I love my two dogs, Duke (2) and Dallas (6). I love to take them everywhere I go, although my husband, Mike, is not always as eager. I understand his pause, as it is tricky to manage not only our dogs but other dogs and their owners who may not be as courteous. To be totally transparent, our dogs are far from perfect but we do our best to prepare for all the dog-related obstacles we face. When going out in the world, the million-dollar question to ask yourself is, “Are your pets well-behaved around people and other pets?”
These tips will assist you in being a courteous, gracious, and responsible pet owner.
Pet Etiquette: Courtesy, Grace & Responsibility
Pet etiquette when guests are over
Warn guests ahead of time that you have a pet
Pets are not for everyone, and we want to be courteous of our guests’ preferences when they are in our home. First, let guests know you have pets and ask if they have allergies to pet hair. Also consider that some people are simply scared of animals, which means you need to keep your pets away from these guests.
De-hair sitting areas before guests arrive
No one wants to sit in a pile of dog hair! Our dogs unfortunately shed, so we Swiffer the floors daily and lint-roll the furniture before company comes over. We also offer a lint roller to guests before they leave our home.
Keep your pets away from the dining table
A wet nose snuffling at toes, searching for leftovers and dropped crumbs? No thank you! Simply put, it is rude to have your pets at the dining table. We put our dogs in a “place” on their designated blanket, towel, or bed. They know this is where they are to be while we are eating with guests. (Honestly, this rule is slightly more flexible when it is just me and Mike, but they understand the “place” command!)
Never show up at a friend’s home with your uninvited pet
If you’re visiting friends, it is not appropriate to show up with your pet unless they have invited your pet to come along. Let’s face it, most people do not want other people’s pets visiting, especially if they do not have pets. For instance, my parents are very gracious and always invite Duke and Dallas to come over when we visit. The key here is, Duke and Dallas are invited. Living with pets isn’t for everyone.
Do not let your pet jump on guests
Even as a dog lover, I do not like my dogs and certainly not other people’s dogs to jump on me. This is a cardinal sin in dog etiquette! I know it’s tough to train your dogs not to jump, so let me just say, call your pet trainer immediately. A firm knee in the chest and a “no” command will also work wonders. The key is to never let them get away with jumping up, not even once!
Pet etiquette in restaurants
It is so nice that restaurants are becoming more accommodating of families with pets. With this privilege, we have a responsibility of extending our dining etiquette to our 4-legged family members. Nothing is worse than disrupting other diners; this is just not fair to their dining experience. These tips will help make the outing nice for everyone. You do not want to be so distracted by your own pets that you cannot enjoy the evening yourself.
Know if your pets have the personality to dine out
Some dogs are just not as social as others, or they may be downright aggressive. Some dogs would rather be at home and are likely introverts, and that’s OK. Don’t force your unsocial pets into social situations that will not end well!
Ensure the restaurant is pet friendly before you go
Do your research before arriving at a restaurant. Just because a restaurant has a patio (which many more do now because of COVID accommodations) does not necessarily mean they welcome pets. A quick phone call can avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Feed your pets before you go
Even if your pets are well-trained, there is no guarantee they won’t get excited when they see food arrive at your table. It is best to feed your pets before they join you for a dining adventure. Try not to feed pets from the table, which encourages begging, and never let your pets eat from or lick restaurant dishes.
Let off extra energy
In addition to being hungry, your pets might start acting up if they are too excited or energetic when they arrive at the restaurant. Being in a new location and surrounded by new people can be overwhelming! Another great tip is to take your dog for a walk before you go to the restaurant. For us, we walk the dogs around the restaurant location when we arrive. Additionally, pets can do their business while they walk, as this is the absolute worst thing to happen in the middle of a restaurant patio!
Bring a new toy or bone
Dogs are commonly compared to babies and children, and for good reason. Just as you would pack a bag of new toys for your kids when you are eating out, bring your pet’s favorite non-smelly toy or bone, or ideally a new toy as a tempting distraction.
Bring a blanket and keep your pet on a leash
This is by far the most important pet etiquette tip: always have your pet on a leash. Pet friendly does not mean they are allowed to roam freely! Our dog trainer showed us how effective it can be to create a specific space for your pet with their favorite towel or blanket. Teach them “place” and they will learn this is where they are supposed to stay during the meal.
Pet etiquette on walks
Ask permission to touch or approach someone’s pet
Some people are scared of dogs, even if you think yours looks like a teddy bear. Don’t let your dog bound up to another dog; first ask for the owner’s permission for the dogs to visit: “Is it okay for my dog to say hello?” The same applies if you want to pet someone else’s dog. You don’t know the other dog’s story—it may be nervous or snappy. It’s always better safe!
Walk your dog on a leash in public areas
Please don’t be that person who walks their dog down the sidewalk without a leash. You may be surprised how your dog reacts to an unfamiliar pet or situation. Your pet may be well-behaved off leash, but you should consider that other people do not know how your dog will act, which can cause fear as they don’t know if your dog is aggressive. Additionally, a leash protects your dog from the unexpected. You never know if something will spook your dog into running into harm’s way.
Clean up after your dog
Always. No exceptions!
Practice general awareness and COVID considerations
Most people are not wearing masks when they are out walking, therefore they may not feel comfortable getting close to other people. New COVID pet etiquette includes walking to the other side of the street when you see someone coming. Depending on the width of the street, you could also walk into the street to create a 6-foot separation. I also do this to avoid a connection with a dog that I suspect will be upset by any dog in their view. It’s gracious to strategically avoid an unfavorable situation.
Understand some barking is appropriate
As much as I wish our dogs were quieter, our dog trainer taught us that some barking is normal for dogs as it is their form of communication. There are right times for a dog to bark, like when someone comes to your house or knocks on your door. This type of bark is called an “alert bark” and should only be one bark; it should not continue until the person or issue is gone. This is a tough training feat, but for the sake of your neighbors and friends—and your own sanity—it is an important training behavior to master. If your dog barks at every dog, person, leaf, or plastic bag that passes by the window, it might be time to consider professional help!
Watch your dog at the dog park
First is the decision of do or don’t go to the dog park. Both sides have valid arguments. I do think you have to know your dog and know something about other dog owners at the park. I personally find dog parks very challenging because many dog owners do not pay attention to their pooch, and many of the dogs are simply too aggressive. The etiquette here is to avoid standing around talking to other dog owners or looking at your phone while your dog is off on its own. Keep an eagle eye on your dogs for their safety and the safety of others.
Great Pet Owners Have Great Pet Etiquette
By following these tips in the home, at restaurants, and out in the world, you’ll be the most courteous, gracious, and responsible pet owner!