The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training
Dogs at Holiday Parties

Dogs at Holiday Parties

Q: What do you think of this question posed to “Dear Abby” and her response? The post has garnered quite a bit of attention on social media and I want to know your take on it.

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A: Thank you for asking me about this edition of “Dear Abby.” I did indeed come across the post and was disappointed but not surprised by Abby’s response. I was also dismayed to see how many rescue organizations forwarded the post with comments to the effect that Abby was “telling it like it is.” After all, these organizations are on the frontlines on behalf of abandoned and discarded dogs, many of whom are surrendered for behavior no worse than what’s described in the article.

So, let’s unpack the question and its response a little more. The person writing Abby is talking about a party at a co-worker’s house. I don’t know about you, what you do and where you work, but for me personally a party at a co-worker’s house does not exactly suggest the company of pets, much less poorly behaved ones.

The questioner reports that the dogs “barked each time a guest knocked or rang the doorbell” and “jumped on each person who entered.” They also “hovered at people’s feet waiting for food to drop or to be given to them.” There was no effort on the part of the owner to manage the dogs and meanwhile, the guests were expected to cater to the dogs.

Abby responded that “To an animal lover, a pet is a member of the family.” She went on to say that the owner saw nothing wrong with the dogs “mingling with the guests” – because that’s exactly what was happening, you see. The barking, jumping, and begging for food is apparently just “mingling” with guests.

I’ll be the first to say that I consider my animals members of my family, but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to run over my guests and get a free pass to be rude. It’s unfortunate that some people believe loving our pets means letting them run amok both inside our homes and in public.

This is a way of life for many dogs. It is clear from how much this post was shared and the comments that went along with it that many people think the dogs’ behavior is okay and the response on point. Many comments were full of contempt towards the person who would dare complain about poorly behaved dogs at a co-worker’s party!

Abby goes on to say that the questioner should go ahead and ask to have the dogs “put in the garage” (which was not what the questioner had suggested), because she will then have her problem solved by not being invited again. 

Here’s one thing I know for sure: The questioner might have her problem solved but the owner of the dogs definitely won’t. As someone who deals with behavioral issues in dogs, I know that this kind of laissez-fair attitude towards the dogs inside the house does not bode well for dogs’ behavior outside the house. 

People think loving dogs means letting them misbehave just like that. That loving dogs means having people subservient to them. This is the opposite of what it takes to raise sound and steady dogs. I assure you that allowing these kinds of “freedoms” does not contribute to our dogs’ happiness, health, or wellbeing – quite the opposite in fact.

I call this kind of love “immature” and it produces one thing only: immature dogs with behavior problems, many of whom end up in shelters. In my world, that’s not how we show love for our family members.

We’re not doing dogs any favors when we allow them to annoy or harass others. Many people have good reason to be wary around pets and it’s not our place to judge their preferences. If we put them on the receiving end of misbehavior, we may well turn them against dogs entirely. 

A well-behaved dog at a party is a beautiful sight. My dogs have, on occasion, attended my holiday parties. They do not bark at or jump on guests. They do not beg for food. When I have well behaved dogs, I encourage people to be allies of my dogs. I’m helping both dogs and people when I show what’s possible with dogs and what well behaved dog looks like. 

I don’t just have a responsibility towards my dogs but a responsibility towards my fellow human beings. I love my dogs plenty and don’t require others to do the same. But I also know that when I raise well-behaved dogs, I’m more likely to inspire others to love dogs as well.