Dog chewing candy cane toy
The holidays are upon us, and if you’re one of the many dog owners planning to take your pooch to stay with family or friends this season, remember that even the most well-behaved dog can create chaos and test your host’s hospitality. Here are some expert etiquette tips to help keep you and your pup out of the doghouse.

Don’t Assume Your Pet Is Welcome

Though you may believe your dog is the perfect houseguest, your host might not. Peggy Post, director and etiquette author at The Emily Post Institute, says you can’t simply assume your pet is invited to stay and you should never arrive with your pet unannounced.

If you’re not sure your pet is welcome, ask your host, but do it in a way that you don’t put her on the spot, Post advises. Say something like, “We’d love to come, but I need to find a place for Precious.” If your host then invites your dog, great! If not, make other arrangements for your pet.

Be Clear About the Length of Your Visit

It’s good form to let your host know how long you and your dog plan to stay. Post advises making visits short and sweet. “Remember the old adage,” she says. “Houseguests and fish start to smell after a few days.” Some people might add “dogs” to that list as well, so don’t wear out your welcome!

Plan Ahead

Before you arrive, ask your host some questions so that you understand the house rules and plan accordingly, says certified dog trainer Mikkel Becker.

For example, find out where in the home your dog is allowed. Can he sleep in your bed with you or does he need to sleep on the floor? Some people allow pets only in certain rooms and may have good reason for that, such as allergies. And you’ll want to make sure whatever room your dog will be in is properly dog proofed, especially if your host is not a dog owner. Make it your responsibility to see that electrical cords, small items that could be swallowed, and valuables like first-edition leather-bound books that your dog may chew are out of reach.

If your host has pets, find out how those pets do with other animals so you’ll know what to expect. Take food and supplies you’ll need for your pet, especially if your pet will be alone for periods of time. Food puzzles, toys and his own bed or crate (if you use one) will help keep your dog relaxed in unfamiliar surroundings.

Ask your host about nearby trails or dog parks, so you can plan some playtime, walks and downtime. Finally, advises Becker, determine before you arrive where the closest vet and emergency vet are located.

Be a Willing Guest

Being a good guest, Post says, means going with the flow and being agreeable and appreciative of the things your host has planned for you. “Be flexible, gracious and pleasant,” she advises.

While your world at home may center around your dog’s comfort and well-being, you and your pooch may have to make some sacrifices in order to be polite houseguests while on the road.

If your host plans an outing that’s not pet friendly, for example, you’ll have to leave your dog at your host’s home. This is why it’s so important to plan ahead — you will have already considered what to do if you have to leave your dog alone, be it in his crate or occupied with a treat puzzle or Kong.

Clean Up After Yourself

Messy houseguests are surprisingly common, Post says. Make sure you’re not one of them. Even if your host has dogs of her own, keep your own pup’s mess to a minimum. Have paper towels handy to clean muddy paws, and pay attention to where your dog lounges so you can later remove the pet hair. And remember to pick up the poop in the yard.

Finally, if your pet destroys something of your host’s, offer to replace the item. If it’s something irreplaceable, like an antique vase, Post suggests purchasing a token gift as an apology. 

Discuss the Kids

If you’re visiting a home where children live, have a conversation with your host before you arrive about how the kids can safely interact with your pet, Post says.

Let your host know the best way for her kids to approach your dog. On the flip side, find out if her kids have hesitations about dogs. Ask if it’s OK that you give guidance to the child around your pet. This will avoid those awkward (and annoying) moments when a kid pulls your dog’s tail and his oblivious parents stand there smiling.

Supervision is essential, Becker adds. And make sure your dog has a quiet area (like a crate or room) where he can get away from the little ones if need be. 

Thank Your Host

It’s customary to take your host a small thank-you gift, Post says. But when your pooch is along with you, it’s extra important to show your appreciation. Consider a candle, a bottle of wine and maybe even a can of pet deodorizer.

Also, it’s not a bad idea to butter up the resident pets with some goodies. “I like finding out what the dog likes most,” Becker says. “If he likes to play, a new toy may be great.” She also commonly gives a dog or cat a food puzzle, because it keeps the pet busy, which the host will most certainly appreciate.

Whether your host knows and loves your pet as much as you do or begrudgingly allows him to join in the holiday festivities, your conscientious efforts to make your visit pleasant and unobtrusive will go a long way toward ensuring you’ll both be invited back next year.

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