House guests and your pets – Avoiding the great divide

Does your dog or cat have some bad habits that are so cute you can't bear to correct them? If so, you're not alone. My Yorkie loves to nip my heels in excitement when I first come home, and my pug will sit and bark until I fill up her food bowl. It really is adorable. Adorable, that is, until we have company. When guests arrive we get a sobering reminder of why it's important to make our pets behave, even if their questionable behaviors don't bother us.

If your pets have no discipline and have been allowed to behave however they please, chances are trying to get them to behave when you have house guests is going to be a lost cause. If this is the case, be a good hostess and put your pets out in the yard, the garage, or somewhere they cannot bother your guests. Not everyone likes animals, and even those who do may not appreciate a high-maintenance, barking, jumping, slobbering pet that impedes conversation and has to be the center of attention. If you have taught your pets a few manners, though, here are some tips to help them behave when you have company.

Barking at and Jumping on Visitors - If you have a dog, he will first encounter your guests when they arrive at the door. Before even opening it, get him in a sit/stay position. If he is barking, make him stop before opening the door. Once he is calm, give him praise and reinforce that he is to stay seated. Allow your guests to go to the dog for introductions rather than allowing the dog to go to them.

Begging - Chances are at some time during your guests' visit you will be serving food. If you periodically share your dinner or snacks with your pets, they will probably feel free to beg from your guests as well. This can make your guests uncomfortable, even if they have pets of their own. Try adjusting your pets' meal time to coincide with when you are eating. If you're having appetizers or snacks away from a dining table, be sure the pets are not allowed to get up on the sofa or chair with your guests while they are eating.

Nipping - Dogs nip for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's out of fear, sometimes it's to be protective, and sometimes they may just do it for fun. Regardless of why they are doing it, however, it should never be allowed with your guests. If your pet does it as a game and is just looking for attention, offer a toy instead.

Personal Contact - If you're like me, your pets are all over you, all the time. They sit on your lap while you're watching television, lurk underfoot while you're cooking and snuggle up next to you while you're sleeping. Sometimes it's difficult to imagine a person who does not appreciate all that love. There are, however, tons of people who want nothing to do with a dog or cat, no matter how lovable they are. Coach your guests on how to deliver a firm "No" to your pet if they start getting too cozy. Being disciplined by a stranger sometimes works better than it does from Mom!

Grooming - Both dogs and cats groom themselves, but let's face it - sometimes it's embarrassing when we have people over. Our pets don't share our sense of decorum, so it may be necessary to intervene. If your pet starts attending to personal hygiene, call him over for a quick scratch behind the ears. Hopefully that will distract him enough that he forgets what he was doing. If not, remove him from the room immediately and avoid the awkwardness that is likely to follow if you don't.

Regardless of the behavior, keep in mind that your guests are there for you - not your pets. Allowing them to monopolize your attention when you have company is rude and disrespectful. Try the tips offered here first, but if they don't work, remove your pet from the room and get back to enjoying your visit.

More from Cherri:

Health Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Training Without Treats - Non-Food Rewards for Your Dog

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