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I Pushed My Friend off the Sofa! Whoops… [How to deal with undesirable guest/animal interactions]

By Ryan Cartlidge

Dog lives here


I’m not proud of it, but recently I pushed a friend – who was staying at our house – off our sofa! Find out why below (as well as how to avoid doing it yourself) …

This happened during the festive season, and if you are like us, you probably have lots of people coming to visit and/or stay at this time. So what do you do if these people (who might be strangers to your animals) come in and engage with your animals in ways you don’t like?

Recently this happened to us. A friend who was staying with us pushed our dog, Fibi, off the sofa! This was something we had never personally done and/or seen anyone else do before, and I reacted by returning the favor – I pushed our friend off the sofa. I regret doing it, it’s not how I wanted to handle the situation, but at the same time, I’m also super grateful, as it taught me a ton.

Needless to say, they were shocked and confused as to why I would do such a thing … then this was followed by a meaningful conversation about how they had just done the same thing to Fibi-dog!

I feel bad about it because, in the moment, I acted irrationally & out of character, based on my emotions. Even though I did it as a joke – the strategy I employed goes against what I believe in & I definitely wouldn’t do it again! But it did raise some really interesting thoughts for me…

What do you expect from visitors to your house when it comes to your animals, and how can you help set your visitors up for success?

Side-note; I got great practice at this last Christmas as we had Wifey’s mum and stepdad staying with us – you can see Fibi-dog perched beautifully between me and “step father-in-law“ in the photo below;

So, as I continue learning how to best-set everyone up for success, I thought I would compile a list. Below you can see five things you can do to help set your visitors up for success – concerning your animals;

— — — — —

1) Train desirable behaviors from your animals to help them be successful.

For example, we have a station for Fibi-dog next to my chair at the dinner table. This way, if need be, we can ask Fibi to the station in exchange for positive reinforcement at times when visitors might not want her around.


2) Explain how things work to your guests in advance and/or lower the criteria you expect from your guests until you get an opportunity to discuss things with them and make sure they understand.

I feel we need to practice compassion that others have different experiences with animals and don’t share the same knowledge about behaviour. What do you think?


3) When you see your visitors engage with your animals in a way that you like, ensure to communicate to them that you like what they do and why you like it!


4) Set up some situations where your guests can do some training with you and your animals to help build the relationships on both sides.

For example, we just did some simple training – where my mother in law called Fibi-dog to her station in the front entrance area of our house. My mother in law then slowly closed our entrance door and loaded Fibi in the car. Fibi got lots of chicken, and the Mother-in-law enjoyed the interaction!


5) Be vigilant and manage the environment as best you can to help set you, your animals and your guest up for success.

For example, if I see that someone is about to sit at the dining room table with some delicious food… I can be pretty confident T-lo the cat will be quick to investigate. I avoid the cat-face-in-meal problem by giving T-lo alternative activities or asking T-lo to move into another area of the house for a short while.


About Ryan Cartlidge

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Ryan Cartlidge is a professional animal trainer who’s been working around the world, including in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the US. He’s trained teams, developed animal training programs, been published in leading industry magazines, spoken at international conferences, and delivered presentations in a university on animal behavior.

And through the Animal Training Academy, he connects hundreds of animal behavior and training enthusiasts with an extensive and growing library of lessons and tutorials delivered by renowned animal experts.

Check out Animal Training Academy here, specifically the free ATA Podcast, and the free animal training and behavior course

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