8 Ways to Help Your Dog Survive Holiday Visits

8 Ways to Help Your Dog Survive Holiday Visits

The holidays are a time of great comfort and joy and commiserating with family and friends. Fidose readers know that family includes dogs, so over the river and through the woods we all go … until we skid on ice. There are many ways to help your dog survive holiday visits, though. Helping your dog survive the holiday visits is essential to family harmony.

If your dog is less than welcome during holiday visits, a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life can quickly turn to one from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. According to report from AAA, approximately 43.6 million Americans travel over 50 miles during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. With over 72 million dogs sharing our lives in the states, we are definitely a culture going places, with a dog by our side.

Keep your sanity intact and your pooch’s tail wagging with these eight tips for holiday visits.


1. Furniture alert

What the host says: “Your dog is welcome but isn’t allowed on the furniture.”

What you think: “My dog allows me to share his furniture at home, Grinchie McGrinch!”

How to react: Respect your host’s wishes. To some, paw prints on a couch add nothing to the ambience and can ruffle more than a few feathers. If your dog knows “off” or “down,” reinforce those skills a few days prior to leaving. Back to basics: Reward with a treat or praise, and never scold a dog for behavior he is accustomed to at home. After all, life is one big pooch pad in his eyes.

2. Coat-check warning

What the host says: “Can I take your coat and purse?”

What you think: “Well of course, how polite.”

How to react: Ask where the coats and purses will be stored and ensure that your dog has zero access to them. Purses and coats are often laden with breath mints and gum in pockets, many of which contain the very dangerous ingredient, Xylitol. It is toxic to dogs, and all counter surfing and pocket sniffing should be halted before a potentially fatal situation occurs.


3. Cuteness alert

What the host says: “He is so cute, can I pet him?”

What you think: “Of course, this is my dog, my pride and joy. Pet away!”

How to react: No matter how friendly your dog is on a general basis, unfamiliar territory, new faces, kids reacting to presents, and a houseful of people can precipitate an uneasiness in your dog. Think about petting: It’s like a stranger running up to you in public and hugging you without warning. I like it when people ask to pet my dog, and also when they don’t put their face right in my dog’s face. Proceed with caution, and think like the dog. Do you want Aunt Mary squeezing your cheeks? Your dog doesn’t, either.


4. Clean-up duty

What the host says: “Make sure he doesn’t poop or pee in the house.”

What you think: “My dog won’t do that.”

How to react: Accidents happen, and it isn’t the end of the world. I have been to houses where my dog had an accident and you would think someone canceled Christmas. Not so, life goes on. Apologize, volunteer to clean it up (actually, insist), and if you have the gumption to do so, carry along an arsenal of cleaning remedies. I’ve been doing it for years; the first time your dog leaves a log of the non-yule variety, you are no longer looked at as the “crazy dog lady” for whipping out the doggy bags and non-toxic deodorizer.


5. More than reindeer

What the host says: “There will be a few dogs here, just a heads up.”

What you think: “No worries, my dog loves everyone.”

How to react: Referring back to the holiday frenzy that comes with a houseful of people, think like the dog. Normally friendly dogs can react differently when in a stressful situation with strange dogs. If your dog can pretty much pass the elements of a Canine Good Citizen test, this is a good earmark of taking him or her along when other dogs will be present.


6. Oh no he didn’t

What the host says: “He’s humping Uncle Earl’s leg.”

What you think: “Gadzooks! No!”

How to react: Calmly and politely remove the dog from said leg and apologize. Mounting or dominance behavior manifests itself differently in a variety of ways to dogs, so no need to worry. Clap your hands, say “off,” and keep your dog close to you to avoid any further urges.


7. Can my dog stay over?

What the host says: “I guess it’s OK to bring your dog when you stay over, but do you have to?”

What you think: “Don’t ever talk to me again. How rude!”

How to react: Assess the situation. Is your dog averse to road travel? Does he or she panic and get more stressed with traveling and visiting people? I am a big proponent of taking a dog with me wherever I go, as long as the dog reacts well and is happy about doing so. In cases of stressing the dog out, alternative arrangements with a qualified pet sitter, friend, or family member would be in his best interest.

If the dog is OK with the travel part but the host is not fond of having a pet stay there, consider pet-friendly accommodations nearby for the sleeping part. I’ve been there, done that, and it saves a lot of unnecessary stress on everyone.


8. Table the scraps

What the host says: “Hey Maxie, c’mere boy, have a few table scraps.”

What you think: “Please don’t feed my dog from the table” or “just a few bites won’t hurt him.”

How to react: Voice your wishes to everyone present. Ask that they refrain from feeding your dog anything or sneaking him a snack under the table. A surefire way to ruin a holiday is by sitting at the emergency vet on Christmas Day. A dog’s digestive system is different than ours, so proceed with caution on any foods you feed your dog outside his norm. Here’s our list of dangerous winter plants to dogs.

Are you visiting family and friends with your dog this holiday season? How are you preparing for it? Let us know in the comments!

Note: I originally wrote this story for Dogster Magazine and am re-running it here due to its timely nature.

Similar Posts


  1. Good advice, ESPECIALLY about the purse/pocket access. Lots of folks keep gum, mints and even meds in their purses and pockets. When people visit here, the first thing I do is remove purses from the dog’s access.

  2. Our dogs survive simply because we don’t have guests during the holidays. Easy peasy 🙂 I love the holidays for the peacefulness and much prefer visiting someone else for a few hours then heading home 🙂

    I’ll bring a dish 🙂

  3. These are great tips! Duke will be with his dad & “grandma” during the holiday season with many other dogs but he does have issues at her house that he doesn’t have at home. For example, he has a lot of accidents at her house though he’s never had any at ours so it is good to be prepared for everything despite how much you might think “Oh my dog wouldn’t ever do that”!

  4. I think the best is to host at your own home or go visit someone else that has and understands pets. This year we have no clue how Bailie will behave but we hope no accidents happen.

  5. These are great! We’re taking my dogs Maya and Pierson to my parents house this Christmas. I’m sure they will greatly appreciate it if I make sure me and the dogs are considerate of their wishes. My stepmom hates the dog hair so I will be sure to try to help keep up with sweeping and vacuuming.

  6. Great tips Carol,

    It’s always best to think about these things in advance and help ensure everyone has a fun time! 🙂

    I hope Dexter’s leg is doing well, mine is good thanks 🙂

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  7. Our dog literally can not be around other humans besides us. We have to put him in his kennel when people come over.

  8. These are some great tips. We do not travel with our dogs and when company comes over we keep them away from visitors. They can’t handle the anxiety. They like their personal space and they stay there until company leaves.

  9. At the moment we’re staying in a complex w/over 500 apartments. People walk their little dogs, and of course they’re cute so the kids want to pet them. The owners always encourage it, but like you said, I’m always a tad bit worried. You just never know, and to their dog, my child is a stranger.

  10. Great Tips. I actually never thought about these different scenarios until today. No matter how friendly a pet is .. they may or may not act friendly to unfamiliar faces and scents

  11. Our dogs are only people dogs if they know the people. They tend to just be family dogs so partys and visits are not big issues because they are kenneled (very happily). Good tips though

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.