and incredible relief that while the eye ball was damaged it would be okay, hyper-vigilance became the watch word until I could leave a couple of days later.
Could I have managed it better, yes. Could my sister have managed it better, yes. But all in all, I don’t think I could have stopped the attack in the long run. The cat actually scratched me to get to Levi. He was bound and determined to get rid of the intruder(s). Lesson learned the hard way.
Happy Holidays, enjoy your time off.
Next week I will have my first overnight house guests since I got my two puppies, now a 1 year old male PWC and a 4 month old female PWC. I am not a trainer but I learned alot with my last corgi that will come in helpful next week. Several times a day my two will get some alone time in the bed room for rest to keep them pleasant. Also corgis love food and are willing to help you keep from getting fat so they have developed the perfect begging face that only the most hard-hearted person can resist… during meal times my two will be in an ex pen in another room. The hardest part of these particular house guests will be that they love dogs and have their own opinions on how to raise them and I am sure I won’t do it “right”… it is only three days.
Thanks for the great advice! As a groomer I spend alot of time talking about behavior, training and how to have a pet and still do xyz and still keep everyone safe and happy. More than I discuss grooming with them I think! I’m so thankful to have a fabulous trainer to recommend, as well as great sources like your blog. Just point ’em in the right direction and hope for the best!
I tend to take my teeny Cavalier with me most places we go. Visiting friends or the in laws? I ALWAYS ask first. If I don’t have to chance to ask, Haiku has to stay home. With my family I know when it’s ok to bring her and when I shouldn’t. When I do bring her with us (great manners and friendly to all living things) I always know where she is, what she’s doing and how she’s doing with strangers/kids/pets/etc. Other people think I’m weird or obsessive, but when I explain the light bulb goes off. Oooooh! Avoid trouble before it starts! Oh, you take her outside so often so she doesn’t pee in the house – what a great idea! Oh, you went into the other room and sat quietly so she didn’t get freaked out by the screaming toddler – that makes sense!
Thanks for the great post! Let’s make this the safest and happiest Christmas – for us and the dogs!
Absolutely. I wish more people would crate train and then use it around guests. My first dog I made mistakes with, she was always out and about with guests – but for the most part she behaved very well. But my current two are always crated in the rare occasion we have guests stop over. Depending on who it is and what their attitude towards dogs is we may bring them out on leash for a brief meeting, but since the shepherd takes all of our attention and energy he goes back in his crate so we can actually enjoy ourselves. To me it’s no fun to spend all evening watching him like a hawk. And we want to take any precaution we can to avoid any bad situations. He’s a good dog, but he is rough – and most guests don’t really appreciate that!
I own two dog daycares/boarding kennels. While not really winter holiday related, we do a “promotion” for our regular clients on Halloween. For any clients that have dogs that are reactive/anxious with strangers coming to the door we offer them a boarding discount and some special dog friendly Halloween treats. Dogs are already comfortable at our facility so for them its a non issue and it keeps them out of the anxiety of having lots of strangers (mostly kids dressed funny) coming to the door all night. Would love to say it was our idea but it was started by a client and we just ran with it because it seemed like such an easy solution.
another suggestion, have the get together in a public facility where the dogs aren’t welcome. I know that many want to share their home but if boarding isn’t an option for some reason, and having guests in your home isn’t work-able….hold the festivities somewhere else. I have 7 dogs so cannot afford to board them out and 2 of them would stress far far too much. So if we had a large family, the party would be somewhere other than my home and the dogs would hold to their normal routine(s).
My guys LOVE their crates ( especially since the Susan Garrett Crate Games dvd) and it is their refuge from the insanity.
I also load up on raw bones and extra long beef chews, freeze their kongs, so they have something to do to relieve the stress of all the commotion.
I love using the excuse of “having to take them out for their walk” for my own sanity as well.
Time to walk and be entertained by my crew. Shake off some of the stress of having to bite your tongue to keep the peace and evening lighthearted.
I make sure I take them on a hike before company arrives and then after dinner as well. I actually drive to a place where it’s lit in the evening so we can all have a breather away from the home. I found just letting them out in the yard, doesn’t take the same edge off as going on a hike away from home.
Thank you so much for this very important post! Happy Holidays to you, Jim and all your “kids”!
I know how you guys feel regarding clueless relatives who can’t seem to get dog behavior. My brother almost learned the hard way that while staring a toy dog in the eyes to intimidate it might be “fun” the same stunt with a large reactive dog will come pretty close to getting you bitten in the face. Fortunately he learned his lesson. I’ve given up all hope of trying to get my mother in-law to understand that if she would just ignore the dog and stop trying so hard to “make friends” then things would go more smoothly. Instead, mom in-law bends over and reaches for the dog, dog shoots backwards and growls, in-law screams… dog owner reaches for the Advil. Sigh.
Amy W. says
I have soft, rehabilitated emotional disaster dogs. I love them, and I’ll probably continue to adopt them because I’m good at working with them. But, with their issues come some limitations, especially in this department.
I’m very fortunate to be able to go over to my parents house for most holidays with just our immediate family of 4. My dogs adore my parents and brother and they adore the dogs. Things stay pretty low key and the dogs have a great time enjoying the attention of people other than boring old mom.
I used to bring my dogs to family gatherings held at my parents house (a place they are familiar with) because the dogs just went upstairs to get away from the action if they got sick of it. They handled it fantastically well. Not anymore. There are now mobile children in the family and I am not going to touch that with a 10 foot poll. We do not live in a kid environment, and I don’t ever expose my dogs to an environment that I think they are ill-prepared to handle. (the kids don’t live with dogs, so they have never really been taught how to be around them appropriately) With my older dog’s sore hips, the last thing I need is for a kid to push or fall on him and him to snap at them in pain.
I have worked at boarding kennels for years. I won’t board my dogs during the holidays. It’s another situation I know they are not prepared to handle, and I will not put them in a situation that will stress them out like that. I have made it clear to my family that if I ever move away, I will not be boarding my dogs to travel during holidays. I’ve never even brought them to work with me during holidays (they came with most other days) because the noise alone would be enough to make them look at me with “Why on earth would you bring me here today?” written all over their faces.
I am so blessed. I am 110% confident that Ranger can handle any holiday get togethers to which we choose to take him. He’s great with guests of all ages and other canine visitors. When he’s had enough he’ll ask to go t his enclosure where he’s safe and comfortable and can have some alone time. And chances are I’ll be more than happy to take him out and stay with him for awhile just so I get some space too. As long as things are typical we’ll all be fine and if things are atypical I know I need to watch more closely to make sure he’s still comfortable but since he’ll hang out next to me if things aren’t what he expects this makes it easy. This was a great reminder though and very timely. I’m so confident of my dog that I sometimes forget that I need to think about it before hand and review my plans in light of all current information.
Lacey H says
The problem so many of my adopters have is not planning ahead. If you try at this date for a good boarding situation or an excellent pet sitter – forget it. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from an otherwise sensible adopter “Can’t you take him/her back just for a few days?”
Great post. Love the bird pic!
ebird.org is a fun website where you can keep track of your bird observations. It’s free. I like it because it keeps my bird list accessible and uncluttered.
Trish – I laughed out loud at number one. Our rat terrier is the only dog we’ve had that people will tolerate at a family gathering! Luckily for us, xxx=sweet and delightful!
My favorite: the lady with 9 small dogs (I can’t remember the breed)of assorted ages who needed me to ‘housetrain’ all of them one day before Thanksgiving. Can you say: embarrassed because company is coming?
When I have company, two of my dogs (they are therapy dogs) can handle the hubbub and strangers patting them, etc. My oldest dog is deaf and blind, however, and all the novel smells and vibrations would be disconcerting as she tries to navigate around the house (which she normally does amazingly well). My youngest dog is exceptionally smart and obedient, but possesses strong herding and guarding tendencies. So, the two who are not as tolerant of change are left in another part of the home, or in the barn if it’s warm weather. They are happy with a stuffed Kong and my other dogs do the diplomatic duty. Too many times, people want to force their dogs to participate, when it’s really smarter and kinder to just manage the situation in another way.
Nanci Sullivan says
I’m not a trainer, but have faced a LOT of management problems having multiple dogs with multiple personalities. I think the bringing up the discussion at this time of year was great, and you got some great problem/solutions out of it.
Oh, can’t remember is this was mentioned, but if you don’t have crates, bedrooms are great.
Lots of great advice here! I only have one dog to manage but he’s very anxious around strangers and completely freaked out by kids who stare at him. We’ve been working on CC & D for several years and he’s on medication but it’s not an easy or fast process with a profoundly anxious dog. Naturally, I’ve got a nephew who pines for a dog of his own and can’t help himself – no matter how often I remind him not to stare, he does. Sigh. I feel bad for him. I feel bad for my dog. Can’t win. I do use a crate and normally, my dog is fine with it. It sits open for the most part and he often sleeps in it. Last year at Thanksgiving I had a houseful of people so I tried putting the crate in my bedroom and closing the door but it was disasterous – he was frantic to get out of the room. He does have some separation anxiety and being shut away brought it out full force. I tried giving him toys and treats to no avail. After dinner, I finally put him on a leash and kept him close to me. That worked much better and we got through the rest of the day without too much more distress. This year people are coming for a casual Christmas get together so I won’t have to cook. I plan to leave the crate in it’s usual spot in the living room, crate him as people come in and then bring him out on his Gentle Leader, which he’s accustomed to wearing. We’ll work on having people, including my nephew, throw him treats for a bit too. I think he’s ready for some of that. And lots of reminders to everyone not to stare…. It’s a journey.
Love A Pit says
Lots of great advice on this article. You must really know your dog(s) when it comes to mixing the two at a event or holiday. My gentle giant as I like to call him, gets along with anyone and puts up with more than most dogs would, I don’t worry about him much, but anytime company comes over, my pit is crated for the first hour. Not so much cause she’s grumpy, would bite/snap, etc, but she likes to jump on and basically maul any new company as she’s a attention hound. But also I watch her interaction, and if she seems to be getting grumpy she goes back in her crate/kennel. Prevention and a close eye is the best preventatives that you can have, especially when you have a breed that has enough bad publicity, they don’t need anymore. Good training, and preventative is always a key.
I have three dogs to manage, two of which are rescues and not too fond of strangers. My solution when we have guests: To minimize stress, the two rescues are put in my office with a gate at the door until the guests have settled in and then we can go about meeting everybody. That way the stress for me and the dogs is less and I can concentrate on greeting my guests without having to worry about dogs getting attacked by guests and vice versa. 🙂
My shepherd will quietly stay in place and not be bothered by strangers in the house, but the dachsies are a different story and just have to be “managed’ differently. 😉
Funny enough, sometimes it seems to be the guests who are very persistent of meeting the dogs I so carefully shut away (crate, gate, etc.), although even to the untrained eye it must be obvious that this particular dog does NOT want to make friends at all!
Here I have my dogs, all perfectly create trained and ready to run to their special places when the doorbell rings – now I need a training manual “How to train my guests to stay away from my dogs!”.
It is only one particular dog that I really cannot trust around strangers, and my visitors are welcomed to interact with the other two, but no… the “poor” dog behind the gate surely wants a pet, too? (No, he does not!).
This is great advice, our dog gets way too excited (not on the biting side, but on the annoying side) when we have guests he’s not too familiar with. Now, when you talk about crating the dog, does it matter if it’s in the same room or in a different room?
Valerie Pegg says
Thanks for this one! I have a bunch of family, including 4 small children and an 11 year old coming over and we’re just unsure about how it will go with our 3 dogs! Duh, crate them! We’ll give them a nice long walk first and then after everyone is finished eating, we’ll try them with the kids. They’ve all met the dogs, just not all 5 of them at once!! The cats will be scarce, I’m sure, accept for Ajax, our 13 year old tuxedo who’s glare will prevent him from being bothered or disturbed from his favorite position-horizontal! Thanks again. 🙂
Thanks for this wonderful post. Crates and gates are wonderful tools. We had a bouncy 2 year old toddler boy houseguest for 4 days and my happy child-loving dog spent lots of time in his crate or behind a gate peering happily at the kid with no concerns about getting bopped on the head or squeezed. Everyone was happy–the kid, the parents, me, and especially the dog! We got to praise him profusely for being SUCH A GOOD BOY. He got to experience a small guest as an interesting fun thing rather than stressful or concerning. Thank you again!
Dena (Izzee's Mom) says
Although I’m seeing this late, it’s nice to see that you agree with the approach we took when having all the members of our Tai Chi class (about 15 people) over for a holiday potluck. We put both of the dogs (very friendly English Springer Spaniels) and the elderly, getting cranky cat into the basement for the evening. The cat had her litter box and a couple of safe places to escape the dogs, the dogs had toys, dog beds and blankets to doze on, and there was a bowl of water for the 3 to share.
The funniest thing was that the first guest to arrive has bred and shown dachshunds for many years, and wanted to meet the dogs. So the dogs were lucky enough to get a short visit with a sympathetic, dog-savvy guest in the quiet of the basement right at the beginning of the evening.
It all worked out well, and I would arrange it the same way again.
The next night we had a smaller group, just close friends, and the animals were free to join the party as they wished.
Bettina – write the book
We’ve had quite a year after our young dog bit first my uncle and then my niece right after long car trips to visit family. Before these trips, we recognized her anxiety and started working with a trainer, but not in time for us to realize what stress she was under and to realize we needed to just leave her at the doggie daycare/kennel where she’s comfortable. We’re working with a behaviorist now who is helping us to reframe the situation, continue to work on her anxiety around strangers safely, and to hopefully save her life through prevention of another bite! I wish I’d read this post a year ago! Thank you so much – all your work has been invaluable to us and to our dog!!
Visiting and being visited with dogs can be a bit like doing so with young kids….a logistical nightmare. But often people are less understanding/tolerant of the difficulty of the issues when dogs are involved. My husband and I have four dogs and no kids and both our families live many hours away and in opposite directions…so we know this well. How we handle it depends on who we are visiting and whether the logistics of the visit are dog friendly. Our dogs are all very people friendly, but they are still dogs, and so need to be watched closely when in other people’s homes and around people who may not always behave appropriately around dogs (like little kids).
Kenneling and drop in pet sitters both have serious limitations for us, especially now that 2 of our dogs are getting pretty darned old (16 and almost 14) and one had bad separation anxiety when we first got her (kenneling brings it out of remission). Live in pet sitters are expensive, but more affordable than kenneling 4 dogs. The drawback here is they are hard to find, need to be booked way in advance and of course there is that little thing about having a person you don’t know too well staying in your house when you are gone (this bothers me more than my husband). It is also amazing how complex one’s little rituals regarding walks and feeding with multiple dogs can be to explain. I remember a time when we forgot to mention that the dogs will bark crazily by the kitchen door and annoy the neighbors if you let them out to “do their business” while you shower without feeding them first (I guess it never occurred to me to try to shower before feeding the dogs). Sometimes when one of us visits family, the other stays home to play “kennel master,” which is a shame really (we actually like and are liked by each others families).
My husband has promised his folks we are visiting them this Christmas, and the guest rooms and shuttling back and forth between multiple households is not ideal for accommodating 4 doggie guests. It’s 8 months away, but I suppose I should start tracking down a pet sitter now.
Laverna Umeh says
Thanks for that. We’re having a big potluck party next month, kind of for Xmas I guess and I’ve been trying to find something unique.. found some good ideas at this potluck recipe site. You know, someone should invent a website where you can write what you’ll be taking, and it would check no one is bringing the same thing!
Wonderful and timely piece! Our pup has severe crate-specific barrier anxiety. While we’ve worked her up to half hours in the crate, they’re tense moments. So it’s never been an option for us when traveling or having guests over to stick her in the crate. Add in the fact that she’s 80 lbs of pure exuberance and you have a tricky situation. We used to leash her for the beginning of the visit so that we had a little more control, but that only amped her up. Now we just ask her to down-stay on her bed, and that tames the excitement. We also give specific instructions to our guests in terms of interacting with her: “Use upright posture and ignore her until she’s sitting or lying down. Then you can give her attention.” Once Chara has gotten past the initial greeting, she tends to do her own thing. When we have guests over and she’s done interacting, she’ll even go into our bedroom and lie down alone.
In ways, visiting others is a lot easier. We pretty much bring her everywhere with us (she’s my first dog, and the thought of leaving her in a kennel breaks my heart a little), so she has road tripped with us from Mississippi to New York to Minnesota and back again. Thankfully she’s a lot more subdued when not on her turf, and has wonderful social skills with other dogs and people. For meals I ask for a down stay at my feet and she gets a small treat at the end. This is also the approach we take at home, and it works really well. We think of begging as saying “please,” so we taught her to say please the proper way–by lying quietly at our feet.
If there are small children around I’ll use the umbilical approach–where I tie a leash around my waist and keep it clipped to her–but otherwise she tends to moderate her own emotions really well. When we were staying with another family who had two kids and another young dog, Chara went upstairs to her bed when they got to be too much.