With the easing of restrictions, life is beginning to change. Over the course of lockdown many families have introduced a rescue dog into their home. As social interactions in society begin again, it is important that we prepare our dog for these changes and set them up for success.
Your dog will not know that these people coming into their space are your parents, siblings, or life-long friends. To your dog these are strangers, and your approach needs to be exactly the same as dealing with unknown individuals outside, delivery folk or other trades people.
You will most likely be feeling and behaving differently, and your dog will notice. Emotions will be heightened, and you may not even smell the same due to hormonal changes. Many of us have been living with a predictable routine for months, but today the routines have changed, your dog will need time and space to make sense of this.
As you all come together again, emotional behaviours will come to the fore, voices will raise in tone and volume, accompanied by exclamations of joy. All of these communicate to the dogs that they should get aroused as well. Arousal in dogs can bring up behaviours that are risky for humans jumping up, barking, chasing through to biting. All of this can be happening whilst our focus is directed elsewhere.
Strategies for success
Rehearse, consider the event from your dog's point of view, look out for hazards or happenings that your dog may find difficult to deal with; potential triggers for unsafe behaviour.
Take your dog out beforehand, play or run through a training session.
Make your dog comfortable in a safe place until the initials greeting are over and you can return full focus to introducing your dog to the visitors. If you are away from home use a lead and employ the parking technique https://youtu.be/twcaNBCKe_M Look for approach behaviour. Is your dog seeking attention from your guests? Are they actively moving towards them? If not, then no one has the right to approach your dog, no matter how long you have known them. Protect your dog from well meaning, but unwanted attention. Continue to monitor your dog. As the meet up moves on, people will relax or begin to move, this changes the environment for your dog. If food is being served this may act as an extra trigger for unsafe behaviours. Be aware that alcohol can change your awareness and responses as well as the behaviour of guests.
If in doubt remove your dog to a safe space.
As we return to a fuller life aim for several short, successful meet ups with friends, family and dogs.