Whether they love them or loathe them, most dogs have developed a relationship with the local delivery person this year. So it’s likely a lot of our pups now think that most people that visit our homes don’t actually come into the house, but drop off presents at the door and run away. Now everything is changing and guests can actually come in, is your dog ready to meet and greet people once again?
This is a big change, particularly for dogs who joined their families during the pandemic, it’s completely new to them, and can potentially be a bit stressful. So what can you do to help them adapt?
- GET PUPPEARED - There are plenty of training classes you can do to get prepared for when visitors come calling, whether online or in-person. It can take time but it’s a good idea to train your dog to go and lie down in their bed when told. This means that when the doorbell rings, they can be told to calmly go and lie down which can hopefully diffuse a bit of the initial anxiety involved with a guest’s arrival. Also working on how to keep ‘down’ or ‘stay’ can be a really beneficial way to get ready for friends coming round.
- MAKING FRIENDS - Meeting friends and family outdoors first can mean that when they come into the house they aren’t strangers. This won’t stop our puppy pals from being excited about them coming to visit, but can reduce a bit of worry as they are familiar faces, and smells!
- START WITH A FEW FRIENDS - When first getting visitors round, try to keep the numbers low. Lockdown rules may not allow it anyway, but try to make sure the first time your dog deals with visitors isn’t a massive house party. One or two quiet guests at first can be a great way to ease a dog into the idea of visitors. Ideally pre-warn these friends to come in and not fuss your pup. Let the guest sit down and relax for a minute or two, letting your dog settle down a bit, then your pup can get attention.
- GIVE THEM TIME - Some dogs absolutely love visitors and the biggest challenge will be to stop them giving out slobbery kisses to everyone whether they want it or not, but some other dogs may not be so keen on these new people entering their kingdom. For the shyer pups let them take their time to approach guests, and don’t force cuddles or greetings on them, keeping everyone calm and relaxed. Even once your dog approaches the guest, give them space and time to have a good sniff, and decide whether they are comfortable before any petting. They may just need a bit more time to suss out this new situation and new people.
- SAFE SPACE - Providing a safe place, whether a crate or dog bed, is a great way to give your dog somewhere to go if they feel overwhelmed, or just tired and wanting some space. When they’re in this area, be sure to leave them alone. If they want to come out and interact they have that choice, but also let them know this space is somewhere they can relax and get a bit of peace and quiet, and that they won’t be fussed.
- GET HELP - Going back to a more normal post-lockdown social life is going to be challenging for all of us and our dogs, so don’t be afraid of asking for help. Using a qualified dog behaviourist can be really useful for dogs seeming over-excited or anxious at visitors, or any other worry about their behaviour. Speak to your vet to be referred to someone local.
As lockdown lifts further, we can all look forward to behaving a bit more normally, and finally we can look at having friends and family round to our homes again. It might feel a bit strange to a lot of us, so make sure you consider how your furry friends are feeling when guests come to visit too.