Dogs | Cats | December 21, 2017

Holiday Pet Etiquette

Christmas ornament

These days we take our pets everywhere with us. There don’t seem to be many limits, whether away on vacation or simply on an outing together. More and more as pets are considered full-fledged family members, this can even extend to taking our pets with us when we visit friends during the holiday season. Although we might happily welcome visiting pets in our own homes, that isn’t the case for everyone. There are some things to remember and prepare for before you take your furry friend over to the home of a friend or member of the family. Read our tips on pet etiquette, so that you are sure to get another invite next year!

Make sure your pet is welcome

The first and most crucial thing to do is to make sure your pet is welcome to come with you. Check and double check with your host that your invitation includes your pet. Just because Fluffy may have been with you on prior visits doesn’t mean he is welcome this time. There are many reasons why this may be the case. Perhaps there has been an addition to the family since your last visit, maybe there are other guests coming who have aversions or allergies to pets, or maybe the hosts have just redecorated their home and don’t want pet hair everywhere. Or just maybe, they want a ‘humans only’ gathering. So before you accept the invitation, confirm that your pet is included. The worst thing to do would be to show up for dinner or the weekend with Fluffy in tow and find out that he isn’t really welcome at all.


Before you go, understand the house rules.

  • Are pets restricted to certain parts of the house?
  • Are they allowed to be loose in the yard?
  • Are they allowed on the furniture?
  • If you’re going for an overnight visit, where will your pet be sleeping?
  • Are there other pets in the house and will they be compatible?

Is your pet territorial? Exposing him or her to a new environment with new smells, new people and perhaps other pets, may bring on behaviours you aren’t expecting. I remember being mortified once when I took my dog to a friend’s home, and even though he was housetrained and neutered, he promptly lifted his leg on the leg of her coffee table. Thankfully my friend was very understanding but that was a lesson for me. So if you do take your pet with you visiting, keep an eagle eye on him until he has checked out the place, the people and been properly introduced to any other pets in the home. This might be a good time to put your good crate training to use and just leave your pet in his crate for awhile until he’s had a chance to acclimatize and calm down.

Be a good guest

Now that you and your best buddy have arrived at your host’s home, make sure your pet is on his best behaviour. It’s a new environment for him, so he will be curious. It’s okay to investigate things and people but don’t let him become a nuisance. If he is a chronic food hound who begs incessantly, you will want to either snap his leash on and keep him with you or put him somewhere else in the house or in his crate or even outside. Some people are very uncomfortable with a pair of big brown eyes staring at them as they eat, and the staring is sometimes even accompanied by drool or whines. Making sure that other guests don’t feed your pet is also a preventative measure so that you don’t have any unpleasant surprises on the floor of your host’s home.

If your pet is a cat, take a quick scan of the home to see if there are any potential dangers for kitty like poinsettias that she could snack on or tinsel she could get into.  Just because you have cat-proofed your home for the holidays, does not mean your host has – especially if your host is not a cat person.  If any of these types of items are in locations accessible to kitty, kindly ask your host if these things can be relocated during your stay.

If your dog is used to being allowed on the furniture, it’s best practice to keep him off your hosts’ furniture unless they tell you it’s okay. And even if it is okay, but there is a lack of couch space for people, pets should remain on the floor.

If your dog is very active and loves to play, it’s a good idea to ensure he has had lots of exercise before arriving at your destination. You want your pup to be well mannered during his visit, not racing around blowing off steam and being disruptive.

If you are staying overnight with your pet, do your best to keep him quiet. If he is allowed to be in your bedroom either in his crate or his own bed, he will be more likely to settle down and not disrupt the whole house. Don’t assume he is allowed on your bed.  If he is to be elsewhere in the house, you will need to keep your ears open for telltale whining, barking or howling. If any of these occur, it’s your responsibility to go to him and keep him quiet, even if that means staying with him all night.  And if it is your kitty that is spending the night, you’ll want to ensure you have a spot for the all-important litter box, that your host is comfortable with and that kitty can easily find.

After your visit

Do send a thank you card. A real card. Not an email or a digital card. There is nothing that can replace a handwritten card received in the mail to express your gratitude for being allowed to bring your pet along and enhance your enjoyment of your visit. That might just be the key for a return visit at some point in the future!