Dog Training at the Holidays

Dogs and Puppies: Holiday Training That Works

A client asked me, “What’s the best thing to do with our dog when we have holiday visitors over for drinks or dinner? Do we board him or crate him at home?”  I thought to myself, “Now that’s a great question but read on, the answer is even better!”

I would keep your dog at home. 

He will be a lot less stressed staying in a familiar place like home. There are a couple of options for you to consider at home:

Crate your dog or puppy for the evening while entertaining OR train, then crate your dog for the evening. 

Let’s take a look at these two home-options.

If you are by yourself and simply cannot deal with your dog or puppy under foot just before and during your entertaining evening, then simply crate or gate your dog – or puppy.   

Before you secure your dog, there are some things to do that will make your dog’s crate time more manageable. Let’s take a look at some practical tips: 

  • Plan time for a long walk with your dog.  He needs lots of sights sounds and experiences on the walk to process during his down time.  Remember, a tired dog is a good dog. 2-5 minutes of obedience training prior to crating will create mental fatigue as well.
  • Make sure he gets fed as close to the same time you always feed him. Remember, he predicts getting fed at the same time each and every day – consistently.
  • Make sure he has plenty of chewies and a stuffed Kong to occupy his time in the crate.

Now I’ll put on my trainer hat as we look at the other option

Dog Training at the Holidays

If any of you out there have had me in your home to help train your dog, for this very typical dog problem of good manners around house guests, the biggest problem yo  have said to me is:  “Jim, we have a hard time finding enough people to come over, knock on our door and assist with set ups to help work on our dog problem.” 

Here’s YOUR golden opportunity to use holiday visitors to train your dog.  I know what you’re thinking, -Managing your dog or puppy while entertaining house guests will be too stressful! 

But it doesn’t have to be. 

With forethought and planning you could work in a little “meet-and-greet” dog training once everyone has arrived and before you serve their drinks and snacks. Save the meet-and-greet training around food for another day. Unless your dog is very well trained, he might just go into sensory overload!                                                                            

There are right and wrong ways to working your dog around house guests so here’s my easy to follow practical tips: 

  • Potty your dog before beginning this training exercise – especially if you have a young dog or puppy
  • I’d have your dog on a leash attached to another family member or have your dog in his crate
  • Have a bowl of his favorite treats for your house guests – for them to give to your dog of course!
  • Tell your guests what you are going to do, which is to have him greet each guest without jumping.
  • Tell everyone to be very calm as too much excitement can cause him to want to jump even more
  • Take him to the first person on leash – careful not to allow him to jump (putting your foot on the leash will help here) – and have the person take a food treat from the bowl, hold it over his head as he says, “Sit!” then praise and treat your dog and pass the bowl to the next person until everyone has greeted your dog in this manner.
  • Return your dog to his secure area, go back and enjoy the party. Make sure you take him to potty before you secure him. 

If you have an extra family member on hand, have them keep your dog settled down on the floor next to their feet by stepping on the leash.  This will give your dog a little more time getting desensitized to these “people distractions” while you enjoy your guests.  If he seems a little restless, provide him with a chewie or a stuffed Kong while he is settled down.  

When you finish your training (10 – 15 minutes), crate him as previously mentioned. If you have a puppy, make sure you don’t subject your puppy to the noise and frolic all night long. You can get a lot of mileage out of just 10-15 minutes of dog or puppy training. 

When your dog is in his crate 

Now, training is over and it’s time to crate your dog or puppy. How well he manages his time alone will depend on how much crate training you’ve done with him.  If you have a puppy that spends most of his time with you out of the crate because “you feel guilty,” you might want to consider revisiting crate training. 

When a puppy (or dog) thinks being out all the time is “normal,” he may not be okay in the crate when you are home with visitors. For more information on crate training read my article, “Crate Training: Love It or Hate It”

1 reply
  1. Marilyn
    Marilyn says:

    Just wanted to let you know we followed your instructions and guess what!!!

    It worked like a charm and we actually had fun doing it and so did our guests. Our dog really seemed to like to be able to go up say hello and then he didn’t bug people after that.

    Whoo HOO

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