If you have a dog that would be terrified of a large number of guests, it would be better to keep him in a safe, quiet room, away from the party. The same would be true if you have an overly rambunctious dog that might jump from your buffet table to your sofa to your guest’s head. Be sure it’s a room he’s familiar with and not someplace new and scary. Start early getting him accustomed to that room. If he’s comfortable being crated, that may also help. Give one or two frozen, stuffed Kongs® or other similar toys, such as a hollow bone, stuffed with something yummy. Play soft music to help drown out the noise of the party. Again, this should be something you introduce to your dog well in advance. Some dogs may hear the noise and want to join in. So be sure he is secure and won’t damage anything or hurt himself trying to get to the party.
If you would like your dog to be a part of the party and he isn’t used to strangers in the house, start the acclimation sooner than later. Have a friend visit. Start with only one or two people. Teach your dog to sit quietly as guests enter. It will help to have a good foundation of the dog sitting to greet people. Ask guests not to fuss over the dog at first. Have them sit down and allow the dog to go over on his own accord and say hi. If he’s afraid of them, either you give him treats or have the visitor play Treat Retreat with him. Instead of coaxing the dog to come to them with a treat, have the guest toss the treat past where the dog stops when approaching them. The dog gets two rewards: to move away from the “scary person” and to get the treat. (Rise Van Fleet has a Treat Retreat video on YouTube.) Slowly add more people to your visitor list. If you think your dog is okay with a bunch of strangers in your house but you’ve never had a lot of people over, it’s also a good idea to do a few test runs with bigger and bigger groups of people.
If you have a rambunctious dog that jumps on the guests but you’d like him to be part of the celebration, start practicing early. A dog that is sitting can’t also be jumping. Start asking your dog to sit for everything. Ask him to sit before you pet him, before he goes out the door, before he gets food. When you come home from work, ask the dog to sit before you pet him. If he’s excited and jumping around, stand still, don’t make eye contact and ignore him until he sits, then quietly reward him with your attention. The next step is to have him on leash and have a friend approach. If he gets excited and pulls toward them, have them stop and turn their back. As they approach, you can ask him to sit, when he does, they step toward him. If he gets up, they step back. When he sits again, they approach. Next, do the same with someone the dog really loves and wants to approach. With being continually rewarded for sitting, it should become his “default” behavior when he wants something.
There are a few more things to remember: Keep the food and alcohol away from your dog. Be sure decorations are not harmful or tempting to chew on. Often female guests will lay their purses on the floor. Discourage this as you don’t know if they may have food such as gum with Xylitol in it that would harm your dog if he ate it. If you plan to have holiday visitors and think there is no safe way your dog can handle it, consider boarding for the day. And most of course, remind him that Santa is watching!