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Barbecues & Garden Parties

Summer weather is the time for al fresco dining – sometimes with friends and family! There is the obvious challenge of food being on the move and guests who aren’t dog owners often don’t have the same instincts for managing access to food. A freebie sausage here and there makes a nice treat for most but there are risks with unsuitable foods, allergies, or hazards like kebab sticks and corn cobs. 

If your dog is likely to be an opportunist, it’s best to implement some sort of barrier whilst the food is flowing, then allow them to roam again once there’s been a thorough clear up. There are several options:

  • Keep them busy with an Exploration Zone away from the dining area.
  • Pop them indoors to rest/chill with a chew.
  • Use something like a puppy pen or windbreaks to create a secure area of the garden.
  • Secure them on a tether in the garden.

Make sure they’ve had a good meal too to reduce frustration around food and clearly communicate your wishes regarding treats and tidbits to your guests. 

Not all dogs are social butterflies and can be unsettled by visitors, familiar or unfamiliar, to their home. For some, rather than expecting them to mingle, the preferred approach would be to let them relax undisturbed indoors. 

  • Ensure they’re not somewhere your guests need to roam through to access.
  • Make their ‘safe space’ available to them.
  • In the days leading up to and following the event, plan for their routine to be as trigger-free as possible to aid decompression. 
  • Meet their stimulation, exercise and toileting needs prior to guests arriving and consider giving them an Exploration Zone to focus on. 

If your dog would rather be involved in the party, there are things you can do to help avoid overwhelm with the event:

  • Again, ensure their stimulation, exercise and toileting needs are met and they’ve had minimal exposure to triggers prior to the event. 
  • Consider having individual visits from all the attendees, so they’re not an unfamiliar guest to the home, prior to a group event.
  • If there have to be unfamiliar visitors on the day, try to arrange scent swaps in advance – a scented item can be sent in the post!
  • Introductions should be done in the way that your dog feels most comfortable; for some this may be outside the property initially, walking in together, whereas others may find the outdoors offers too many stressors and feel more secure meeting at home. Introductions and visitor routines need to be assessed on an individual basis – check in with a Scentventure Guide for advice. 
  • Keep an eye on body language when observing interactions and don’t be afraid to step in and advocate for your dog if you see signs of discomfort. 
  • Provide calming opportunities like an Exploration Zone spaced a little away from the main group. 
  • Make sure they have open access to a ‘safe space’ or just a quiet indoor area, allowing them to freely make that choice if needed. 
  • If excitability around guests is a specific challenge, this needs to be progressed with individual guests and by establishing a familiar visitor routine before entertaining hosting a group event.