It’s national BBQ month! With the weather warming up and Memorial Day right around the corner, now is the time to dust off the grill and start planning your first BBQ of the season.
When you’re sitting down to write up your menu and guest list, there’s something else you need to take into account… your dog! A BBQ brings with it quite a bit of excitement, lots of new people to greet and play with, as well as amazing smelling (yet off-limits) food and drink. Your pool may be open and your lawn might look perfect, but now you need to ask yourself: is your dog ready for a backyard BBQ?
Give Your Training a Check Up
Hopefully, your dog has already been well-trained when it comes to leaving things alone, managing his excitement, and not jumping on people… but since a BBQ is a much more high-stakes situation, your pup may find it more challenging to mind his manners. In this case, it’s a good idea to take some time and reinforce his training.
Leave It. “Leave it is a really important [cue] that simply means ‘if you see something on the ground, don’t touch it.’” says trainer Nicole Skeehan. “It can take a lot of practice, but leave it is a cue that you can take anywhere.” Watch our Leave it videos or follow along below.
Leave it – Beginner: Start with treats in both hands, and let the dog smell them. Let the dog start chewing on the treats, and once he is engaged in the treat, tell him “leave it.” When the dog pulls back and switches focus to your other hand, praise them and give them a treat from that hand.
Leave it – Intermediate: Place a yummy looking treat outside on the ground, then walk your leashed dog by it. When he makes a move to investigate the treat, tell him “leave it.” As soon as he walks clear of the treat, offer a treat and praise. Repeat this until your dog is able to pull away from the treat at your cue and make eye contact with you.
Leave it – Advanced: Once you’re confident your dog understands “leave it,” set up a little challenge for him. Place a number of his favorite toys and treats in a line, and have your dog sit unleashed at one end. Walk to the other end of the line and call him. If he hesitates near any toy or treat, tell him “leave it.” Watch Rosco take the leave it challenge… with pizza!
If your dog is able to “leave it” reliably in all three scenarios, that’s great! Your pooch will be more apt to listen to you when you try to discourage him from chomping down on a rogue hot dog.
Stay. “Stay is one of the foundational cues that’s really important to teach,” says trainer Nicole Skeehan. “Stay could potentially save your dog’s life if your door opens and he wants to run out into the street, or if you’re at the park and he sees a squirrel.”
Stay is also an important skill to master for when your guests arrive! An overexcited dog can sometimes love to jump on visitors to say hello, which could be frightening or even dangerous depending on the circumstance.
To teach stay, start with your dog on a long leash and hold five treats in your hand. Ask your dog to sit and stay; if they don’t move, give them the treats. Repeat this, gradually asking them to stay for longer and longer periods of time or in slightly different conditions. If your dog gets up, simply place them back where they started and start over again. Watch our video series on stay, featuring trainer Nicole Skeehan and pup Eli!
Mind the Menu
“Chicken breast (without the skin) or beef shoulder steak can make a really high value reward for your pups. Sweet potatoes or green beans are also a great option if your pup has a sensitive stomach.”
- Mike Merfeld, Co-Founder of 2 Dogs Treats
If your dog has mastered leave it and stay, he might be ready for your BBQ… but what about your friends? BBQs can be full of dangerous foods for dogs… more than meets the eye! Make sure your guests aren’t unintentionally sneaking table scraps to your dog. Fruits and veggies that are healthy to humans can actually be toxic for your pet. Watch out for grapes, raisins, avocados, nuts, broccoli, onions, garlic, rhubarb, and more. Alcohol and artificial sweeteners like xylitol can be deadly, as well, so make sure your guests keep an eye on their drinks, and be careful with any baked goods.
If you do want to encourage your guests to give your pooch a safe treat, stick to lean protein. “Chicken breast (without the skin) or beef shoulder steak can make a really high value reward for your pups,” says Mike Merfeld, co-founder of 2 Dogs Treats. “Sweet potatoes or green beans are also a great option if your pup has a sensitive stomach.”
If your pup routinely goes after unattended food, he may not be ready to make an appearance at your BBQ just yet.
Create a Safe Zone
When you gaze upon that sweet face, you may find it hard to believe, but it’s true… not everyone loves dogs! Some of your guests may feel a little nervous or even scared around them. On the other hand, your pooch may have mastered stay and leave it, but you’d feel better knowing you had an additional level of security. If that’s the case, SpotOn Fence is the solution! You can quickly and easily set a containment area in a portion of your yard so that your pooch can get his fresh air without sniffing around the food. This way, dog lovers can make the choice to visit with your pup, give them a scratch, and toss a ball around, while dog avoiders can stick comfortably to the sidelines.
You could also choose to turn your entire yard into a containment area, that way you’ll be able to relax knowing for sure that Fido isn’t slipping out while you’re momentarily distracted by the grill.
Maybe Next Year
We know dog is man’s best friend, but if yours doesn’t seem quite ready to mix and mingle with your other pals yet, don’t force the issue. You can just as easily set up a quiet place inside where your dog can relax and feel safe. Make sure they have fresh water, their favorite toy, and some treats nearby, and consider playing the radio or leaving a nearby TV on. It’s also a good idea to enlist a friend to check up on your dog every now and then, as you’re bound to have many other things on your plate as you host!
Keep in mind, if you plan on having a particularly loud or raucous party, or your dog is particularly skittish or reactive around guests, you may want to consider hiring a pet sitter or boarding your dog for the day; it may be easier on your dog’s nerves and eardrums!