Dog wearing Santa hat
Hosting your favorite people for a holiday party this year? Be sure to include your dog in the fun — and help him to be on his best behavior during the festivities with these simple tips.

Practice Party Manners Ahead of Time

Does your Lab think he’s a lap dog? Or does your Pug paw, whine and bark for attention? If so, you will need to teach him some more acceptable ways to communicate — and you will need to do it before the party starts. Not all of your guests may welcome a giant lap dog or persistent pawing, especially if they are dressed up in their holiday best. (And some guests may be downright nervous around a demanding dog.)

There are several ways to help prevent unwanted gambits for attention. Teach your pooch to move onto furniture only when he is invited and to move away willingly when asked — or train him to keep all four paws on the floor all the time. You can also work with him on going to his bed or mat on command; this gives him a safe space to retreat to and gives guests a break from his attentions.

Teaching your dog to go to his spot can also help to deter begging and food stealing. Give your dog a food puzzle or long-lasting chew to keep him busy while he’s resting in his spot.

Disable the Doorbell

Front door greetings can be overwhelming for many dogs, especially when your attention is focused on the visitors and not on him. Even a typically calm, well-mannered dog may be frightened by repeated rings and may respond by barking or charging at the door.

One way to help your dog stay calm when guests arrive is to decrease triggers that get him all riled up. If he’s likely to go crazy at the sound of the doorbell, consider temporarily disabling or muting the doorbell. Another option is to hang a sign on the door inviting guests to let themselves in — no ring or knock needed (but this only works if you are confident your dog will not escape out the door).

You can also work with your dog on turning the doorbell into the cue to do a desired behavior, like go to his mat or sit and stay. This requires some advance planning, though, and plenty of practice pre-party. And you’ll need to have plenty of treats on hand when guests start to arrive to reward your dog for his good manners.

If you’re concerned that your dog will dash out an open door and just keep running, consider keeping him in a dog-safe space until all of your guests have arrived.

Structure Greetings

Not all dogs are good greeters. Extremely energetic dogs or particularly sensitive pooches may be better hosts if they are able to wait in a dog-safe area away from the festivities until your guests are settled. This approach also gives you a chance to share any special instructions about your dog with your guests and to remove any items — like presents, heavy coats or snow boots — that might be upsetting or of interest to your pooch.

You can also help your dog by guiding his interactions with your guests. He may be more comfortable meeting people one-on-one, for example, rather than in a large group, or he may prefer to observe people for a while before interacting with them. Let your guests know what his preferences are and how they should respond to him. For example, a shy dog may not want to be petted, but he may take kindly to someone who just sits near him and is calm and quiet.

Whatever your dog’s personality, having a go-to introduction routine can be helpful for him when he’s meeting people, especially if you’ve got a big group coming over. Doing tricks gives your dog a predictable way to interact with your guests and can help to increase his confidence and reduce any trepidation he may feel around strangers. Bow, shake and sit are all generally easy to train and offer a controlled way for your dog to meet and greet new people.

Take a Break From the Festivities

Minding your manners is hard work for people and pets, and your dog’s ability to be on his best behavior may be taxed by the challenge of a house full of new people and strange foods. He may be able to resist the first couple of unattended dinner plates, for instance, but after a while, his ability to control his impulses is likely to wane, especially in such a high-excitement scenario.

Set up a dog-specific space in your home where your pooch can hang out and unwind. Provide food and water, his bed and some favorite indestructible toys. Allow your dog free access to this area and make it off-limits to party guests. This gives him a place to go when he needs a break, as well as a safe space for times when you cannot supervise him.

Be sure to schedule mini breaks for your dog, too, so he can release any pent-up frustration or energy. A potty or play break in the yard, a quick walk around the block or working on a chew or food puzzle allows him to release tension and energy in a productive, acceptable way.

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