The holidays are often times filled with opportunities to socialize. Family, old friends, new friends; casual get-togethers, dinners, overnight stays... it's a great way to catch-up with our loved ones. But what do we do with our pets? Most pets can easily be left at home for short visits, but what about all-day visits or overnight stays? Here are a few pet etiquette tips for those times when you might, just might! bring your pet with you.
1. Don't assume your pet is invited - even if your hosts have pets of their own.
No matter how much your hosts love animals, never bring your pets with you unless your hosts specifically invite them. If you're unsure about whether or not your pets would be welcome and you don't want to visit without them, make a polite and neutral statement like, "We'd love to visit but we need to see if we can find a pet-sitter. Can we get back to you in a a couple of days?"
It's best not to simply ask if your pets can come with you. Doing so puts your hosts in a bad position, having to either say "yes" when they really don't mean it ... or having to say "no" to a friend and possibly hurting their feelings.
Finally, don't take it personally if your hosts don't invite your pets. There are lots of reasons why even the most pet-loving person may not want other pets in the home. For example, their own pets may already find extra guests in the house overwhelming, and bringing in other pets may be too much for them... or other guests might be fearful of dogs (or of bigger dogs, or enthusiastic dogs)... or activities may be planned that may be too stressful or inappropriate for pets... or the hosts may simply feel too overwhelmed with their own preparations to feel they can handle other pets too. A lack of invite for your pet shouldn't be taken personally. ☺
If your pet cannot accompany you and you'd rather not go without him, graciously decline the invitation.
2. Be prepared, and be diligent: don't let your pets create extra work for your hosts.
Make sure your pet is well-groomed before visiting, so that shedding is minimized. Bring towels to wipe off wet or dirty paws before they enter the home. Take your dog for a potty break before visiting. Carry poop bags to clean up in the yard, just in case. And bring a good lint roller or even a small handheld vacuum to get rid of any fur your pet may leave behind.
Accidents can happen. Bring cleaning supplies just in case. If your pet has an accident, alert your hosts immediately and offer to clean it up. Don't automatically just dump whatever cleaning solution you have on hand on the stain; your hosts may want the item cleaned professionally, or may want to use a certain product that they know and trust.
If you're an overnight guest, bring along a kennel, bedding, toys, food, and treats, along with your dog's eating and drinking dishes. If your hosts have made plans that don't include your dog, you'll be well-prepared to set your dog up comfortably in his kennel or in his room, with toys or treats to keep him occupied.
If your dog damages or breaks something, offer to pay for repairs or replacement. Obviously dogs should be well-mannered - but even the most polite dog can inadvertantly cause damage with a happily wagging tail. Not everyone's homes will be pet-proofed!
3. Take cues from your hosts.
All of us have our own set of rules in the house. Some of us sleep with our dogs, others never do; some of our dogs are free to lounge on the couches, while others have their own doggy beds on which to relax; some pets are given tidbits from the table while others aren't.
As a guest in someone else's home, follow your hosts' cues. This is easier when they have pets of their own and you can see what their pets are permitted to do. If in doubt, ask (ideally without putting your hosts in an awkward position)... or simply err on the side of caution: don't let your dogs beg at the table and don't let them lounge on your hosts' furniture unless invited to do so by the hosts.
Yours hosts may be too polite to ask you to remove or restrain your pets to certain rooms. If it's clear that something your pet is doing is making your hosts uncomfortable, discreetly rectify the situation without embarassing your hosts (and ideally, without stressing out your pet).
4. Be gracious.
Your life may be set up to accommodate your pets. You might wake up at 5:30am (or whatever unsociable hour your pet likes to start his or her day), blearily put on your winter gear and then take the dog for an early-morning walk. Then when you get home, you might have a whole routine that revolves around your pet.
Not everyone is the same way (not even other people who have pets). Your hosts may prefer that pets be confined to a separate area during dinner, or might have activities planned that aren't meant to include pets. Since you'll be well-prepared with toys and treats to keep your pet happily occupied, go with the flow!
And of course, a genuine 'thank you' and perhaps a small gift can show your appreciation that your hosts understood how important it was for you to have your pet with you.
We wish you a safe and happy holiday season! Please consider making a donation to one of the many pet rescue organizations or humane societies, so that the animals in their care can continue to receive shelter, food, warmth, and love.
"When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul." (A.D. Williams)