Dogs Christmas Holiday Pixabay

I know many people want their pets to be part of various holiday traditions. Even if you are one who lives for this time of year and adores having huge gatherings, your pet may not share the sentiment. Even if your pet handles the activity well, depending on your guests, it may not be in Sparky’s best interest to be out with everyone.  

Here are a few of the concerns pet owners should consider when hosting any party:

  • Doors opened as guests enter increases the risk of an escape. Think how many times doors are opened and held open as guests come in or leave.

  • Plates of food left out, people sneaking food to your pet even if asked not to can cause trouble.  The last thing you need is an emergency veterinarian visit because your pet got something he should not have. Alternatively, he overindulged and ended up with pancreatitis or bloat.

  • Do not forget the risk for injury to pet or guest. Clients have relayed stories of the dogs injuring people as they exuberantly jumped on guests.  I witnessed a special needs child with aggression issues intentionally kick a senior dog. The child was known to injure animals and people for fun. The host failed to properly secure the dog.  She was placed in an area that was easily accessible. It happened fast. I saw it coming but could not move fast enough to stop the child, and other adults were ignoring the child.

If you decide it is in your pet’s best interest not to be part of the festivities, here  are a few things you can do to increase safety:

  • When my kids were younger we had a summer gathering here. My dogs were confined to an upper bedroom.  At the bottom and top of the stairs I put up baby gates. There was a third gate in the bedroom doorway and the door was closed. I informed parents their kids were only to use the lower-level bathroom and were not to be in the house unsupervised. The more layers of security, the better. Before your guests arrive, meet your pet’s needs and prepare things to help make confinement easier.

  • Have someone get out excess energy the pets may have.  This may be a long walk, playing with toys, mental and physical games, etc. Prepare food releasing toys for your pets to work on while in their safe zones. Provide interactive toys or things to chew, and leave a TV or radio on in the background.  Do not forget to check on your pets while your guests are there. If needed, they can go for another walk or have some play time with a trusted relative.


  • Finally, it is OK to advocate for your pet if people want to greet them and you know it is not in their best interests.  If your pets are social, relaxed and things have calmed down, then consider allowing them to carefully interact.

But if your brothers are screaming at the football game, kids are racing around, the sisters are doing their exuberant discussions, then it may be best for Sparky and Mr. Whiskers to stay in calmer areas.

Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.

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