Having an anxious dog can take all the fun out of having people over. You stress about how your dog will react, which actually just stresses your dog out even more. The good news is, you can successfully have people over with an anxious dog–but you just have to do a little planning beforehand.
Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) member Casey Newton, CPDT-KA, founder of Wonder Puppy dog training facility in Portland, Oregon, has provided the following tips on what to do with your anxious dog when people come over.
#1 – Create a “Zen Den”
If your dog is a young puppy or at all sensitive to people, kids, and/or rowdiness, then do him and yourself a favor by keeping him in his own separate sanctuary. Create a “zen den” – a cozy den area (crate or nesting area) in a quiet part of the house, play calming music, and provide self-entertainment such as a frozen Kong or bully stick.
#2 – Select a Dog Watcher
Things can get hectic when people are in the house, and sometimes the dog can get lost in the shuffle. Designate one person to be ultimately in charge of supervising or checking on the pup throughout the time that guests are over to make sure he is not forgotten.
#3 – Make Sure he Gets his Exercise
Exercise your pup well (1-2 hours cardio, depending on age and activity level). This will help prevent stress, over-excitement, and “unnecessary naughtiness”. If your company is staying for a couple days, exercise every day is essential.
#4 – Allow a Retreat
Create a quiet area of refuge (home base) for your dog away from the party that he can easily retreat to if he becomes tired or overwhelmed. This will help prevent your dog from getting overly-stressed or tired, which can lead to bad behavior (including snapping at people) if your dog gets “over” the company.
#5 – Give Your Dog Something To Do
Prepare several delectable “self-entertainment-systems” ahead of time (i.e. frozen kongs, bully sticks, etc) in the case you need to put your pup away at any point. These are also great to occupy your dog when he is in the same room as your guests, as long as he is not a guarder.
#6 – Provide Treats
Set out mini “treat jars” filled with healthy goodies in the rooms where your pup will be hanging out. When you notice good behavior, toss them an occasional treat. This will help encourage good behavior habits in social settings and help prevent mischievousness.
#7 – Slow Introduction
Have your pup put away before the guests come (yes, this means you need to make sure they are good about telling you when they are showing up). For the first half-hour, have your pup secured and put away. Once the guests have arrived and the initial excitement has died, make sure your pup is calm, then let him out to join the party. This will give you a chance to adequately greet your guests and prevent your dog from over-stimulation and possibly practicing unwanted behavior such as jumping on people or running out of the house.
#8 – What to do About the Children
If children will be attending your party, give instructions to parents to keep an eye on them and teach them what it looks like when a dog wants to say hi and when he doesn’t. If you have a non-kid-friendly dog, it’s wise to put your pup in a part of the house separate from guests.