Surviving the Holidays with Your Dog

Wondering how you'll be surviving the holidays with your dog? The holidays can be a wonderful time full of family visits and great food. However, for our dogs, holidays can be overstimulating. There are new people. Sometimes there are new dogs. There are great smells. It can be such an overwhelming (albeit exciting) time for our dogs!

How can we help our pups through the holidays?

  1. Manage Expectations
  2. Be Prepared
  3. Practice Skills in Advance

Manage Expectations

It is so important that we manage our own human expectations when we take our dogs into these exciting situations. This is especially true if this is your dog's first holiday season, or if they are in the height of canine adolescence (which you can learn more about here).

First, we are not going to expect perfection. We are going to mess up. We will not be prepared for absolutely everything. Our dogs will be silly. And that's okay!

What we can do is be realistic with ourselves about where our dogs are at with their skills and development. Holiday parties are not an appropriate event for every dog, and that is absolutely fine. Hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to give your pup their version of fun while you spend the day at a party is wonderful!

If you decide to bring your dog with you to a holiday party, or if the party is coming to you and your pup is joining, you still need to think about what will be realistic approaches for you and your pup to help you be prepared.

The key to surviving the holidays with your dog? Be Prepared.

I always joke with my husband that we have to bring the whole house when we take our two young children to gatherings. Sometimes, it feels the same when we bring along our dogs. Especially when they are in the puppy or adolescent stage, surviving the holidays with your dog can feel like an impossible task.

You will want to think about:

  • Where can you put your dog when they need space or it is time for a nap?
    Crates, baby gates or leashes that tether them to you or an object can all be great options.
  • What can you bring to help entertain your dog?

Food puzzles, long lasting chews and bones are all great options to give your dog something to do while you sit and enjoy your meal with family.

  • What is your dog's FAVORITE treat?

We will be asking our dogs to behave in incredibly difficult environments. We need to highly reward the effort they put in by bringing along their favorite treats. We recommend bringing two or three high value options so you can mix it up throughout the day. Some great options include hot dogs, cheese, or freeze dried treat options.

You can find our favorite brands of all of these items through our Amazon storefront here.


Practice Skills in Advance

There are three skills that we have found to be the most important when it comes to bringing our dogs to large gatherings: polite greetings, place, and drop. You will want to start these well before you try to implement them at a party.

Polite Greetings

There will be so many new friends to greet and say hi to at a large gathering. If your dog is not already good at greeting new people without jumping on them, you will want to keep them on leash or behind a baby gate for the start of the party.

If you are visiting a new house, go ahead and plan to take 5-10 minutes when you first arrive to let your pup sniff around the yard and take any needed potty breaks before trying to introduce them to anyone.

Once you are ready, keep your dog on leash and slowly approach the party. As you come across people, ask your dog to sit before they are allowed to greet the person. Reward your dog with their high value treat once they sit!

If your dog goes to jump on the person, back him away or ask the guest to back away. If your pup is sitting nicely, then they can say hello.


Place can be so helpful for giving your pups an expected and well-rehearsed option for going and laying down. You will need to bring your pup's preferred place mat for this!

Keep it simple in these exciting environments. Their place mat should be near you and you should be rewarding your dog for staying on place regularly. You can either toss a piece of their high value treats to them every few minutes or you can give them a longer lasting chew while they hang out on their place.


No matter how careful we are, our pups may find they have access to items or food that are just too tempting. This is where having a reliable drop cue comes in handy!

You can see our full blog post on how to teach your dog to drop any item here.

It's time to be thriving instead of surviving the holidays with your dog.

Happy Holidays and Happy Training!

If you need help with your dog's training, we offer private and group dog training sessions in the Atlanta, Georgia area. We also offer online dog training to clients all over the world. Contact us if you'd like more information.

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