Parties can be fun for people, but imagine being a dog surrounded by loud noises, tons of energy and strangers. Parties can be very anxiety-inducing for an already anxious dog. If you don't take the proper steps to help calm your pup before your party, your dog's anxiety can manifest into cowering fear, attempts to run away, or even behavior like growling and biting.
What Should I Do With My Anxious Dog if I Throw a Party?
Here are some steps you can take when planning a party so your dog feels calm and happy.
Give your dog their own space
If you can keep a room in your house just for your dog to reside in, that would be ideal. However, you can also section off an area of the house with a baby gate if need be. Make sure it is comfortable and filled with familiar items like toys, treats, blankets, pillows, as well as a water bowl and food bowl. Even putting an item of clothing with your scent on it will help them feel calm, since your scent is soothing and familiar. You can also get pheromone-diffusing plugins that mimic the soothing scents and pheromones produced by a mother dog. Just make sure you plug it in a couple days ahead of time, so the pheromones can fully distribute throughout the room.
If loud noises cause anxiety for your dog, some dogs can feel comfort from a light pressure on their bodies. The Thundershirt can help you dog in the same way that swaddling helps sooth babies or weighted blankets help adults with anxiety. Thundershirts have been found to alleviate anxious behavior like chewing, marking and excessive scratching when a dog is faced with loud noises like thunder or fireworks. If you don't have access to a Thundershirt, you can make your own dog anxiety wrap.
Ahead of the party, make sure to take your dog out for a nice long walk, and make sure they use the bathroom about an hour (or less) before the party. The more energy they release prior to the event, the more likely they will be sleepy and rest easy in their little cozy corner.
Make sure your dog has enough food and water, and if you think they will need it, a pee pad in case they have to use the bathroom unexpectedly (perhaps for a senior or ill dog). If you're able, giving your dog a short walk during the party would be ideal. It can give them a pee break and an emotional break from all the activity.
Let your party guests know ahead of time or put up a sign that would let people know that this spot is sectioned off for your pet. In addition, check on your pet from time to time to make sure they are doing ok. It will usually make them feel better to see you, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety.
If you want to slowly get your dog used to people, don't allow groups of people to invade their private area. Have a single friend (ideally one who they know) calmly approach and offer a treat or a gentle pet, and then slowly add more people or have people come in one at a time.
However, if you dog seems to prefer to be away from the commotion, respect that. We've all been in situations where we don't want to be surrounded by people, so be patient and understanding with your dog's needs.
If your dog has extreme anxiety
If your dog's anxiety becomes too difficult to manage, it's a good idea to check with your veterinarian. They can offer tips, tricks, or in specific cases, medication, that can help alleviate your dog's anxiety.