Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to prepare your pets for your dinner guests

Liam the pug cuddled with Lucy the blind cat
Even sweet pets like this can be terrors when guests arrive.
Everyone who has pets has to deal with this issue at one time or another: People are coming over for a visit and you know your animals aren't quite ready for the spotlight. Dogs may bark, cats may hide or either species may exhibit some other horrible behavior and make for some awkward moments.

It seems like everyone has their own preferred method for dealing with this issue. Typically, they fall into one of three groups:
  1. Banishment. The animals are put in some other room or outside until all the guests are gone. 
  2. Full disclosure. Guests are told about the animals in advance, and then the animals can do as they please.
  3. Prayer. Owners just hope this will be the one time the animals won't behave badly.
In the past, I've used all three of these techniques with moderate success. But this week, I decided to try something completely new. I like to call it "training."

When my guest arrived, Liam was allowed to have about 5 minutes of craziness, and then he was asked to stay calm and relaxed or get a squirt from the water bottle. Similarly, the cats were asked to come in for affection, or leave the room if they felt threatened. They would also face a squirt for yelling or scratching.

Amazingly, this worked. These guys know what they should be doing, but I suppose they were waiting to see if I was serious about making them comply. Once I got serious, they did the same. Liam stayed in his bed for most of the party, and even shy Maggie and Lucy emerged for some affection. No bad behavior was on display.

I'd never claim this technique would work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me. I had a lovely dinner party, with my lovely pets. I don't know why I didn't try this before!