It’s fun and exciting to have friends and family over for a picnic, holiday, or any celebration in your own backyard. One party preparation that may be overlooked, though, is pet safety when entertaining. Hosting a party can be distracting (if not chaotic) if you did not think about your pet. There are so many ways pets can get into trouble with new people, sights and sounds, and new foods and beverages. Here are some helpful tips to keep pets away during a party:
1. Notify guests that you have a pet before the party.
Let your guests know that there are pets in the house, especially those who probably don’t know and those who have not been at your house before. It’s a courtesy, and it’s fair for them because some may have allergies, afraid of animals, or simply don’t want to be around pets. So if you find out that one of your guests simply cannot be around pets for whatever reason, plan to keep your dog upstairs in your bedroom and far away from your party area, in a kennel, or even at a different location.
2. Plan ahead.
If you know your pet is anxious around loud noise or strangers, you may want to board them or hire a pet sitter. If he’s over-excitable or anxious, you may even want to use a mild sedative to give to your pet before the party. Knowing your pet’s comfort level around crowds is key to making the proper arrangements for them.
Keep a crate clean and ready for keeping your pet temporarily if in case they appear agitated or frightened on the party day. On the day of your party, you may want to keep them in a controlled space until most of your guests have arrived and the doorbell has stopped ringing.
3. Keep them on a leash as guests arrive.
This is important if your dog is likely to become excited when there are new people. Greet arriving guests outside if possible since dogs are more likely to remain calm in large, open areas. Reward your dog with a treat each time they calmly greet your visitors with all four paws on the ground. Don’t get your dog off-leash unless you’re sure they will be able to sit calmly and stay when directed to do so.
4. Crate them if needed.
If your dog is unwilling to sit or stay when commanded to do so and if they persistently pester guests – even if affectionately – it’s best to put them in the crate. Extra people in your house might stress your dog out, so fearful and aggressive behavior may most likely come out. Even if they usually never act out, your dog may snap at a person unexpectedly if they feel uncomfortable.
5. Create a safe space where your pets can feel secure.
Whether you decide to create your pet or not, make sure a crate is available and accessible, so they can have a place to go to and hide if they start to get overwhelmed. You may leave your bedroom door cracked and leave one of their toys on the floor.
6. Practice greeting other people before the party to reduce barking.
Whenever people are visiting your home, especially preceding any parties, help your dog practice greeting visitors to reduce barking. Keep your dog on a leash and ask them to sit beside you before opening the door. Reward them if they stay calm when people arrive. Before visitors enter your door, tell them ahead to ignore any jumping or barking and only acknowledge the dog when the dog is calm and friendly. This will help teach the dog the proper behavior.
7. Feed and exercise a dog before the party.
There are two potential issues for your dog during a party: begging and hyperactivity. Even if your dog is usually well-behaved around you and your family, they may see an opportunity to snag some food from an unsuspecting guest and go for it if they are hungry. You might get busy preparing foods for your party that you forget to feed your dog, so make sure your pet has eaten before people come.
Likewise, an active dog that did not exercise recently will be more likely to be too excited when guests arrive. Ideally, you can bring your dog to a walk or a solid exercise session an hour or so before the party, then feed them shortly before people start arriving at your home. A tired and satiated dog will likely be calm and well-behaved. If you’re too busy preparing for the party, delegate this task to someone else.
8. Provide lots of chew toys for your pet.
Most pets will be much happier, safer, and less likely to pester guests when they are having their own “party.” When you command your pet to stay in a particular location, provide them with a long-lasting chew toy and lots of distraction toys. Chew toys help prevent them from chewing something they shouldn’t while keeping them busy and entertained. Include food and water and a litter box if you have a cat. Once they’re settled in their playroom, put a note on the door telling guests not to open it because there are pets inside.
9. Talk to guests about how to engage with the dog.
Guests can inadvertently create issues with their pets without intending to do so. Most visitors who try to be excellent guests insist they don’t mind when your dog jumps up on them or slobbers on their hands, or lick on their shoes. But if guests allow this, it reinforces these behaviors on your dog.
Talk to your guests about how to engage with your dog. Tell them that there’s some obedience training that you’re working on with your dog. You can ask them a favor to ignore your pet when he jumps up and only acknowledges the dog when all his four paws are on the floor. Ask your guests not to leave their alcoholic drinks where the dog can get to them.
10. Keep them away from the furniture.
Keeping pets away from furniture is important if you let your dog roam freely during the party. Even if your dog is usually allowed to join you on the couch or on your bench in the backyard, you must not allow them to get into your furniture while others are visiting. Some guests will simply be polite, but they may not say that they are uncomfortable having your dog near them while they are eating or socializing.
11. Keep them away from booze and food.
Lots of party foods can be toxic to pets, such as grapes, garlic, onions, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, diet foods, nuts, and alcohol. Bones are also a danger because they may cause perforations and blockages when eaten. Keep foods and snacks out of reach, and have pet-appropriate snacks on hand. Label the dog food, too, because someone might think they are party treats for people.
12. Keep them out of party waste.
Your pet might help themselves to leftovers and cause clutter all over your home and party area. Have covered trashcans around for guests to throw their paper plates, cups, and napkins away. Non-disposable tableware must be brought to the kitchen counter or sink. Also, walk around periodically while the party is ongoing to gather waste materials that may not have been disposed of properly.
When the party is over, don’t let your guard down, as they might do their own cleanup, too. Make sure they don’t get into the kitchen to raid the trash, or even worse, get into that box of chocolates your guest brought as a gift.
13. Appoint a pet watcher or hire a pet sitter.
If you are too busy being the hostess, ask a family member or a friend to keep an eye on your pet while you entertain. We all have at least one person who adores our pet. Choose a person you can trust and ask them to help as a pet watcher during the party. If you want everybody to just have a good time, it’s best to hire a pet sitter who will not get distracted.
14. Watch your noise level.
You may be a rocking hostess – fun with big crowds, serves delicious food and drinks, and has excellent taste in music – but your pets and neighbors may not appreciate this. Keep your guests to a reasonable number and the noise moderate. If your pet usually becomes agitated with loud sounds, keep them in a secure room away from the party area. Leave a radio or TV on in that room to help mask the noise outside.
You may also check out our list of Entertaining Gift Ideas for Hosts and Hostesses if you need tips and recommendations about what to give your party host.