Pets are part of the family; they’re there during all of the holidays, family events, and celebrations at home. It’s wonderful to include our furry friends in the fun, but it can also be stressful — especially when your pup is shy or anxious around strangers. If that’s the case, we know how frustrating it can be to have guests over. At Pampered Pets, we’ve seen it all (we’re usually the guest!): from the very friendly to the quivering-in-the-corner, here’s what we’ve learned about introducing anxious dogs to houseguests…
Understand. It’s easy, from our human standpoint, to grow frustrated with our dogs when they exhibit negative behavior around people coming into our homes – especially our loved ones. Although it’s not ideal, try to take a step back and understand. Remember – dogs are pack animals, and it’s their duty to notify other members of the pack when someone is intruding and entering their territory. Even when you expect friends to visit for dinner, our dogs didn’t get the memo. From their standpoint, every guest is an unexpected intruder. Their job is to be on alert.
Set the tone. The goal here is to communicate successfully with your pup by letting him know that you are in the control of the situation and that you like the people entering your home. Once the doorbell rings, let your dog cheerfully know that you’re aware someone is coming over. If they’re barking, correct with a firm, “no,” then continue to talk in a song-song voice. This will set the tone for your dog and let him know to follow your lead. If you’re worried about lunging or jumping, keep your dog on a leash.
Introduction. If you have a shy or anxious pup, tell your guests to ignore him until the moment at the door has passed, and the energy in the room has settled. Be aware that your dog may still be on alert from before, so give him the time to relax and grow accustomed to the new company. A sign of disinterest is actually reassuring for a shy dog, so he may start cautiously sniffing your guests – here’s where treats come in handy. Once everyone is in a relaxed state – including your pup — give your guests a few tasty morsels to offer to your dog (we recommend keeping a special stash like chopped sausage that only guests give him so it’s extra delicious).
Crate the dog. Families often feel guilty about excluding the pup, but keeping your furry friend away from the commotion of guests entering and leaving is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you feel overwhelmed or stressed every time a friend visits. Ideally, the crate is already a safe haven for your pup, so putting him there won’t cause distress. Just make sure he is comfy and has access to water – special treats are also a great option.
Photo by Brooke Jacobs.