Your Guide to Pets and Strangers
Christmas holidays can be a busy time for everyone, including pets. There is more activity as everyone is home for the holidays, they may be getting less rest, and they may become less tolerant. Check out our video on ‘trigger stacking’.
Chances are your dog/s or cat/s may encounter some new/strange people over the holidays – maybe you have family or friends visiting or are hosting a gathering/party or Christmas lunch.
While some pets love the activity and attention, some may be more comfortable away from the activity, especially if they are not too keen on meeting strangers.
First thing is that all pets need a comfortable rest zone away from any activity, so they feel safe. You may choose to have your pet in their rest zone the whole time you have visitors over, or just at certain times. Or your pet may choose themselves. Make sure that no strangers can access that area, even pop their head in to see your pet or be visible, for example going past going to the bathroom.
Brief your visitors about your pet, you may need to explain how they do not like strange people touching them or staring at them and ask them to ignore your pet, even if they come up for a sniff. Often if a pet comes up to sniff, people misinterpret that your pet wants to be touched, but usually they are just gathering information.
Explain to people not to reach their hand out for your pet to sniff. Your pet can smell them as soon as they come on the property, they do not need a hand stuck in their face to find out information.
Be sure to have a designated adult supervising any interactions between your pet and strangers, especially if they are children.
Read up on canine body language and know the top 3-4 subtle signals that your pet may display if they are uncomfortable. This may include, moving away, head turns, lip licking, and freezing.
If it is appropriate and you feel your pet is calm enough to engage with visitors, play the find it game where you or your visitors toss treats on the ground for your pet to find (be cautious if you have multiple pets). This helps to relax (sniffing is calming) and gives them a chance to move away if they are unsure. After this game your pet may choose to engage with the visitors, or they may choose to move away. The choice is theirs!
Be careful giving any high value items such as bones or chews around large groups of people, except if your pet is secure in their rest zone, especially if your pet has the tendency to guard food and other items.
Meeting or interacting with strange people should be the choice of your pet, not the people, so allow your pet to choose and be sure to ask people to move away if your pet has had enough, especially if your pet is not sure how to move away themselves. Using a target/touch cue is a great idea.
By preparing, advocating for your pets, and supervising, you should breeze through the busy Christmas season.
As always, be safe, happy training and contact us for help with your pets.