If you’re visiting family with your pup, proper pet etiquette is essential. Rather than spending money on a pet sitter and leaving your dog behind, it makes sense to include him in the holiday celebrations. Even in the most dog-friendly homes, appropriate dog etiquette is important and requires some planning in advance to ensure everybody has the best possible time over the holidays.
Work on Some Dog Obedience Skills Before the Visit
When your dog is well-behaved in someone else’s home, it makes you a better houseguest and will likely lead to you both being invited back, according to Joan Hunter Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of The Inquisitive Canine, LLC. From training a dog not to bark, to teaching appropriate greetings, dog obedience training will ensure less stress for everybody. Mayer also suggests that your dog be well-versed in “coming when called, leaving things alone when asked, and being quiet when the doorbell rings (or when someone knocks at the door).” Your dog should also be able to handle new situations, and ideally, not be too sensitive to changes in the environment.
Don’t Just Show Up With Your Pup
It’s poor pet etiquette to assume your dog is welcome or to assume that all of your friends and extended family are dog lovers. Even if pets have been welcomed in the past, the holidays can be hectic and stressful, so having a furry guest running around might be a burden to your host.
The best policy is to simply talk to your hosts and ask a few questions to ensure everybody in the house is okay with having a dog around. If somebody in the household (or one of the guests) has severe dog allergies, bringing a furry guest along might not be such a great idea. “In other words, is everyone comfortable with having the dog visiting, too?” asks Mayer. “I would also ask where they would like the dog to be while visiting: are they allowed inside the home, only outside, crated, or loose and interacting with other people?”
If certain rooms are off limits to your pup, you might want to bring your own gate, like the Carlson Pet Products Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate with Pet Door to keep your dog enclosed in the appropriate areas.
Training a Dog Not to Bark
Being around lots of people in a new environment, along with the stress of travel, can test dog obedience in even the nicest of dogs. “If you have a sensitive dog who responds easily to triggers by barking, then you’ll want to do some training before visiting,” says Mayer.
When working on how to train a dog not to bark, one trick is to keep your dog busy and distracted with a toy—like the Starmark Everlasting Treat Bento Ball Dog Chew Toy—so he doesn’t bark as much.
Exercising your dog to help exhaust their pent-up energy is always a smart move, and as the saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
Pack an Overnight Bag
Make sure to pack anything your dog may need to make his stay more comfortable. According to Mayer, that might include food, treats, medications, bowls and things like leashes, collars and harnesses.
Pack a KONG Classic Dog Toy and your dog’s bed, as well as some Frisco Dog Poop Bags + Dispenser to keep your host’s home clean. “Also, make sure you have the dog’s license and rabies tags—or whatever is required for that jurisdiction,” Mayer adds.
Keep Your Dog Safe and Establish Rules Right Away
Once you arrive at your host’s home, it’s good dog etiquette to find out where the dog will be allowed and which areas are off limits. “For overnight stays, another good question would be, is the dog allowed to sleep where their human is sleeping, such as in the same bed,” says Mayer.
Always check the home and yard for hazards or ways your dog could get loose—even dog lovers can have potential dangers in their homes that they’re not aware of. “And check for novel things the dog could get into, including bags of candy, toxic food, poisonous plants, fireplaces and BBQs,” says Mayer.
For added safety, you might want to bring a dog crate with you for those moments when you can’t keep an eye on your pup. The Frisco Fold & Carry Double Door Dog Crate is a good option for travelers because it folds up and can be carried easily with the adjustable handles.
Finally, Mayer suggests keeping in mind that people get distracted during the holidays. “Make sure you know where your dog is and what he is up to. If you’re busy, assign someone to watch the dog, use a crate or keep him leashed and hold on to him if you have to.”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.