As an Interior Decorator, I often have clients whose home I'm invited into that own pets. I've experienced a lot of interesting scenarios as a result, as everyone has different limits for their beloved animals. I thought it was time to do a post on pet etiquette. While I don't currently have any pets at the moment (hubby is allergic), I really enjoy how sweet pets can be and I've owned several cats over the years and know there are certain considerations one must make as it pertains to pets and visitors.
If you are a pet owner or considering becoming one, here are 7 suggestions on how to love them but still show guests in your home that you respect them also. There are so many more suggestions but for the sake of post length, I'm including these key points only. Feel free to share you own pet etiquette tips in the comments below!
1. Clean up after Your Pets- Just yesterday hubby and I went for a walk around our favorite lake and park downtown. A woman was walking her dog, he had stopped and left a mess that would be difficult to clean up as it was less solid than she expected. She looked around and said, "oh, now how am I going to clean this up?" and decided to just keep walking! We've had neighbors walk their dogs past our house only later to discover they let their dog leave their business on our lawn and didn't bother to clean it up. This is just basic decency and is one of the major responsibilities of owning a dog. Pet waste transmits disease and contaminates drinking water. Always bring a baggie and always clean up after your pet.
2. Keep them Leashed- Not only for a pup's safety but for the safety of passersby, a dog should be leashed in public areas. Some parks allow for dogs to run free, and is the exception. Sadly, I've heard too many stories where dogs have charged across a street and attacked small children including a family member on my husband's side who had to have stitches, creating an awkward situation as the dog belonged to a neighbor. Likewise, unleashed dogs can also attack other dogs, cats or innocent animals nearby such as squirrels, etc.
3. Allergy Alert- As a pet owner, it's tricky sometimes as many have allergies to both dogs and cats. Your loving pet could be the trigger for an unsuspecting house guest or service person. It's awkward as the person who has the allergy to even ask or make the assumption that the animal will not be roaming around when they're at the house, so as the owner, it's best to ask people who you do not know well if they have pet allergies. When I owned cats, I always tried my best to place my indoor cat in the guest bedroom with her food, water and other essentials for a few hours while I entertained. I value my friendships and anything that could be done to make things easier, I did. I also carried allergy medication in my medicine cabinet for my own pollen allergies and would offer it to anyone who was particularly sensitive because I know having allergies can really do a number on you sometimes.
4. Keep Fido Down- Perhaps one of the most frustrating things as a guest in someone's home, is when the owner's dog wants to jump on you whether at the front door or while sitting on the sofa, etc. When I was a teen, a good friend of mine had a German Shepard who loved to rush to the door and jump on people. Once during the summer, his nails scratched me from shoulders to toes and left scratches all over. To this day, I try to avoid large dogs for that reason. While I love animals, I don't enjoy a dog, putting their paws up on me to beg while at the table or slobbering on my expensive black dress pants and jumping on me and snagging my top and covering me in hair. When a guest arrives if your dog is not well trained or behaved, be sure to place the dog in their crate first, in the backyard or have them by you on a leash so you can control what they are doing. Dogs look to their owners for training and are happy to obey, as a pet owner one of the most important things to teach them is not to jump!
5. Hair-Free Zone- When inviting others into your car or home, be sure to vacuum and dust well, using a lint roller or other tools to trap hair if necessary. Nobody should come to your home in black and leave with their clothes and socks covered in light pet hair, etc. I've visited many homes where this has been the case and it's frustrating. Even when you do a thorough cleaning, pet hair will pop up, keep a few sticky lint rollers on hand-one for your car and one for your home, not only to keep you looking polished but also anyone who attracts your pet's residual pet hair onto their clothing. It's an inexpensive investment and shows others you're mindful of them.
6. Prevent Endless Barking- Just like children, animals need to be reminded when they are doing something to irritate others. While it is a dog's natural instinct to bark, most do not enjoy listening to incessant barking. We have a few neighbors who do not adhere to such logic and often allow their dogs to bark for hours on end, which makes things particularly frustrating for those like myself who work from home and try to hold conference calls, etc. If you do not plan to be home, your dog should be kept indoors, if you are home and the dog barks for more than a couple mins, the decent thing would be to bring your dog inside.
7. Make the Call- Last but not least, if you are to be a guest in another's home and know that they have a dog, cat, snake, etc., part of the responsibility of making everyone feel comfortable is yours. If you do not enjoy the company of pets, are allergic or are freaked out by pet iguanas, etc., you may not want to make your host uncomfortable by spending time in their home. While it is important for dogs to be trained, if you are aware that the pet owner allows the cats to walk across the dining room table, attack your ankles or their dog is constantly trying to lick your face or jump on you while you're seated, it may be easier to spend time with them in your home or out somewhere so you'll both be comfortable.
While many pet owners love their pets and don't see why they should inconvenience themselves or tuck their not-so-well-behaved pet away in their own home, consider this: Good manners are always about making others feel comfortable and respected. A good host is responsible for the comfort of his/her guests. Anything less than this is poor manners and shows that you value your animal and their lack of discipline over a guest's level of comfort. For those that possess such an attitude about pets vs. people, it may be best not to entertain in your home for everyone's sake.
Do you own a pet? Is there a specific suggestion you have for pet owners based on personal experience, please share! Comments are always appreciated. :)
Thanks for reading!