Having a party at my house, need some tips.
I am having a party at my house in mid-April. We had a party this same time of year last year, but my GSD was only 7 months old at the time. I was worried then about him being stressed out with having 50+ people coming and going over the course of the night, but he did VERY well. Was very friendly to everyone, was very calm, just kept going between the backyard and the inside of the house to check things out.
Well, a lot has changed, now that he is an 18 month old. He is a lot more cautious of strangers and can be territorial at times. Overall, when we have people over at our house, he wants to sniff the person walking in the door immediately, but doesn't show aggression towards them. There have only been about 3-4 incidents where he barked at someone once they were inside, but I immediately gave those people treats and had them give him a command and had them give him the treat. No problem. He has been very friendly to company, but these are times when there are less than 10 people at our house.
We had a smaller party at our house (about 15-20 people) in November (Doc would've been between 13-14 mos) and he was very stressed out the whole time. We were having a bonfire in the backyard and everytime someone would come through the backdoor and into the backyard, he was circling them, barking, jumping and nipping at people's clothes. At one point, when all of us were around the fire, he was running circles around us at full speed. (herding??) I'm not sure, but I think that he was maybe being territorial, since he loves his backyard... that is his potty area and his play area. I didn't see this, but a couple friends said that when they came into the house through the front door, he displayed the same behavior. He hasn't displayed this behavior since then and had never displayed this behavior prior to this, even at the first party I mentioned, and we had a bonfire and various people in the backyard. Since then, when I've had company in the backyard (which has been about 2-3 people at a time since that incident), he has been more along the lines of "please throw the ball for me!" but no jumping, nipping or circling. On the night of that incident, I had taken him on a long walk in the afternoon and threw the ball for him in the yard for a whole hour right before people started coming over and even the first couple guests that came were throwing the ball for him, so I was hoping he would be a lot calmer for the party.
So with this party coming up in less than a month, I would appreciate some tips and suggestions. Either some training I could start with him now to prepare for the party or some things I should do (or have the guests do) the day of and during the party. Some things I plan on doing is taking him for a long walk and go to the dog park during the day. And about an hour before the party starts, take him to a hockey rink near our house to throw the ball to get those last bits of energy out. I think playing ball with him before the party somewhere OTHER than his own backyard may ease the territorial aggression a bit. I plan on getting a very high value bone for him to chew on, so that he has something to do. I also plan on having a new box of treats to have on hand, so that I can have various party guests give him a treat. If the jumping, nipping, aggressiveness, etc starts what should I do?! I do have a mesh muzzle and we do have a crate, but I want to make the experience as positive as possible for him, so that for future parties I don't have to worry about this. Everyone knows that when you are hosting a party, there is so much to do and keeping everything running smoothly, that the last thing you want to deal with is having to keep an eye on your dog the whole time.
Sorry so long! Please help!