6 Commands You Should Teach Your Dog Before the Holidays

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year for people and pets alike. But all of the guests, parties and presents can be overwhelming — and potentially dangerous — for your dog. Help keep your pooch polite and safe this holiday season by brushing up on his manners.

Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker has six simple commands that are useful all year, but they are particularly relevant during the holiday rush.

6 Commands You Should Teach Your Dog Before the Holidays

dog standing on door mat


Wait at the Door

Teaching your dog to wait at the door isn't just good manners, it's also a safety precaution, especially during the holidays. With people coming and going, your pooch may take the opportunity to dash outside and could get lost or injured. To help prevent this, begin practicing this command before guests arrive — and if you're spending the holidays away from home, be sure to review at your destination as well. Learn to teach this command by clicking the links below.

Teach Your Dog to Wait at the Door When Visitors Arrive
Put a Stop to Door Dashing

dogs greeting woman at front door


Greet Calmly

Your dog may be excited to see your guests, but they may not be as enthused when their best holiday outfits get ruined by muddy paws. The risk, however, goes beyond having to pay for a dry cleaning bill. If your dog greets guests by jumping on them, it can be dangerous, especially for the very young and the elderly. To prevent problems, teach your dog to greet guests only when he is calm and has all four paws on the floor. Alternatively, have your dog greet people by performing a trick that limits his ability to jump, such as sitting or hand targeting. Learn to teach these commands by clicking the links below.

Teach Your Dog to Sit When Greeting
Teach Your Dog to Greet Kids Properly

dog shaking hands



A paw shake is a fun way for guests to interact with your dog, but it is more than just a cute trick. It creates a controlled and specific way for your pooch to say hi and interact with visitors. Training your dog to shake (and informing guests this is how he likes to be greeted) also provides an opportunity for your dog to control how people approach him. One of my Pugs, Willy, prefers to shake in greeting, like humans do, before allowing people to pet him. A shake works both for dogs who are excited about greeting people and those who are a little uncertain. Learn to teach this command by clicking the link below.

Teach Your Dog to Shake

owner with leash and dog


Come When Called

Teaching your dog to come when called is a vital command for your pet to know year round, but it is especially helpful during the holidays. If your pet gets outside, his safety may depend on him coming immediately to you when you call, but this command can also be used to interrupt behavior that's not appropriate or that may be unsettling to guests, such as getting too close to a child or being a little too interested in the food on the buffet table. Learn to teach this command by clicking the links below.

How to Get Your Dog to Come When He's Called
Why "Come" Is an Important Command to Teach

dog with his chin on table


No Begging

Your dog's begging face may be adorable, but that doesn't mean this is acceptable behavior. Mooching food from the table is not just rude, it can also be dangerous: Guests may accidentally feed your dog something toxic or enable him to overindulge to the point where he becomes physically ill. Put a stop to begging by teaching an alternative behavior, like staying on a mat, that he can do during dinner. Learn to teach this command by clicking the links below.

Put a Stop to Begging
Reward Your Dog for Not Begging

pug sniffing cookies on plate


Drop It

There are so many enticing and dangerous things around the house this time of year for your dog to pick up and chew on: ornaments, garlands, presents, unusual human foods. Teaching your dog the "drop it" command is a simple way to avoid injury to your pet by training him to release whatever he is holding in his mouth. Learn to teach this command by clicking the links below.

Teach Your Dog to "Leave It"
How to Teach Your Dog to Drop a Toy

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