Having guests over? Remember, a tired pet will have much greater value for resting rather than jumping so make sure you give your friend plenty of exercise earlier in the day. And, an animal that is busy focusing on a valuable toy is also less likely to notice other stimulus that would otherwise have his full attention.
Additionally, remember, those manners behaviors that may be of importance to you during your get together need to be taught well ahead of the holiday, and practiced with increasingly difficult criteria. The time to learn and teach is not when you need rock solid performance.
However, something fun for you and your pet to do with guests is to show off the ‘trick’ play behaviors you have worked on. I know when I begin asking our Sam to go through his twenty plus behaviors, his tail is generally wagging the entire time.
With adult guests often come children, and as your pet’s guardian, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone. Even the most docile dog will have a breaking point when it comes to interactions with people that make him uncomfortable. Children should always be pro-actively supervised around pets; and should be redirected if they are doing anything that a non-human animal doesn’t like. They also should not be wild and crazy around your dog, as that could cause your dog to get wild and crazy as well.
Some body language to watch for in dogs that says they are not happy includes: a tail held low or tucked between the legs; ears held sideways for an erect eared dog or flattened back with rapid panting; tense eyes that likely show the whites around the sides; tense body muscles; looking or moving or leaning away; a center of gravity over the rear legs or to one side. Dogs may also roll onto their belly in submission. If dogs freeze, become stiff, stand with their front legs splayed and head low, showing teeth or growling, interaction with them needs to stop immediately.
If your dog has any kind of known fear or reactivity issues, the time to work on this is not when company arrives. Your best option may be to offer your pet a ‘safe place’ such as a back bedroom or crate (that you have taught a positive association with in advance) where you can have your dog hang out instead.
If your dog is a known beggar around the dinner table, you may want to begin now teaching an acceptable, alternative behavior to pawing and scratching guests. Remember, as his teacher, his ability to learn is dependent on your reliability (and EVERYONE in your household) to quickly reinforce the behavior you want to see – and every time he does the behavior in the beginning.
Begin by teaching the alternative behavior (like sitting or laying down) and get it reliably on cue. Once on cue you can begin teaching him to hold that behavior for longer durations before delivering reinforcement.
Then, you can cue him to do the behavior before you sit down at the table and heavily reinforce it. You can teach him to sit or lay down in a bed or on a mat as an alternative. Gradually then you can teach him to sit or lay down with more distance from you, then adding in teaching him the duration for his stay. And then add the difficulty of higher value food on your table.
If at any time he gets up and bets, you can simply push your plates into the center of the table and turn your back. Then wait until or cue him to sit or lay down and holds that position for 5 to 10 seconds before reinforcing him for that.
Dogs are pretty smart. If ‘you’ teach him that begging only gets people to turn away and push food aside but sitting or laying down gets a nifty treat, guess which choice he’ll make?