The Holiday Season is officially here. If I see one more meme in my Facebook feed telling me how your dog owns the house and your guests need to deal with it I think I will cry. I am sorry, these are wrong. When you have people at your house, you are responsible for their safety and comfort. Not all guests want to share a chair or a bed with your pet. Not all guests want your dog jumping all over them. Yes this is my home and these are my pets. However, I have invited a guest or guests. I must make reasonable accommodations for their safety and security.
It does not matter if you have a four pound Chihuahua, a hundred and fifty pound Mastiff or an elderly cat: in the majority of situations, you are responsible for your pet and what happens. Yes, Sparky may have been fully justified in nipping little Sally. The child did scream “I LOVE DOGGIES” and tackled the poor thing while he was asleep. However, will the local animal control officer who took the doctor’s call agree?
Just because you told Great Aunt Edna to stop poking Fluffy it may not stop civil action after a bad scratch leaves Edna with an infection. You may be responsible for her medical bills. Yes this is my home and my pets, but these are my guests. I invited them. I have a responsibility. I also have a responsibility to my pets to reduce their stress.
Parties can be anxiety-laden Is the house clean enough? Will Uncle Al show up drunk? Will your cousin bring her children to an adult-only New Year’s party (they are the reason this year is adult-only). Will the food be ready on time? Will people bring what they said they would? Is there enough silverware? Who will bring what drama? Imagine what this is like for a species who does not understand in human terms what is happening.
For our pets, the stress is compounded. Along with feeling our stress (pets are often very sensitive to our emotions), they pick up on everything else. Screeching voices, people rushing in, the smells of people you barely know and lots of food, feet stomping, people charging over to rudely touch you when you do not want to be touched, etc. As stress builds, it increases the chance of your pet responding. This response may be socially acceptable for a cat or dog, yet not considered acceptable with humans. As soon as we invite guests to our house, we have an obligation to their safety. This means remembering our pets and their needs. Fluffy probably hates Aunt Edna’s “nose boops.” Sparky really may not care for children.
Remember: crates, gates, leashes, closed doors. It is important to make sure our pets are safe when we have guests. Even my most tolerant pets may become upset if I entertain. I do not want them to become stressed. Therefore, keeping them in a safe area with something to do is what I often choose. Even if everyone is OK being in the same room and are behaving, I still allow my pets to decide if they will be social. They may want to be with us but not touched by everyone. I would not force pets to be social.
There are tips in this entry that can be used for any holiday! Please click here.
With the holidays upon us, please remember safety is first. Your pets are your pets, your guests are your guests. Sometimes the two should not mix.
Karen Peak owns West Wind Dog Training and The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project in Prince William County.
(images from Pinterest – credit unknown)