The guest list is set. The menu is planned. The table is laid out, and the music is playing softly in the background—you’re ready for your upcoming party!
Whether you’re hosting a holiday party, a football-watching party, birthday party, or a casual get-together it is a great time to connect and have fun…but what about your dog? You will be happily welcoming your guests to your house and they will want to interact with your beloved pooch or a new puppy, but is your puppy party-ready?
Before you plan your next party, we have some tips on what to do with a dog during a party to keep it calm, and more importantly, safe.
Tips for introducing your dog to people
You need to understand how your furry best friend has reacted, and will likely react, to the strangers coming to your house for the party. Work with your puppy and their unique personality to make the introductions smooth for everyone.
Keep your dog on a leash when the guests are coming in. If you pick your puppy up and hold it, he or she may wriggle out of your arms—whether he’s excited or frightened—and could fall or run out the door. Ask your guests to ignore your dog when they come in and let him be the one to initiate the interaction. Don’t do the introductions at the door. If your guest acknowledges you first, the dog will see and sense that interaction and will know that stranger is not a threat to you or to him.
Once the guest is inside, let your dog closer to sniff the guest. Ask the guest to let the dog sniff them. If you know your dog will take a treat nicely from your guest’s hand let them feed him a small treat if he greets them calmly. If your dog looks or acts scared, remove them from the introduction until they are less frightened. A scared dog is one that may bite because they are fearful.
If your dog has been trained to sit or stay, use those commands when your guests enter the house. If once the guests have all arrived, you see that your dog is comfortable and happy, you can let him/her off-leash. You will need to pay attention to see if your pup begins getting tired, uncomfortable, or scared in the midst of all of the commotion. If that happens, remove him/her from the situation by putting them in another room, crate, or simply keeping them close to you for comfort.
Editor’s Note: teaching your puppy to learn basic commands can be a daunting task. To begin, here are five basic puppy commands and tips.
Keep an eye out for these puppy behaviors
Are you ready for a puppy truth? Some dogs just like to jump on guests. And if you have a puppy who will one day grow into a big dog, you don’t want to have them jumping on guests. Regardless of the size of your dog, jumping should be discouraged.
Jumping. One sure-fire way to discourage a dog from jumping is to ignore them. If your dog jumps, turn your back and don’t make eye contact. When she stops jumping and sits or stands calmly next to you, praise her and offer her a treat. Your dog will soon learn to connect the idea that if she jumps, she gets no attention; but if she stops jumping, she gets your attention and a treat.
Biting. Many puppies like to “mouth” or bite—it is the way in which they get accustomed to the world around them. Many mother dogs will train the biting out of the puppy, but since it is an instinctual behavior they will still bite. Warn your guests that your puppy may nibble, and if they do, your guest will need to ignore the behavior and offer them an item that is meant for chewing instead. Have toys on hand, so your guests can be prepared. Your pup will soon learn it is not okay to chew on hands or clothes, but it is okay to chew on toys.
Begging. It takes a while to teach a puppy that begging for a piece of human food from the table is not a welcomed behavior. Let your guests know that your dog is not allowed to table scraps. You don’t want them begging from the table, and you want to keep them safe from ingesting rich human foods. Give your dog something to distract them while you’re eating—fill a Kong with peanut butter and their favorite treats, or a food puzzle for entertainment while you and your guests eat.
Keeping your dog calm during the party
If you and your guests start getting boisterous (and you just might if you’re watching football), you also need to pay attention to your dog. Loud noises are very frightening to many dogs of all ages and if you notice they are looking afraid you need to remove them from the situation. The experiences your pup encounters during their young life can shape their personality for a lifetime. If they become afraid of loud noises when young, they may remain afraid of loud noises as they get older.
Pay attention to the following body language in your pup:
When your dog is relaxed, they will likely be laying down and their entire posture will reflect relaxation.
If your pup wants to play, they may jump around, toss toys into the air, or pose in front of you or your guests.
A curious dog will appear relaxed, with ears that may be pointed forward. They are observing everything and may also be wagging their tail slightly.
If your dog is afraid, its head will be lowered, ears will be back, and they may be hunched over. Their eyes may be darting around with a tell-tale "whale-eye" look.
If they are really frightened, they may growl and the hair between their shoulders may be raised. In this state, they're trying to determine whether fight or flight is the best option. When you notice your dog acting like this, remove them immediately and calm them down.
In addition to being frightened your dog may exhibit submissive behaviors. These include rolling onto their back and exposing the belly. They may tuck their tail between their legs and flatten their ears. A submissive and scared dog may also stress-urinate. If they exhibit this behavior, remove them from the situation and calm them down.
Puppies need to be socialized and inviting guests to your home is an ideal way to introduce them to new people in an environment in which they are usually comfortable. When puppies meet and interact with strangers at a young age, they are better adjusted to meeting strangers as they get older.
Just as we humans have different personalities: introvert, extrovert, and ambivert, our puppies are unique in their personalities. You may be sharing your life with a dog who will enthusiastically greet your guests at the door, or your dog may skitter away in fear. As the puppy parent, you need to monitor the situation, explain to your guests how to interact with your dog, and remove them if they appear afraid or stressed. Your dog looks to you as the pack leader, to keep them safe.
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.