This holiday season you’re not the only family member playing host–your new pup will be sharing the duties. And while he’s well-behaved around you, he gets a major case of the barks when strangers are involved. Using items like a bark control or a thunder shirt can help calm your pooch once holiday madness is in full swing. But is it possible to get your pet prepped before friends and family arrive?
There are a few things you can do before (and after) the guests arrive to get your pet guest-ready. Though they may not be enough to overrun a lifelong pattern or to soothe a very nervous animal, Los Angeles-based dog trainer and author Michael Chill warns, they could be just the ticket for making the average pup a bit more comfortable when the holiday bustle begins.
1. Create Bonds With Treats
Chill suggests that if there are treats your dog particularly enjoys, you can use this to make introducing him to new people easier. Start by rattling a container of treats to get his attention, and giving him one once he responds politely. Your dog will begin to associate the sound of the rattling jar with getting a treat. Repeat this exchange up until the day your house guests arrive.
When your guests walk through the door, immediately hand the newcomers the jar and have them rattle it without looking directly at the dog (eye contact may overwhelm him). Once your pooch perks up have the guest reward him a treat. This exchange should help friends and family get on your dog’s good side from day one of their visit.
2. Prepare Them for Perfumes
Your mother-in-law loves her White Diamonds. Your father-in-law is an Old Spice man. You can use these facts to make your dog feel comfortable before either of them arrive. Pre-visit, purchase a bottle of each and spritz it in different areas of the house to get your dog acclimated to the scent. Thanks to the power of his sense of smell, when the in-laws arrive they’ll already seem familiar to him.
3. Make It a Play Date
Does your dog love walks? Have a favorite toy? Or totally dig playing frisbee? Chill notes that another way to get your dog acclimated to new people is by involving them in his favorite activities. In fact, if your pup is at his best when out and about, throw him on his leash and make the initial intro a half a block away from your home.
4. Give Them a Time Out
It’s also important to set up a safe place for your pet to decompress when they start to get anxious. “Give them a quiet, comfortable location in your home that’s stress or guest free,” says Chill. We suggest placing a pet bed and a few toys (maybe a scratching post for a skittish cat) in the laundry room or home office. When the going gets rough let your pet go play in their special place. Keep guests away by closing the door and putting up a “Do Not Disturb” sign.