It’s that time of year again - the holidays are upon us! Aside from the already present stress for you of rushing to get gifts, family time, etc, the holidays can also be stressful for your pet due to visitors and changes in schedules!
Over 20% of dogs are identified as “reactive” during new introductions so being prepared for new visitors in the home is key for a great holiday season! Before we get into how you can help your dog navigate the hustle and bustle of the holiday visitors all season long, let’s look at your dog’s POV when it comes to visitors!
Visitors from Your Dog’s POV
Visitors are a break in the normal routine. Depending on your dog, holiday visitors might be perceived as friends or foes, but in both cases they are a change, which can oftentimes be stressful for dogs. Dogs won’t know what’s going on when all of these new visitors enter your home so ensuring that you are able to create some normalcy and comfort for your dog is your best plan of action during the season! Keep reading for some of our tips to help your fearful dog navigate the holidays.
Don’t Let Your Dog See Guests Enter the Home
Having visitors arrive can be a very intense situation for a fearful dog. The sight, smell and sound of someone other than a family member appearing at the door and entering the home is a big deal to a dog who is not comfortable with new people, as it can set off all of their alarm bells (“Intruder!”).
That being said, the first tip for making sure your dog feels safe is to not have them see the visitors when they enter, but rather encounter them when they are already settled in the house. It’s a lot easier for a dog to see people already seated in the living room or around the table than it is for them to see others arrive and enter.
To avoid this, tell your visitors to call or text right before coming in so you can make sure you are able to distance your dog from the door before guests enter. Before opening the door for your visitors, temporarily put your dog in a place out of sight of the entry such as in a crate in another room, in the backyard, or in the laundry room. After your guests are settled in the home, let your dog out and allow them to meet the new guests!
Introduce them with Treats!
Now that your guests have settled in, we need to make sure that your dog knows that these new visitors are not a threat. One of the best ways to do this is to equip your guests with high reward treats! Have each guest reward your dog with their treat so your dog knows that they are friends not threats to you or them. Depending on the details of the dog’s anxiety, you may need to have your dog on a leash or behind a gate during this interaction just in case your dog becomes too reactive in situations like these.
Watch Closely… Is Your Guest or Dog Uncomfortable?
We know that you can get caught up in party prep but one thing you need to keep in mind is that during these initial interactions you will need to be there so that you can sense as to whether or not your dog or guest is uncomfortable. If either appears to be uncomfortable, it is best to bring your dog to their safe haven in the home for the remainder of the visit. Dogs are able to pick up on our physical and emotional cues so if they can sense that your guest is uncomfortable, they may become uncomfortable as well, thus resulting in reactive behavior.
Give Your Dog Extra Support
Some dogs just need extra help when visitors are in the home to feel comfortable! Luckily, we have a variety of calming solutions that can help!
ThunderShirt® for Dogs
ThunderEase® for Dogs
ThunderEase® helps your dog feel calm and comfortable by mimicking a mother's natural pheromones. Helps reduce some anxiety symptoms and unwanted behaviors. Help your dog feel safe and less stressed, totally drug free. Available in diffuser, spray, and collar.
ThunderWunders® Calming Chews
Calm comes in a tasty bite-sized bit! ThunderWunders® Dog Calming Chews contain ingredients that help promote rest and relaxation for your dog, so you can spend less time struggling and more time snuggling. Packed full of thiamine, L-Tryptophan, melatonin, and other calming ingredients, our chews help your dog relax in situations that may cause them anxiety. With ThunderWunders® you will want to give your dog the recommended amount 45 minutes prior to the visitors arriving so that the effects will have time to kick in!
Enjoy the Holidays!
We hope that these tips and our calming solutions will help you and your dog have the best holiday experience possible! Do you have extra tips you use for your dog during the holidays? Let us know on social media!