Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pet Etiquette

Okay, I'm just going to say this upfront: I'm not an animal person.

Some people react to this news as if I've just told them that I eat puppies for lunch. In reality, I just like to admire animals from afar, but to a lot of people, this lack of enthusiasm is considered offensive. I don't know when it was that it became generally acceptable to anthropomorphize pets and treat them as children, but it seems like it's only been in recent years that a whole industry has grown around the pampering of pets. You can take your dog for a trip to the spa, buy him designer clothes, take him around in a Hermes carrier and have a catered birthday party for him and his puppy friends. People spend money on a lot of frivolous things, and that's their own business, but I think it really goes to0 far when people begin expecting others to treat your pet as an equal.

The New York Times
recently published an article on the subject that was alternatingly hilarious and disturbing. It included stories of people who lost relationships after putting their pets before their family members and friends. One woman insisted on bringing her dog to her parents' house for Christmas despite the fact that her sister's fiance was allergic, and was furious that she was told to keep the dog in the bedroom. Another couple brought their (uninvited) dog to a wedding, who proceeded to get pond scum all over the white furniture and help himself to the hors d'oeuvres table. The most shocking part of the story is that the dog owners did not understand why their behavior was inappropriate.

Pets are wonderful companions and friends, but they are not people, and I don't think it's fair to expect others to fully accommodate your pet. It's important to be conscious of others when you have your pet around, and not to make any assumptions about the person's feelings about your pet. I think it's courteous to always offer to put your dog away if someone comes over, and to never, ever bring the pet along with you to another person's house unless they've explicitly said it's okay. If you are in a position where you've brought the pet and someone mentions they're allergic or uncomfortable (you should try to look for these signs, sometimes people are afraid they'll seem rude if they have to ask you to put the animal away), it shouldn't be up for debate, you should take the dog outside or into another room.

If someone doesn't want to be around your pet, don't take it personally. Some of us just aren't pet people, it has nothing to do with your pet in particular. I know that other people's feelings can be hurt whenever I've mentioned that I don't like pets, so I try to at least show interest in the pet by asking questions and telling the owner how cute, smart, personable, etc he is, but politely mentioning that I'm just not an animal person. If the person doesn't take the hint and put the pet away, I tell them I'm allergic. I am actually allergic to cats and some dogs, so this isn't a total lie, but I think it's justified if the dog or cat is seriously interfering with my ability to enjoy my time with my friend or family member.

What's your opinion on pet etiquette?


EthidiumBromide said...

I'm a cat person muchmoreso than a dog person, and a lot of that has to do with dog owners (no offense to any out there). So many people do not train their dogs well and upon walking in the front door, the dog jumps up on you, barks, and once you sit down, the dog tries to lick your face. I find this totally repulsive - I don't want you licking my face, so I absolutely positively do not want your dog licking my face. Disgusting.
So many dog owners are completely offended if you don't think their dog is the greatest thing ever. I've had to push and shove dogs off of me and people think there is something wrong with me because I don't want "kisses" or because I have asked individuals to control their dog. One year, my fiance's grandmother brought her dog to Thanksgiving, without asking, and then proceeded to let the dog sit on her lap and EAT OFF HER PLATE. At a formal, sit-down dinner. Without asking. I made it very clear to my fiance that she would never be invited back again if the dog came in tow.
Seriously people, it's disgusting. Just because you love your dog doesn't mean the rest of us do, so we don't want it's slobber all over everything.

MLH said...

I am a dog person, I have a 4-year old corgi. That said, I agree with you. He is a dog, he is not a person and there are places where he should not be, and that's that.
But the problem here is not the animals themselves, but people who have no manners, and are disrespectful of others. This is the kind of people who, besides their pets, let their children run wild in places where they should not be, and let their pets/ small kids bother other people. They also get so offended if you point this to them, as though you are a horrible person because you don't like their dog/ little brat bothering you.

Cate said...

Although I agree with the general idea of pets not being people, I take serious issue with the notion that pets should be "put away" when someone comes over to my house.
Allergies are one thing, but people who "just don't like" pets are a different story entirely. If you just didn't like red, and you were seated in someone's red living room, you wouldn't tell them you were allergic to red and asked to be moved, would you? I get not being a pet person; however, putting your host/ess out in that manner is terribly rude. Many of us work all day, and our dogs are crated for that period, and socializing hours are the only times our pets get to run around and play. Lying to accommodate your particular preferences in someone else's home is unfair to both the owner and the pet.
That said, I would never bring my dog anywhere he wasn't explicitly invited, and if he's misbehaving (i.e., jumping on people, attempting to get into food) he is escorted into his crate posthaste or put outside. However--unlike most, it seems--I spent hours training my dog NOT to jump on people/tables, to wait to be invited onto furniture, to NOT attack furniture and shoes, to ignore people food unless it's offered, to greet people politely (seated and wagging), and to wait to be petted rather than begging for it. Because of this effort, I have literally not found one home my dog is not welcome (and no, I don't ask if he can come; if he's not invited he's not in attendence, much like a person). To the other two comments above me--to the first, ew! and to the second, I agree 100%. Owning a pet is a responsibility, and the first level of that is to TRAIN YOUR DOG. The second level of that is to realize that not everywhere is pet-appropriate and to plan ahead to find accommodations for yours if you are going somewhere pets are not welcome.

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...

My general attitude is this:

Your pet can be a person so long as he is well-behaved by people standards. If he/she acts like an animal, then they will be treated as such (same goes with bratty kids). If you actually condone their bad behavior, don't be surprised if I think you're one, too.

I'm a cat person, as is my husband. Our four cats are our kids, we have conversations (Katrina even talks back -- and she's talking right now). Yes, they're sort of spoiled. At the very least, they think they're people. However, they are well behaved people (who still eat from their cat bowls) and we're not shoving them in people's faces.

We're both animal people in general, but neither of us our dog people, though we've had dogs (but not jointly). They're too much work for us (especially to keep smelling good).

We both complain frequently about other people's dogs. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to someone's place only to have my legs scratched up by some over eager ankle biter. Even the more behaved dogs leave my legs covered in stinky drool. Ick!!!! Meanwhile, the owner is telling me how friendly the dog is. No thanks!

Then there are the neighbors' dogs barking. One neighbor has dogs so big and loud in her house that they've not only broken the window before, they terrified one of our friends who wouldn't get out of her car many times without us coming out to get her.

And of course, there is also the occasional land mine that ends up in our yard.

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...


Off her plate on her lap? That is so nasty! Dogs don't have table manners and obviously, neither did she.

One person I used to live with let her parrot eat at the table. Of course, birds don't seem to care where they poop.

EthidiumBromide said...

Yes, off her plate. I think witnessing that totally turned me off from dogs altogether. My fiance is a dog person however, so I have agreed that after we have kids (and can pawn some of the responsibility off on them!) he can have a dog, but if and only if he takes the dog to obedience school so it's not a biter/barker/licker/begger.
We're a little nervous -- the hotel we were are getting married is "pet friendly" and we are paranoid that his grandmother will find out and bring the dog with her. I will be giving our ushers strict instructions that, grandmother of the groom or not, nobody with a dog in tow is permitted into the ceremony or reception! Can you imagine if she lets the dog eat off her plate again at a black tie wedding? It makes me shudder just thinking about it!

Sarah said...

I have a very well-behaved small dog who comes to work with me each day, and travels with me to family gatherings, parties, etc. If I happen to leave her at home for whatever reason, I end up catching heck because everyone enjoys her company so much. If someone asked me to leave her at home, I would certainly respect his or her wishes.

Having a dog is one of the joys of life that some people might overlook, but one that I feel lucky to recognize and appreciate. I read the NYT article earlier in the week, and I think it was very sensationalized and one-sided. There are plenty of well-behaved pets (and small children for that matter) who are appreciated at social gatherings.

I feel sorry for people who "don't get" the whole pet experience. It makes me cringe to read that someone would lie, or exaggerate allergies when they're a guest in someone's home where pets are present. That's pretty low. I don't think I would be friends with someone who would lie like that.

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...


I'm sure your dog is a lot better behaved than most, but I can see Meg's point about exaggerating allergies a bit. It's not necessarily that people don't get the "pet experience", it's that some people are so thick-skulled that absolutely nothing else will pull their pets off of people. That's not a pet experience that most people want with a strange dog -- just as they wouldn't want the host's human son coming up and licking all over their face, either.

I'm sure Meg asks nicely first, but as I've found out personally, some people really can't understand why someone wouldn't want a dog licking their face and scratching them all over. In this case, a white lie might be the best choice other than leaving and never coming back.


I would be horrified, too! And here all I knew to worry about for my wedding was the token whiny baby! Be prepared for a storm, for sure, but you are right to set limits now.

sparkler said...

This is just another symptom of how spoiled and entitled our society has become. There are a lot of people out there who believe that they are the center of the universe and are owed everyone else's deference.

I actually had an uninvited pet show up to my wedding. My husband's grandmother told her neighbor – who was not invited to the wedding – to "stop in" with her poodle. Luckily the dog was well-behaved and the owner was gracious enough not to stay long at an event to which she wasn't actually invited.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 corgis. I have 2 children. I do *not* have 5 children in total, no matter how much I love my dogs...

My dogs are, well, dogs. They are companions. They have all been to obedience school. They are not taken to social gatherings when they are not invited - neither are my children . They do not climb on your lay and lick your face unless you ask them to - neither do my children.It doesn't mean that I don't think they're special or fun - it means that I respect other people and their right not to be harassed by me, my dogs, or my totally adorable kids (who are a toddler and a baby, and as such not unlike puppies)

I'm afraid I have zero tolerance for 'animal' people who use this as an excuse to ignore every social grace by virtue of their extra specially loving personality. Sorry, but out of control people and their pets really burn my muffins...

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...

What I find particularly interesting about the pets at weddings issue is that there wouldn't be a problem if people followed what has been standard etiquette for ages -- no uninvited guests! A lot of planning and money goes into weddings and accommodating uninvited guests (whether people or pets) is one more hassle that the bride and groom shouldn't have to deal with on their special day.

I wonder if most of these people would also see no problem bringing uninvited people, or if they just think that their pets are special cases.

And if people really want to bring a "guest", they should ask first. Something tells me, though, that the people who don't ask and do anyway probably know deep down that their guest isn't welcome or they'd ask. Even my cats know when they're doing something bad! (They have a special meow for when I catch them.)

Anonymous said...

Just substitute the word child for pet in that post and I'll agree with you wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

Stupid pet owners, stupid parents, stupid people, period. Such is life.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE my dog to death. Even "non-dog people" really seem to warm to him. That being said, I would NEVER consider bringing him to someone else's house uninvited, and I don't expect other people to play with him. He gets along well with other dogs, but he is a very large (a great dane) and some smaller dogs are intimidated. Just because he is one of my best freinds, doesn't mean that I expect you to be his best freind or for our dogs to play together.

cat said...

I don't think it's fair to ask someone to "put their dog away" in their own home--keep them away from you, sure, but not to put them away like it's a shirt or a toy. You go over to someone's house, you don't get to make the rules. It is rude to let them let their dog jump all over you, but they shouldn't have to crate their poor pup because you don't like to see it.

Also, the allergy excuse is laughable simply because truly allergic people will react to the dander in the air and the fur that will inevitably be some places, even if they are excellent cleaners. No one is allergic to a dog only when it is in sight.

EthidiumBromide said...

To the people who have disagreed with Meg's statement that she will ask people to put their pets away or play the allergy card...

If you invite someone to your house, isn't it YOUR job as a host to make sure your guests are comfortable? It's one thing if someone who dislikes your dog calls and invites herself over, but if you extend the invitation to someone, it is your job to make her (or him) feel welcome, invited, and comfortable.
Someone doesn't have to be allergic to have a legitimate reason to not want to be around dogs. No matter how much you love your dog, there are people who are not dog people, and they can get very tense and apprehensive around them and it's not a pleasant experience for your guest. People keep referencing that it's not fair to have to crate the dog -- who says it has to go into a 4 foot crate? Just let the dog in your bedroom. Unless your guest is staying overnight, it's not like your dog will be trapped for hours and hours and hours.
Someone commented that it is rude for the hostess if you hint that you may not want the dog around. I'm sorry, but when you are serving as a host or hostess, you're the one who needs to be more concerned about your guests -- otherwise, you shouldn't have anyone over, period. If you are having people over but do not want them to remotely inconvenience you, then clearly you do not meet the definition of hostess.

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...

Well said, Ethidiumbromide!

I was always taught that a good hostess makes sure that her guests are comfortable.

If anyone had a problem with my cats, I would hesitate to put them in the bedroom.

If a pet or owner can't live without the other for a few hours, then that is a problem in and of itself that needs to be addresses (excepting exceptional cases).

Cate said...

EthidiumBromide, I have to disagree! I think that the onus in this case falls upon the guest. A pet, while not a human, is a living creature and in no way related to the temperature of the home or the thirst/hunger of the guest or the comfort of the chair (all of which fall upon the hostess to see to). Again, as I stated in my earlier comment, if my dog was misbehaving (jumping, slobber, otherwise bothering my guest, pet person or not) he would certainly be crated and/or put outside.

I do not leave my dog unsupervised in a room for hours on end. As well trained as he is, giving him a roomful of people things and expecting him to behave himself unsupervised for an hour or more is ridiculous. if a non-pet-friend is swinging by for 15 minutes to drop something off, then by all means this is a great idea.

I do, however, have a solution--if you are not a pet person, simply do not put your pet friends in the situation by either a) having them at your house or b) meeting them out somewhere. Regardless of whether or not your pet-friends take it to the extremes noted in the NYT article, pets are more than stuffed animals/plants/furniture to those who own them. There is a happy medium here, people.

Anonymous said...

I have a dog. She's a member of the family in many ways, and we will arrange our schedules in order to not leave her alone for extended periods of time because she is incredibly sociable and gets depressed if she is not with her beloved owners for long. That said, I would NEVER bring her somewhere where she was not explicitly invited.

On the other hand, my home is her home too. She is generally well-behaved, if enthusiastic. I always mention to friends that I have a big dog and that she will be present when they come over. If they are uncomfortable around animals, I will control her in the sense that I will keep her from bothering my guest, but I won't lock her away in another room, which would be cruel to such a gregarious and sociable creature. If my guest is so uncomfortable around animals that this is not enough, then I would suggest we meet elsewhere, which I think is a reasonable compromise.

Anonymous said...

yes, i agree with this. i like other people's dogs and cats in general, but i'm afraid of big dogs, having been chased by three of them at once while i was a little kid. i'm NEVER comfortable around them.

cat said...

I don't have a problem so much with the sentiment, but the way it was said--put (the animal) away. I'm sure no decent host or hostess would hesitate to let their animal outside or into a different part of the house if the guest would just say, "I am uncomfortable around (your pet), would it be okay if you put (the pet) in a different room?" Being gracious about it will get you graciousness right back.

Abbey said...

Some people are really just rude. It's not that all pet owners do these sorts of things, it's that those individuals don't have manners. And people really should train their pets well, and understand that they're animals - a dog doesn't think the same way as a person, you can't treat them the same way. You can be kind and loving to your dog, but you need to understand that it's a dog, not your child.

That being said, if someone comes over and is allergic to my family's dog (or scared of dogs), we'll try and restrict our dog to another part of the house. Our dog is older, and pretty calm, but when she was younger, she had to go into another room until she calmed down enough to behave well around guests. It's just good manners - I would do the same with a misbehaving child. However, if you're at someone's house, you wouldn't ask them to put away their children if the children were well-behaved just because you didn't like children. You should understand going in that those children are a part of the family and maybe you should suggest an alternate location if you don't like them.

I'm not saying that pets are the same as human children - but for pet owners, yes, they are a part of our families. The owners can be polite, but their guests can be as well. And then suggest coffee at their place next time.

jen said...

According to the law, if you have someone over whether personally or professionally, the owner is responsible for their guest. You even have a duty to care for trespassers, although their priority comes last. While this has more to do with liability during conflicts and the reasonable treatment of human beings, a similar reasoning can be made regarding hostess duties.
If you have someone over you have a duty to care for them as a hostess, and for me that means their emotional comfort level. If a person is uncomfortable or uneasy with a pet around I would do whatever was reasonable to make sure they didn't have much contact with the animal. That would include secluding them in a room or out of a room. For me, a person's feeling of comfort and ease is very important. I want them to have a good time when they're over so they'll come back, feel comfortable coming back, and we can both enjoy ourselves without having to worry about the pet. And most people gather in their homes because it's the most comfortable and most convenient. I don't like the idea of meeting a person outside or at their home all the time because they were uncomfortable with your pet when it can be easily fixed. I'd rather just relax at my home, at least some of the time.
I'm a cat person and not much of a dog person (they make me uneasy and uncomfortable, it's a little irrational but I can't plug up my feelings) and I adore my cat but I would understand if someone coming over didn't like or felt uneasy with my cat. I would be sensitive to their feelings and understand their position and I wouldn't have a problem isolating my pet for a while. She can roam the house anytime and it won't harm her if she's restricted for a while, but that person came to spend time with me and that is a commitment I want to honor first.
Things will be different if talking about children of course. But if you compare children and pets, the children will always come first because they're human. Applying that same reasoning, your guest is also human, shouldn't they come before pets as well?
That's the perspective from one who is nervous around dogs and loves to spend time with friends but would not feel comfortable in a house with a dog around. And most of times I just want to loll around inside and not have to go out or dress to go out in public.

Anonymous said...

Wow Meg, you let the proverbial cat(or dog) out of the bag!!

I am a pet owner, and she is not my child.

All I will add is that I find excessive spending on pets a social justice issue. If most of us living in developed nations rate in the top 5% richest people int he world, why should money spent on pets rate higher than other humans in less fortunate areas of the world (and our home countries if we're truly honest.) For fear of being blatantly dramatic, juxtaposing the needs of a war refugee with a pet is just selfish.

Pets are not humans.

Sarah said...

Yes, that last post by anonymous was blatantly dramatic. If you think that purchasing a sweater for a pet is a social justice issue, then perhaps you haven't noticed which blog you're reading. So what's the difference between buying paw balm for my dog and buying Body Shop Body Butter for myself? I'm not seeing how one, but not the other, takes away from war refugees ... hmmm.

Seriously, that's a weird place to draw the line. I just want to make it clear that I enjoy Meg's blog and beauty product reviews. I'm not normally the type of person who posts negative comments, but some of this seems a bit hypocritical ...

I agree with Cate's assertion that there is a happy medium. This type of thing doesn't have to be an issue if people simply communicate with their friends. That's why I mentioned in my earlier post that lying is a bad idea. Just be truthful and reach a solution as friends. Each situation will be different.

Anonymous said...

I have two dogs, well trained and very friendly. However, they are big Golden Retrievers and do intimidate some people. We do our best to keep them away from certain people who are allergic/do not like animals. That said, people are not always very kind to my dogs or me about having pets. My older dog is very shy and nervous around some people. My younger dog is very friendly but only responds to people who respond to her. When we visit my father, who dislikes animals, we leave them in the kennel. On the rare occasions we do have the dogs at his place, trust me, they are well aware of his dislike of them, and they avoid him like the plague. The sad thing is that this has caused a rift between my son and his grandfather because my son cannot understand his grandfather's hatred of our dogs.

I have a deadly allergy to cats. People who are friends clean very well when I come over and keep their cats away from me. I also take allergy medicine to keep my symptoms at bay. I am very thankful for my friends' kindness but I don't freak out if one of the cats gets out and visits me.

Responsible pet owners train their pets, clean up after their pets, and respect the feelings of other people about pets. They are also responsible parents.

But trust me, if you don't like pets we're not likely to be friends, unless you are seriously allergic or have have cultural or religious issues regarding them.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with people treating their pets as children. But in civilized society, the rules you list for pets apply to children as well. I think the issue isn't with whether or not pets are people, it's that (some of) their owners have terrible entitlement issues.

Anabolina said...

I'll, it does seem weird for people to treat their pets as people, but I've been known to do it. I talk to my dog, brought her with me on vacation, and think about her when I'm planning activities so I know she'll get her walk for the day. She's awesome. I'll admit when people come over to my house, whether invited or not, the first thing I think of is whether the bathrooms are clean, not whether or not the person will be offended by my dog, lol. If she misbehaved by jumping or staring or sniffing the guest, I would put her out, but I'm not going to assume my guest doesn't like my dog in general unless they say so. I should hope I don't know any people who don't like pets though... It's never happened before.

Mel said...

I understand where you are coming from except the issue with me isn't with pets, but with children. I am childfree by choice and have no desire to ever have any children. When I tell people this, you would think that I sacrificed babies. I don't have anything against other people having them, they're just not for me.

That said, my dog is still a dog and although I love her dearly, is not treated like a person. I think it's ridiculous the lengths that some people go to for their pets. Hermes bags?! No way. Also, my dog was taught obedience from the get-go. I can't stand it when other people's dogs jump up on me and stuff. I was determined than mine was never going to be that way. Sadly, there are many irresponsible pet owners out there just as there are irresponsible parents.

Anonymous said...

oh my... well, my cats pretty much live in the apartment and never leave. my boyfriend moved in, and didn't tell me that he was allergic to cats until after.

sometimes it causes problems, but i try to compromise as much as possible. but the truth is, i committed to caring for these cats and they will always be there for me, even when he is not.

Anonymous said...

My best friend has 2 cats, to which i am severely allergic. However, because of our friendship, I suck it up every once in a while and hang out at her apt with her (for half an hour or so, until I literally have to leave to breathe). It's not like dealing with pets is a HUGE deal or inconvenience to either party. If you're close enough friends to be hanging out at each other's homes (coming from a New Yorker with a NY-sized apt), then both people can just deal with it for the length of the visit, no? Guest may not love the presence of animals, Host may not love making sure the animals are out of the way, but is this really that big of a deal to anyone where it's going to affect friendships / social lives?

Andrea said...

Funny that I found this post today...I need some advice.

My dad and stepmom are visiting us in NJ for the holidays, coming from South Carolina. My fiance have told them that they cannot bring their two dogs this year (we have a 3 month old puppy, and they already do not get alogn with our cat). My parents responded with "they are our family, and they are the only family we have in South Carolina and we are not leaving them".

I cannot believe they are putting us in this position...what do we do?

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...

That is a tough position, Andrea!

I believe you have every right to tell them that they can't bring their dogs.
If you absolutely can't have them bring the dogs, then the decision is really theirs. I'd hope that they would choose time with real family over time with pets that they spend the rest of the year with, but be prepared for them to choose their pets.

You can offer to help with kennel expenses if they want to bring the dogs but keep them elsewhere locally where they can visit them. I wouldn't be surprised if some impassioned dog owner called kennels cruel, inhumane, and doggie concentration camps, but there are some really nice kennels out there and that might be a nice compromise, especially if you check the local kennels out ahead of time.

Don't be surprised if they say no to that idea, but at least you'll have made more than your fair share of effort to find a solution.

Anonymous said...

Andrea -
I don't know about where you live or where your parents live, but around here (metro Wash, DC area), kennels are booked at least a month before Christmas. If they don't have a spot in one now, it might not happen. Many hotels are pet friendly if that would work. I understand the dilemma - hopefully you can work it out.

Alicia said...

Unless I have to, I don't go to people's homes if I know they have pets running around. I'm allergic to some dogs, and I'm terrified of large dogs. That being said, sometimes I can't avoid it. I don't expect people to put their pets away, but I do appreciate them keeping their pets off of me.. the jumping and licking really bother me. But some people just don't get this, even though I clearly explain my allergies/aversion. I've actually had a person stick their dog in my face, saying something along the lines of "oooh, you can't dislike my dog!" Oh yes, I can.

And sorry, but under no circumstances should a pet be brought to someone else's house uninvited. If this means that the person won't attend, then I understand. Other people in my household are more severely allergic, and honestly, pets running around grosses me out a bit.

Anonymous said...

I love my pets (cats and dogs) dearly but am appalled by the lack of manners of some pet owners. I don't blame the pets but the people who own them.

But I also don't lock up my pets in my house unless I'm giving a party. Most of our friends and family know we have pets and my pets live here far more then they do, so if they don't want to be around the cats/dogs they can stay in a hotel.

I would also say, this goes for kids too. I find them generally gross and am totally not interested in other people's kids on any level. And I find them far more annoying and destructive than any animal I've been around.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, I am showing my age here, but it used to be simple, routine, everyday good manners for hosts to take guests's coats, show them to comfortable seats, see if they'd like a beverage, and either ask if they were bothered by any pets, or, more usually, simply put the pet out without comment. (People also used to TURN OFF the TV when guests arrived! How quaint!) I even remember parents taking the time to teach their children to be at ease performing this routine of everyday hospitality.
It was not assumed that dogs or cats should be in the house at all, much less take precedence over human visitors--they lived outside and generally were only allowed in for a few hours at a time--NEVER on furniture. Really!!! It was not that long ago!
I must say to the lady whose dog cannot be trusted alone in a bedroom for an hour: this means your dog is NOT yet trained. Please keep working on it--it's important.
Here is the elusive concept: It is neither fair to an animal to treat it as if it were a person nor as if it were a thing.

Anonymous said...

An offensive comparision perhaps, but, I am not a child person, and this topic reminds me of that. I never know what to do in a situation where I'm expected to be with a child, like if I visit family and they request me to hold their baby, or play with their child. I don't know how to politely decline, maybe its not possible.
It puts me off visiting family with young children, because I can't stand being put in charge of them (the dreaded 'could you watch them while I shower/go to the store etc") Obviously these children are my family members, and so I'm not wishing they'd go away, but just that they wouldn't be the sole focus of my visit.

Chaser said...

I study environmental ethics and so I spend a lot of time writing about your basic assumption: that animals are "just" animals and can therefore be treated to lower status than humans.

I'm old; all my grandparents are dead. Personally, I would never, ever, ever tell my fiance or my parents that his/her grandmother or they were not invited because of a pet. I'd take my own pets to the boarder before I did that. My grandmother could show up naked wearing nothing but a tin-foil hat and I'd not make such a fuss. This is about a *grandmother*. It's not really about a dog. You and your fiance have the rest of your lives to put on fancy formal dinners; you only have a few years to see her, dog or no dog. She may be very lonely much of the time and that dog may be her only real day-to-day companion. People are going to have to start treating elderly people a lot better in my country (the US) before I say you get to dis-invite them to holidays because of pets. If you force somebody to choose between you and something they love, they will resent you, no matter what etiquette books say and no matter how entitled you may be to set the ground rules in your house and at your table, or, more to the point, no matter how little you value what they value (the pet). People here may agree with you, but we aren't the ones who would have to deal with the consequences or her hurt feelings.

Is the best we can do: black-or-white "The dog stays home or you both do"? Seriously? You can't think of any possible strategy whereby Fiance gets to have Grandma and Grandma gets to have the dog around...but not at the table? I can. It'd be a lot easier for me to say to grandma that we really need fido to eat his own little special dinner on the floor rather than tell her she stays home if she doesn't want to leave the dog.

Some dog owners are people who haven't been responsible enough to teach their dog to behave in social settings--that's all--just like rude parents haven't been responsible enough to teach little Suzie that it's not ok to kick the chair in front of her at the movie theater for two solid hours. And, in truth, no living thing--child or dog or cat or adult--is perfect all the time; a little tolerance is a good thing, too.

EthidiumBromide said...

Your post replying to my comment about not inviting my fiance's grandmother to our home ever again if she brings her dog is completely unjustified. You are 100% incorrect when you state "This is about a *grandmother*. It is not really about a dog." No, it IS about a dog. I don't like dogs at all. I just don't. I have never, ever once refused to go to her house because of the dog. I go, I smile, I pet the dog. She knows I don't like dogs, and is convinced that by forcing her dog on me, I'll come to like them. I don't ask her to put the dog away in a different room or restrain the dog despite my dislike of them, I just suck it up and pretend that I'm not as miserable as I really am because of my extreme uncomfort. Last time we were there, she picked up the dog and put it in my lap. I, very politely, asked to not have to hold the dog, and she forced the dog on me. The dog then promptly urinated all over me. As I don't generally travel to other people's homes with spare clothing, I then had a 3 hour car ride back in pants that were soaked with dog urine, and my fiance's car STILL smells like dog urine. After I, twice, asked her to please not put the dog on my lap, I would be more comfortable with the dog on the floor.
She is not lonely; she lives with her boyfriend of 15 years and two cats, in addition to said dog. This isn't her only day-to-day companion. This isn't me as the evil new fiancee trying to cause a division in the family; EVERYONE in the family is appalled by the behavior of the dog (eating off her plate, biting everyone, etc). My fiance's mother refuses to let the dog in the house ever since the grandmother's dog bit my fiance's mothers dog so bad that the dog needed stitches, so when she brings along the dog, it has to sit in the car. My fiance was quite possibly even more embarrassed than I was that she brought the dog to our Thanksgiving without asking and then let the dog eat off her plate the first time his extended family was meeting mine. I'm not the one who is out of line here.
I was raised to always treat my elders with respect. I'm not overly fond of his grandmother and the extremely personal questions she asks and her continued insistence that I am going to be a failure as a scientists because women aren't smart enough, but I will always welcome her and her boyfriend into my home, provided the dog is not present. I will always go to their home when invited and smile and pretend to be content when their dog is biting my ankles and then proceeds to pee ALL OVER me. I will not, however, allow the dog into my house. I fail to see how this puts me at fault. If she showed up wearing nothing but a tin foil hat, she would be more than welcome to come in, because I do not dislike her, I dislike dogs. My fiance, his mother, and his entire family stand by me on this -- as does her boyfriend. Fine, maybe I'm the worst person in the entire world, but I don't like dogs, so why should I have to allow a dog into my home? I would never bring my fish tank or my horse to her house, so it is just common courtesy that she extend the same to me. It might be different if I was a dog person and just didn't like her dog in particular, but NOBODY'S dog is permitted in my house, be it the Queen, the President, or his grandmother.

Meg from The Bargain Queen & All About Appearances said...


I still agree that you are not out of line -- especially considering what you've just said.

However, I agree with Chaser on one point. It is about your grandma! Dog or no dog, it seems that your grandma has no manners or respect for others. What she's done and wants to do is incredibly selfish. And that's her problem, not the dog's.

I'm a very, very forgiving person (much more than I should be at times), but I don't think that the elderly should get special treatment with all else being equal.

Sure, they won't live forever, but neither will we -- and none of us knows how much time we have, as I've been reminded all too frequently over the years.

I don't fault you for loving her as family and wanting her to be there on her best behavior. But if she wasn't family, would she even be on the guest list?

jane said...

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to draw a line between the aversion to pets and aversion pet owners. You dislike a pet when you have anxiety or fear around animals or a particular type of animal or a specific animal. You dislike a pet owner when you feel that the pet is behaving badly due to bad training, or that the owner lacks manners and is putting you in a situation which is particularly difficult or inappropriate. Often this type of person would put you in that type of situation regardless of their "pet status" - hence my distinction between disliking pets and disliking pet owners - which really amounts to disliking a person which you determine to be rude, and who you would probably consider rude in other ways even if he or she did not have a pet. It is possible to both dislike the pet and the owner of course, but I tend to hold the owner responsible for the behavior of the pet - so I would only say that someone both disliked pets and pet owners when that person specifically dislikes dogs in general and also dislikes the owner of an exemplar dog. There is little reason to associate with such a person unless compelling obligatory relationships intervene. Ethidiumbromide seems to be such a case, for example. However, it seems much more common to run into people who dislike one or the other, and do not have major life relationships tying them to the offensive pet or person. In which case, a solution seems simple enough to come by - if you don't like the person, well, simply avoid them as much as possible and be as graceful as possible when forced to interact. If you like the person but not the pet, determine limits to which you are able to compromise for the sake of having a friendship with the person, and if necessary discuss your aversion to their pet with them frankly to facilitate such a compromise, noting that some people have very legitimate emotional or even physical reasons to want to be around their pet. I don't see what all the hand wringing is about.

MeganGMcD said...

This seems to be more indicative of dog owners than cat owners. Cat owners seem to enjoy the fact that our pets ARE still a little wild. I love the daily glimpses into " wild kingdom" I get with my cats. I love them for NOT being human.
I have very well behaved cats and children. BEcause I treat them for what the ARE, not what I need them to be.

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances said...


Well said! I do appreciate the wildness of my kitties. Though on the other hand, they always surprise me with how human they are.

Earlier, one kitty pulled a Lassie. My husband and I have been looking for our remote and were talking aloud about how we couldn't find it. All of a sudden, our kitty C.C. started pawing furiously (though not destructively) at a small blanket. Wouldn't you know, there was the remote.

Another thing.. cat's do tend to be shy and don't take well to public places. Just that alone keeps them from annoying most people. My cats are very friendly to strangers nowadays, but they still aren't friendly in the way dogs are.