People joke about forgetting how to interact with other human beings during the pandemic, but the thousands of dogs that were adopted in the past 16 months may have never learned in the first place.
Putting a bunch of dogs in a new environment with unfamiliar people — at least some of whom will be drinking, and hollering, is potentially dangerous. If you’re hosting a BBQ this year, here’s how to prepare so nobody has to spend it at the emergency vet.
Trust no one and no dog
Your guests are responsible for controlling their pets, but a little basic dog-proofing will ease everyone’s mind. As the host, it’s easiest and safest to assume that every dog in attendance will be poorly trained and plan accordingly. This isn’t a value judgement — owning a dog is really hard, and it’s been even harder this year. It’s just common sense: The more distance you can put between the dogs and the food, the better.
No fence, no dogs — no exceptions
Lots of dogs go missing on holiday weekends, usually because they get freaked out and bolt — and their owners may be too drunk to notice. If your guests are bringing dogs, your yard needs to be fully fenced, period. Tie-ups and pens are just too easy to escape.
You should also provide an indoor space for stressed-out, overstimulated dogs to hang out in. Choose a room that’s quiet, secure, and located away from the main footpath, so they don’t freak out every time someone walks to the bathroom. If you’re worried about floor damage, pick up some pee pads ahead of time.
Understand poison risk
Barbecues are full of things that dogs desperately want to eat and absolutely should not. Human food is obviously the biggest risk, but it’s far from the only one. If you have a garden, check to see if any of your plants are toxic to pets and secure the ones that are.
Another often-overlooked poison vector: Bug spray. Citronella products are toxic to dogs and don’t even work anyway, so run some extension cords and set up box fans instead. It’s ok for people to use effective repellent on themselves if fans won’t cut it — just have guests do the spraying far away from the dogs, and make sure the bottles are kept someplace secure.
Be prepared to break up a fight
Every dog owner should know what aggression looks like for their dog so they can leave the situation at the first sign. But if dogs start fighting at your party and they’re not responding to commands, you should know what to do.
This video from the Top Dog Tips YouTube channel explains a few techniques for separating fighting dogs:
The goal is to separate the dogs without putting yourself or others in danger, so start with these more hands-off techniques:
- Distract them with loud noises, like clapping and raised voice commands.
- Throw water on them if there’s a bucket or cooler nearby.
- Force a barrier between them, like a folding chair, patio umbrella, or large piece of cardboard or wood.
If all else fails, try the wheelbarrow method. You’ll need two responsible, ideally sober, adults: Each grabs a dog by the hind legs and pulls backwards to separate them. Whatever you do, stay calm and never stick your hand in between fighting dogs. Even if you miraculously manage to avoid getting bitten (which you won’t, to be clear), you’ll just rile them up further.
Keep things low-key
Speaking of responsible, sober adults, it’s important to remember that wasted owners can’t supervise their dogs. Well-behaved dogs may just get into a little too much human food, which isn’t ideal — but if they’re not well-trained, they might get up to much worse.
A good old-fashioned rager is no place for dogs, so keep the vibes laid back. Stock up on non-alcoholic beverages, don’t invite people who party a little too hard, and be ready to 86 anyone who’s getting too rowdy — especially if they brought their dog.