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Teaching Your Dog to Be Calm During Family Gatherings

Teaching Your Dog to Be Calm During Family Gatherings

Having a calm and well-behaved dog during family gatherings is important for ensuring a pleasant experience for everyone involved. An excitable or anxious dog can lead to stress and chaos, but with proper training and preparation, you can teach your dog to remain relaxed amidst the hustle and bustle of a family party. This extensive guide will provide you with tips and techniques for helping your dog be calm when visitors come over and when there are lots of people in your home.

Start Training Well in Advance

Don't wait until right before the big family dinner or holiday celebration to start working on calm behavior with your dog. Begin training several weeks or even months in advance so your dog has time to learn and practice being relaxed and obedient when there's excitement in your home. If you only start trying to teach calmness right before an event, your dog is much more likely to get overly excited and anxious.

Use Positive Reinforcement

When training your dog to be calm around company, be sure to rely heavily on positive reinforcement in the form of treats, praise, and affection. Punishing or scolding your dog for getting excited will only increase their stress and anxiety. Reward your dog with treats and verbal praise when they demonstrate calm behavior like resting quietly on their bed or mat. This will reinforce the fact that relaxed conduct results in good things for your pup. Avoid yelling at your dog or putting them in another room when guests arrive, as this can exacerbate the problem.

Practice Having People Over

Invite friends or family members over to your house before a major event so you can practice having your dog remain calm and relaxed. Start with just one or two visitors at a time, rewarding your dog for calm behavior. As your dog masters staying relaxed with a couple guests, gradually increase the number of people until it matches the size of your real gathering. This gradual exposure helps prevent your dog from becoming overwhelmed.

Provide Plenty of Exercise

Make sure to exercise your dog thoroughly before any family celebrations. A long walk or run will help your dog burn off excess energy and enter a calmer state of mind. Tired dogs are less likely to run around, jump up, and get worked up. Try to tire out but not exhaust your dog prior to visitors' arrival.

Give Your Dog a Place to Relax

Having a designated spot for your dog to settle in while your family is over will promote calmness. This could be a comfortable dog bed, open crate, or mat placed in a quiet corner of the room. Place familiar toys and blankets in this spot to soothe your pup. Reward your dog for going to their spot and resting quietly during the commotion.

Use Appeasing Pheromones

Introduce an appeasing pheromone product like Adaptil to your home. These synthetic dog pheromones have a calming effect and can help ease anxiety. Diffusers, sprays, and collars containing these pheromones may be useful for family events. Consult your vet about appropriate pheromone options for your dog.

Avoid Triggers

Pay attention to what specific situations, noises, smells, sights, or people seem to trigger excitable behavior in your dog during gatherings. Then make efforts to limit exposure to these triggers as much as possible. For example, keep your dog in a quieter room if they get riled up when kids run and scream.

Have Your Dog Eat Beforehand

Make sure to feed your dog a good meal 1-2 hours before visitors arrive. Having food in their stomach will help them feel calm and satisfied rather than overly excited about treats and table scraps when your family is eating. Stick to your dog's normal diet and avoid mixing in special leftovers from the human food.

Limit Food From Guests

Instruct your family and guests to refrain from feeding your dog from the table, slipping them scraps, or giving them treats without your approval. This usually leads to begging, disruptive behavior, stomach issues, or accidental choking hazards. Politely explain you're training your dog and will reward them for being calm.

Keep Your Dog on a Leash or in Their Crate at First

Initially when your guests begin arriving, keep your dog restrained on a leash with you or in their crate until they settle down. This prevents them from running to the door, jumping on people, and getting overexcited. After about 15-30 minutes, you can let your well-behaved pup mingle around the house off leash.

Use Interactive Toys and Puzzles

Hand your dog a Kong toy stuffed with frozen peanut butter, a Buster cube filled with treats, or another challenging interactive toy just before guests show up. This will immediately engage your dog's brain and body in a positive way before they have a chance to get worked up. The mental stimulation and physical release helps produce calmness.

Play Soothing Music

Create a peaceful environment by playing soft, mellow music in the background when family comes over. Classical, reggae, ambient, or nature sounds can have a calming effect on dogs. Avoid cranking loud rock or dance music that may overstimulate your pup. Keep the volume reasonable too.

Use Training Cues

Incorporate obedience commands like "sit", "stay", "down", "settle", and "place" (go to your spot/bed) into your training. Use these cues when guests arrive to direct your dog to behave calmly. Reward compliance with treats and praise. Verbal cues give your dog clear direction amidst the hubbub.

Remain Relaxed Yourself

You need to stay composed too, as dogs pick up on humans' stress and anxiety. Take deep breaths, speak in a soothing tone, and focus on your own calm state of mind when greeting guests. Your inner peace will help relax your pup as well. Don't get impatient or frustrated with your dog's behavior.

Give Your Dog Breaks

Even the best-trained dogs need an occasional break from all the family activities. Put your dog in their quiet crate or room for 30-60 minutes periodically to rest and avoid overstimulation. Provide a stuffed Kong or safe chew toy to occupy them during this time.

Watch Your Dog for Signs of Stress

Pay attention to your dog's body language and facial expressions. Signs of anxiety like lip licking, yawning, panting, and avoiding eye contact signal your dog may need a calm break. Intervene before the stress escalates to misbehavior. Meeting their needs prevents problem behavior.

Keep Your Home and Guests Low-Key

Request guests avoid overly rambunctious behavior like screaming, chasing each other, and wrestling. Politely ask them to refrain from touching your dog without permission. The more low-key and less stimulating the environment, the easier it will be for your dog to stay relaxed.

Reinforce Calmness After Guests Leave

When your event has ended and guests have departed, continue reinforcing calm, settled behavior with your dog. Require them to relax on their bed and avoid overly excited conduct. This helps cement good habits once your house returns to normal. Remain consistent in your expectations.

Be Patient and Consistent

Some dogs pick up on these techniques quickly, while others require more time and repetition. Be patient, stick to the training, and consistently reward quiet manners. With continued practice both before and during family gatherings, your dog will learn to be calm in exciting situations. Just stick with it!


Keeping your dog relaxed and mannerly when guests come over involves forethought, training, and reinforcing good behavior. Start working on calmness well ahead of time, utilize positive reinforcement and remove stress triggers, provide your dog with a place to rest, and remain patient. With consistency, you can teach your furry friend to handle family events with grace instead of chaos. Just be committed to the process and you'll see your dog's anxiety around company melt away.

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