Memorial Day is coming up this weekend, a weekend filled with backyard parties to celebrate graduations, weddings, reunions, and maybe watch the Indy 500! Often visiting families bring their dog or cat along which can be good or not so good. As a veterinarian, I have spent many Memorial Day fielding calls about pet problems at parties. I have found if everyone at the party follows these three rules, the day will be better for everyone.
Rule #1- Do not have any food or water dishes left out for the pets to share. Visiting pets need to come with their own dishes, leashes, bed, and food. One of the most common ways dogs get into a fight is for the visitor to eat out of the home dog’s bowl, or for the two dogs to be fed in the same place. This scenario triggers resource guarding. The second problem is while the dogs are eating, people are walking by or bothering the dogs. The dogs growl or snap at the people to get them away. Avoid all of this by setting up a separate room, with the dogs facing apart to feed and water them periodically.
Cats often stop eating due to the commotion – then when they do go to the bowl, they swat at each other or hiss at those around them. Set them up in their own area for peace and quiet.
Rule #2 – Respect the pet’s space – know what “leave me alone” looks like from a dog or cat and respect that. So many bites to people, or party-stressed pets are due to people who will not leave the pet alone! If the dog is laying in the corner – do not go to pet them. They are avoiding the group. If the cat is on top of the kitchen cabinets – let him be! Hang up the ladder of aggression for the dog and cat to help visitors know when to leave the pet alone. Provide a quiet room for the pets to go to get a break if the party is too stimulating.
Rule #3 – Keep the routines the same for the pets. On party day, take your dog out for a walk or playtime. Be sure your cat can get to the litter box and give them some play time as well before the festivities begin. As the day goes on, set a reminder on your phone to keep up with feeding or exercise routines for both the home pet and the visitor.
The three rules are simple and not difficult to follow. Yet, I still find many people reserved about setting these rules for visiting. I guess they feel like they will not seem like a welcoming host, or perhaps because the pets get along at other times, why would a party be different? It is different for the pet – and that perspective is the one we need to always uphold.
I hope these rules help you and your pet have a great holiday now and in the future.
If you have kids around, take the course that will stop and prevent dog or cat bites to children now Don't Let Junior be Fido or Mitten's lunch!
Sally J Foote DVM, CABC-IAABC, LSHC-S, FFE