How to involve your dog in family events

01/09/2021

Guest post all about how to involve your dog in family events and make sure the day goes off without a hitch!

Do you ever get the feeling that your dog is getting a bit left out when you have family events? Of course, dogs don’t realise when it’s a holiday or occasion the way humans do, but they can still feel the excitement and tell something different is happening. Here, Chris Socratous from pet healthcare experts Bob Martin explores ways to include your dog in those special events.

How to involve your dog in family events

When you have a family gathering, for Christmas, New Year, a birthday, or another fun occasion, you might not know what to do with your dog. You want to concentrate on seeing the family, but also need to look after your furry friend and make sure they don’t run off or become overwhelmed with having so many people around.

While this is always easier if your dog is trained and socialised, and calm around people, there are lots of things you can do to make the day run smoother and ensure that your dog is involved in the celebrations. That way, you can be there for those important family moments, and have your companion with you, without your attention being divided.

Is your dog trained and socialised?

When you first get an adult dog or a puppy, you often find they need some training, or they need practice with getting used to new people. Socialising puppies is a very important stage in their development — introducing them to as many situations and people as possible when they are young reduces the possibility of them being nervous or aggressive to people in future.

If your dog is very new to your home, has some behavioural issues, or just isn’t ready for the number of people that will be at the gathering, be aware of this. For dogs that have never been to a family event before, it’s worth starting them on something smaller. Some good options are a pub meet up with a few family members, or a walk with other people (and potentially dogs), rather than taking them straight into a crowded occasion where they might be overwhelmed.

The key here is to know your pet and to choose environments and celebrations that they can get involved in without it being too much for their level of socialisation. This way, you can choose events that both you and your dog will enjoy, and they can integrate into the family even more.

Will there be other dogs at the gathering?

It’s good to know beforehand whether your dog is the only dog (or pet) at the gathering and plan for what kind of interaction will be happening between the animals. If there will be other dogs present, think about how sociable your pooch is with other dogs, and ask the other dog owner how sociable their pet is. This way, you can know in advance whether it’s a good idea for the dogs to play with each other, or if you should have a special area for one of them where they can be undisturbed.

Knowing if there will be other pets around is also extremely useful. Some dogs won’t bat an eyelid at cats, rabbits, or other smaller pets, but some dogs won’t be able to keep their eyes off them! So, ask the host in advance about any other pets, and make arrangements to keep smaller animals in another room if necessary. This will make it easier to involve your dog in the festivities.

Does your dog need some time out?

Sometimes, the action can all be a bit much for our canine companions, and this is particularly true for puppies and older dogs. Giving them a break from the action once in a while will keep them calm, rested, and fun to be around. 

Keep an eye out for signs of stress and fatigue in your dog. This might show up in puppies as ‘zoomies’, similarly to how a child might run around and cry when they become tired. In older dogs, it’s most likely to appear as irritability or restlessness. If you see these signs, try taking your dog to a quieter area, and letting them have a nap or a rest. You can even arrange an area in advance, perhaps with their familiar blanket or bed so that they can be extra comfy.

Is there enough space at the venue for your dog?

Be mindful of how much space is available at any event. A lot of dogs need a bit of room to run around in if they are staying somewhere for long periods of time, so check if there is a garden available. If you are meeting family in a public place such as a pub or a park, look at the space available there. It’s good to know there’s an open bit of land where you can let your dog off the lead if they need to run off a bit of steam after all the social excitement.

If you’re meeting in a place that doesn’t have outside space, the event is still doable, however. Just keep an eye on the time and take your dog out for a quick walk around the block when they become too energetic or restless (or need the toilet). This can also help improve their behaviour as it often stops the restlessness and barking that comes from a dog needing to have some exercise.

Will there be food at the event?

When there’s food around, many dogs will be distracted by it and beg to have a taste! But, it’s not a good idea to set precedents that you dog will be fed from the table, or that they can ask for human food. So, establish in advance that you don’t want your dog to be fed from people’s plates.

You should also bring any necessary food with you. If a holiday event will run over one of your pooch’s mealtimes, bring their bowl and their usual portion. Even if it doesn’t run over a mealtime, make sure to have treats with you, especially if you’ve trained with them. This way, if you need treats to help discipline, or you want to reward your dog for good behaviour — especially when there is human food around — you have an easy way to show your appreciation.

Taking your dog to a family event can be a little intimidating, as you might not be sure how your dog will react to all the people, smells, sounds, and activities. But, with these routine tips, you can make these occasions relaxing, fun opportunities for your family to spend time with your canine friend. And with a bit of practice, your dog will be a veteran of holiday gatherings.

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