The holidays are hectic with family visits. You’re either going to someone else’s house or they’re coming over to yours. It can be easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of having family over; how to introduce dogs during Christmas.
Your dog may be used to the occasional family member or friend visiting. It’s not often loud or hectic. Nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
Holidays are louder, more packed, more energetic, and there’s a lot of things your dog doesn’t deal with on a daily basis that takes place at these gatherings.
They may not be used to all of the chatter or excited children running around. There’s an excess of food. You might be hosting the gift opening this year, so there’s a lot of extra cheer going on.
With this in mind, it’s important to socialise your dog beforehand, but to also make sure you have plans in place should the festivities become too much for them.
There’s no reason that Christmas needs to be stressful for you or your canine companion. It’ll just take a little bit of extra preparation.
How to Introduce Your Dogs During Christmas When You’re Hosting
Your home is also your dog’s home. That’s their space and it should feel safe to them. Having a large crowd of people over may make them feel uneasy or unsafe if they aren’t used to it.
Below we’ll give you some ideas on how to prepare them for guests and what to do to ensure your dog feels safe in their own home no matter what.
Crate Train Your Dog Beforehand
Crate training is great for a variety of reasons. It can help with house-breaking, separation anxiety, and it gives your dog a space that’s their own.
Their crate should be their safe space. Whenever they feel stressed out or need a break, it’s where they can go to settle down and unwind.
Make sure your guests- especially children- understand that when your dog retreats to their crate that they aren’t to be bothered. They’re taking a break and need some space.
Ideally their crate will be out of the way and in a more quiet area of the home.
If their crate is usually in an area that will be experiencing extra foot traffic, you may want to consider moving it to a bedroom or other quiet area of the home where you notice your dog retreats to when you have extra guests over.
For more information on crate training, you can check out our Fenrir Hammer Course.
Set Ground Rules with Your Guests
You know how important consistency with training is and we know how hard you work to train your canine companion.
You need to communicate this with your guests in order to help avoid any training setbacks.
Your friends and family may also have dogs, but do they have the same training style and expectations as you do when it comes to their dog? Are they taking into consideration the same things you are while training?
Every household is different and different things will be acceptable.
If you’re working with your dog on not jumping on guests, make sure everyone knows beforehand so they don’t accidentally encourage the behaviour.
Perhaps you don’t allow your dog to have any table scraps, but they’re okay with their own dog having some. You’ll want to let them know table scraps aren’t allowed at your house.
It may not be intentional, but they could potentially reinforce unwanted behaviours in your dog.
These are just a couple examples of things you may want to consider when setting ground rules for your guests and your dog. The rules won’t be the same for everyone, so you’ll need to take into consideration what you’ve been working on and how you need your guests to help while visiting.
Play Before Guests Arrive
A lot of dogs can get nervous with all of the merriment and cheer. It’s a good time for us, but it can be stressful for them.
Having a lot of excess energy can make this worse. They’ll be nervous and energetic.
To help curb this excess of energy, it’s a good idea to have a play session before people are over at your house.
Take your dog out for a long walk, play fetch, tug-o-war, or any game that your dog really enjoys. That way when people start coming in, your dog has less energy.
They’ll be less likely to run to the door or get worked up, because they’re tired.
Have a Command for Greeting Guests
This one will need to be worked on beforehand, but it’s well worth it. You’ll be having people in and out all day. There will be knocks and a revolving door while everyone files in and gets settled.
It can be difficult for both you and your guests to settle in if your dog is constantly running to the door and trying to greet guests.
If there are small children or older family members visiting, it can also be dangerous. They could get knocked over and potentially get hurt.
So, teach your dog a command like “place” or “wait” for when you answer the door.
Instead of running to the door, they should go to a designated spot and wait or sit patiently until they’re told it’s okay to move and greet whoever is at the door.
This one might take some work and some patients, so be sure to start on it well before the holiday season.
How to Introduce Your Dogs During Christmas as a Guest
You won’t always be the one hosting the Christmas party or serving dinner. When that’s the case, you need to take into consideration what you’ll do with your dog while you’re away for the day.
Not everyone’s house is set up to host people and dogs. That’s definitely something you’ll need to consider as well as what to do if you can take your dog along.
Plan Ahead for Christmas Visits
The holidays are busy and time can get away from even the best of us, but making last minute plans when it comes to your dog just isn’t going to work out.
The best case scenario is that you have a well trained dog who is used to you being out of the house while you’re away at work. They’re used to being alone for a good portion of the day.
A family member probably stops in on their lunch break to let them out to use the bathroom and to check in before leaving again.
But, most of us get wrapped up in the festivities. You’ll be away longer than your usually 9-5 shift.
Even the most well trained dogs might become anxious or antsy when things play out differently than usual.
You’ll want to consider how long you’ll be gone for the day and if you or someone else will be able to run home at the usual time to check on your dog. It may be important to check on them an extra time or two depending on how long you’ll be gone.
If you or someone else won’t be able to make it home to check in and you can’t leave early to head home to take care of your dog, you might want to consider a pet sitter.
Just remember that the holidays are a busy time for everyone and you’ll need to schedule well in advance if you go this route.
No matter what you choose to do: make sure your plan is in place ahead of time.
Know the Home and Host Ahead of Time
This one will also require some planning ahead. If your dog doesn’t travel to the hosting family’s home very often, it’s going to be important to get them comfortable ahead of time.
You’ll want to make frequent visits with your friend or family member at their home with your dog.
This will give them a chance to scope things out and get comfortable without all of the extra energy and distraction that comes along with Christmas parties and dinners.
You want to get them acclimated to the area before adding any extra stressors.
For some dogs, this might be really easy. For others, it may be more of a challenge. It will depend on the individual.
Make sure you take toys and treats to build positive associations with visiting and having other people around.
This also gives your dog a chance to find the places in the home that they’re most comfortable with.
If there are other dogs present that they’re unfamiliar with, this is a chance to help them get acquainted as well.
Plan for Break Times
Even if your dog is well acquainted with the whole family and is comfortable in a crowd, it’s important to make sure that they can take a break when needed.
Talk to the host about bringing your dog’s bed along and placing it in a quiet area. Bring their favourite chew toy and make sure it’s stuffed with a tasty treat.
This way if they need a break or are getting too worked up, you can redirect to a quieter area of the home.
This will help prevent stress and accidents from happening.
Introducing your dog and socialising at Christmas can be challenging. There are a lot of things to take into consideration.
What’s best for you may not be best for your dog and you’ll need to plan accordingly. It will all be worth it though when your family and your dog get to enjoy the holidays with peace of mind.
Is there anything special you’ve done to help introduce your dog at Christmas time? Do you have any tips and tricks?
We’d love to hear from you so stop over at our social media pages and share our story.
How can I prepare my dog for a house full of guests during Christmas?
Start by gradually acclimating your dog to larger groups of people, if possible. Before the event, ensure they have a good exercise session to burn off excess energy. Set up a safe, quiet space like a crate or a room where your dog can retreat if overwhelmed. Make sure to communicate with your guests about your dog's needs and any rules you'd like them to follow.
What should I do if my dog gets anxious with all the Christmas festivities?
If your dog shows signs of anxiety, lead them to their safe space where they can relax away from the noise and activity. A familiar bed, favourite toys, and a soothing chew can help them calm down. Keep an eye on their behaviour and give them breaks from the crowd as needed.
How can I ensure my dog doesn’t develop bad habits with extra treats and table scraps during Christmas?
Be clear with your guests about your rules regarding feeding your dog. It's best to avoid giving table scraps entirely, as many holiday foods can be harmful to dogs. Instead, provide healthy dog-friendly treats and encourage your guests to use these if they want to treat your dog.
Is crate training beneficial for managing dogs during holiday gatherings?
Yes, crate training can be extremely beneficial. A crate provides a safe and familiar space for your dog to retreat to when they need a break. It's important to ensure that the crate is in a quiet area and that your guests understand the crate is off-limits for disturbance.
How do I introduce my dog to a new environment if I am visiting someone else’s house for Christmas?
Before the main event, take your dog to the host's house for short visits to get them accustomed to the new environment. Bring their bed or a familiar object to make them feel more at ease. During the visit, monitor your dog's behaviour closely and provide them with a quiet space to retreat if they show signs of stress or anxiety.