The holidays are fast approaching, and you're probably excitedly looking forward to welcoming guests into your home. But does your pup feel the same?
Dogs can be negatively impacted by changes in their routine and environment, and the holiday season offers some of the greatest disruptions in their routine that they might see all year round.
Depending on your dog's age, personality, and experiences, the increased footfall in your home could be a huge stressor for them. Not to mention, there are potential health risks to your pup that come from welcoming new visitors into your home.
Don't worry, though; you can still enjoy a much-anticipated and stress-free holiday season by properly preparing your home and your dogs for the arrival of your family and friends. So, let's look at some warning signs of anxiety in dogs, and some tips that you can use to prepare them for the holiday season.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
If your dog is feeling anxious with the presence of new guests, they may well show it in their body language and behavior. Knowing whether your dog is anxious can help you to respond quickly to a scenario that could be stressing them out.
Typically, anxiety in dogs will manifest in a number of ways, which can include:
- Aggression that's out of character
- Destruction of property
- Diarrhea and an upset stomach
- Hiding away from people
- Increased vocalization (barking or whining)
- Peeing in the home
- Shaking or tremoring
- Yawning excessively
Since some of these symptoms are more concerning than others, you should take steps to reduce their anxiety as soon as it becomes apparent that they're not having a good time.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Guests?
Unfortunately, as far as we're concerned, dogs only have one word in their vocabulary: Woof. But with a single bark, they could be vocalizing a number of things, with each one conveying a varied range of possible emotions.
Your pup could be excited about the arrival of new people that may or may not have met before. Equally, he or she could be anxious at the amount of sudden activity and attention. Depending on your dog's breed and training, he or she could also be used to acting as a guard for the home, so a gaggle of sudden visitors could set them on edge.
How to Keep Your Dog Calm Around Guests
One method of reducing anxiety in dogs is to use dog calming supplements. Many are based on natural remedies and ingredients, such as milk proteins. Dog calming treats can help to lower anxiety levels, and you can start using them in the days leading up to the arrival of your guests.
However, they're no substitute for training and generally knowing what your dog is or isn't happy to tolerate. After all, it's their home too.
If you'd rather avoid remedies such as those above, you can instead implement a holiday training routine for your dog that will help to prepare them for the festive season. Let's take a look at some steps you can follow, below.
Holiday Season Preparations for Your Pups
Many of the tips listed below cross over into day-to-day life with a dog in the home. Ideally, you may already have implemented some of them to get your dog accustomed to other people, and more socially confident.
- Keep to their regular exercise routine. Dogs need daily exercise. Missing their scheduled walk can lead to anxiety, which can worsen their response to yet another change in their routine – your guests. By tiring them out and ensuring that they're not anxious about a lack of usual activity, you could potentially reduce the chance of them acting out at the presence of other people in the home.
- Make sure they're comfortable with attention. Some dogs, such as those who have come from a shelter, don't deal with physical attention as well as others. Watch out for body language such as avoiding your touch, shrinking down to the ground, or tucking their tail away when you reach for them.
- Introduce new guests one by one. If you're welcoming an entire seasonal entourage, don't introduce them all to your dog all at once. An anxious and overwhelmed dog can lash out without warning, even if they're ordinarily a very docile pup. Your guests can also bring small treats or toys, which can help your dog to make a positive association with meeting new people.
- Create a safe and quiet space. Your dog should always have a familiar and quiet space to retreat to if they're feeling overwhelmed. This can be as simple as their doggy bed and favorite toys tucked away in another room. Of course, this area of the home should be out of bounds to your guests during any events.
- Teach some basic commands in advance. The holiday season usually means that there's a lot more food lying around in the house. Unfortunately, much of it can be toxic to dogs, such as chocolate. Assuming your dog is old enough, it could benefit you to teach some basic commands, such as "Sit" and "Leave It" to your dog in advance.
Setting Ground Rules for Guests
Now that you've trained your pup for the holiday season, it's time to train your guests. While they have good intentions, a crowd of potentially new people surrounding your pup with love and attention can be terrifying for the certain dogs.
So, explain your dog's preferences to your guests. If your pup absolutely loves attention and can handle a crowd, then by all means, share that with your guests. But if he or she prefers one-on-one attention and calmness, then be sure that they know what to expect.
What to Do if Children Are Visiting
Kids can be one of the greatest sources of stress for a dog who's meeting new people. They don't always have the same level of understanding as adults. They'll see a big fluffy ball of cute and go running, often grabbing at fur or throwing their arms around the pet.
Of course, this can be an even greater stressor than a group of adults. A dog who feels threatened by an excitable child could lash out and cause serious injury, even when they don't mean to.
Speak to parents ahead of any kids arriving for the festivities. Be sure that any children spending time around your dog understand how they should behave, and if you spot boisterous behavior, consider taking your dog away to their safe space for some quiet time.
The holidays can be fun for all if the correct actions are taken and you know your dog. Keep in mind that your dog is also part of your family and make a good choice for them. If your dog enjoys their own personal space, create that for them in a different area and allow guests to do what they need to do. If your dog loves being part of the group, make sure everyone in the group is okay with your dog being there.
Remember that you know your dog best and what they can handle. Allow yourself time before guests arrive to make that decision.