We all want a dog who can be comfortable going anywhere, befriend people of all ages, and get along with all dogs. Rarely do any of us ever have a dog who ticks all of these boxes. So what do you do if you have an upcoming gathering where there will be lots of people in your home and you are concerned about how your dog will behave? If your dog has a history of nipping, snapping, or biting, call a force-free trainer now. There may not be time to train your dog before your gathering, but a force-free trainer will be able to give you a game plan.
If it’s Wednesday and you have family and friends coming Friday, there isn’t a whole lot of training/behavior modification that will improve a fearful or aggressive dog’s association with people in time. This is triage time. Management management management.
Dogs want predictability. When you have new people in your home, your dog’s environment becomes less predictable. Dogs who are wallflowers don’t want to be in a room full of people. You are not shunning them by putting them in a comfortable room, crate, familiar daycare, or even boarding away from all of the hustle and bustle. They’re probably relieved to have some down time. Imagine enjoying a slow news day if you will. Remember that great aunt whom your parents made you hug and kiss as a child? Wouldn’t you rather have been left alone to play with your toys?
Instruct everyone to ignore your fearful dog. Again, new people are unpredictable. If new people predictably ignore your dog, this may make your dog a lot more comfortable. A room full of people, who may be a bit tipsy, should not pet or feed your fearful dog. A dog may find his inner brave to come close enough for a bite of food, but then react poorly when he realizes his proximity to people. If your dog is comfortable wearing a muzzle, this can be an additional layer or safety. A muzzle can also give people pause before reaching for your dog. You must advocate for your dog and keep everyone safe.
Find ways to give your dog one-on-one quality time. Get up early and go for a long hike. Play games. Snuggle with your dog while you yourself hide from your guests. Prepare your dog's food puzzles ahead of time for mealtime mental enrichment.
Manage your way through this event, and contact a force-free trainer or veterinary behaviorist to help you with a behavior modification training plan. We’ve been contacted about such things a lot these past weeks. Join the club at www.BehaviorUnited.com!