Party Planning with your Pet in Mind

By Jennifer Shryock

If you are hosting a party, remember, although you may feel that your dog would like to be included, it may not be what is best for either them or for your guests. Parties with lots of people, tons of noise and, possibly, young children running around are not comfortable for even the most well-adjusted dogs.

It’s understandable if you feel guilty for excluding your dog during a big event. Most people do, but here are just a few reasons why it is important:

  • Your dog will be not familiar with all of the visitors, which can create excitement and possibly stress for them.
  • You will be distracted at times and unable to supervise every single interaction that your dog has. With so many people around, your dog may encounter a potentially uncomfortable situation, and without you there, he might feel the need to handle things himself.
  • You do not know how your guests feel about dogs and/or how they interact with them. What if they hug and kiss their family dog? Will they try this on your dog? Unless you are completely available to supervise all interactions, it is best if your dog is allowed alone time with a treat to enjoy.
  • Speaking of treats, food will mostly likely be a part of the party, and your dog may not like the idea of possibly having to share. Dogs that do not guard their food normally may choose to do so around unfamiliar visitors, and these encounters can be very dangerous, especially if children are involved.
  • Parties often have exciting games and plenty of noisemakers (guests included) and these can make dogs VERY uncomfortable!

So what should you do? Below are four steps you can take to ensure that your dog has a good time, too:

  1. Offer them a quiet place. Find an area where they can relax while the party is in full swing. Preferably, somewhere with a fan or white noise that can drown out noises and keep things calm.
  2. Give your dog a deliciously stuffed Classic KONG. This treat will be the perfect distraction for them while the party is in full swing.  Packing multiple KONGs is a great idea, too and so is freezing them. The more time they spend engaged and having fun, the better!
  3. Keep the party from spilling in. One fun way to stop party goers from encroaching on your dog’s quiet place is to put a photo of them on the outside of the door. Add a Stop sign image and a note that says something like “Thanks for letting me nap alone” or some other phrase that lets guests  know that the door must stay closed. If children are also at the party, the temptation may be too much for them, so consider putting a lock on the door that is only available to adults. If your dog has any history of undesirable behaviors or discomfort around new people or children a lock is essential. Set your dog up for success.
  4. Know your dog. If your dog is quite social and you do choose to bring them out for an introduction and a short visit, keep them on a leash and be very aware of their body language. Respecting what your dog is communicating is the key to preventing unfortunate situations. No matter how social they are, it is always a good idea to limit the amount of time they are included in the gathering. We all know how exhausting a crowded party can be, and dogs tire easily.

I hope you find this helpful as you plan. Parties are fun, but they are for people. Your dog will do much better enjoying a quiet afternoon with a yummy treat and a little bit of peace and quiet.

Jennifer Shryock is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), owner of Family Paws™ LLC in Cary, NC and holds a degree in Special Education. She is also the U.S. VP of Doggone Safe, a non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention and victim support.  A recognized expert on child-dog interactions and safety, her two programs, Dogs & Storks® and the Dog & Baby Connection™, have been featured in national media from magazines such as The Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart LIVING, Dog Fancy, as well as on TV and radio. Jennifer lives in Cary, North Carolina, with her husband, four children, three dogs and three cats.