If your plans include traveling with your pup to visit family or friends for the holidays, take our Perfect House Guest Quiz and see if your dog’s etiquette is en pointe. Ready?

Happy dog in a group of house guests at Christmastime
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Did your dog get an invite to accompany you on your holiday trip over the river and through the woods? Count yourself lucky!!! That means your host thinks enough of you and your pup to consider you both guest material. That’s saying something!

But before those sleigh bells start ringing and you send in your RSVP, take the quiz to see how your dog stacks up.

The door bell rings - you've got a visitor! How does your dog react?

You open the door to greet your visitor. Your dog...

Your visitor turns to greet your dog. What does your dog do?

You've just finished roasting a delicious chicken. It's sitting on the counter to cool. Your dog is asleep nearby. You walk out of the kitchen for a moment. Your dog...

It's the day of the big game. You've invited some friends over. There's snacks and drinks on the coffee table. Everyone is loud and boisterous. What is your dog doing?

Your sister is moving back home - and she's bringing her kitty. Your dog's reaction?

The new neighbors dropped by with their four kids! What does your dog think?

Perfect House Guest
Up and Coming Debutante
Your dog's heart is in the right place - she just needs a bit more training to bring out her best. She may not understand exactly what's required of her which makes her a bit over-enthusiastic . Or she may be uncomfortable in some situations. But with clear communication from YOU showing her the ropes, she'll be a Welcomed Guest.
Perfectly Polished House Guest
Your dog has certainly brushed up on her manners! She gets along well with most everyone, humans and other animals alike. She knows how to be calm around exciting activities and is either a social butterfly or chill and relaxed. She's a dog who will be welcomed anywhere.
Diamond in the Rough
Your dog is a bit on the cautious side. A little reserved and choosy about the company he keeps. Building up his confidence in new situations is key. He may never get along perfectly with every dog or human he meets, but his good manners will carry him far. Respect his feelings. With the careful management and role-modeling you provide, he'll make a well-mannered house guest.
Grinch
No doubt about it - your dog is not going to win a popularity contest. He's got some issues to deal with, and they are probably due to his insecurities and fear. Best bet is to concentrate on helping him feel safe, calm and happy before you advance to visiting others. Give him some time, love and clear guidance and his heart may grow three sizes some day.

So how did your dog do???

Let’s take a moment to dig in to those results. No matter where your dog falls on the Perfect House Guest Quiz scale, an honest appraisal is needed.

First of all, if your dog is a Perfectly Polished House Guest, you are already at the top of your class. Your pup is a model citizen (have you tested for your Canine Good Citizen title yet?) and will be a delightful addition to any gathering he attends. He gets along well with people, children, other dogs and small animals. He handles large gatherings and new situations with grace and ease. Lucky you!!

  • Things to keep in mind…
    • With a dog so perfectly well-mannered, it’s easy to take them for granted. Dogs are still dogs, not mini humans with shaggy hair. They still behave with typical dog behaviors. And that’s okay. Let ’em be dogs!
    • Your Perfectly Polished boy may need special advocacy on your part. Keep an eye out for well-intentioned adults/children who may take advantage of his good nature.

Did your dog turn out to be an Up and Coming Debutante? You’re well on your way to having a great traveling companion and a wonderful house guest. These dogs generally fall into one of two types : the overly-enthusiastic “belle of the ball” or the the shy little lady. Both just mean your dog is eager to please but may not have clear direction. Both are asking the question, “Is this okay to do???” The difference is one is excited and the other is insecure.

  • Things to keep in mind…
    • The enthusiastic Deb is just happy to be there. If she acts up with loads of energy and craziness, it’s just in her nature. It also means she needs a bit more work on her manners. Keep up with training sessions. Give her absolutely clear direction on what you want. And role model some calm, balanced behavior to help her settle into her role as guest.
    • The shy Deb wants to be with you …but feels unsure about her new surroundings and new people. Give her plenty of time to warm up and don’t force interactions. Again, clear direction from you will help her feel more confident.
    • Both dogs will greatly benefit by extra exercise (a nice long walk or play session) before they attend a larger celebration.

Is your dog a Diamond in the Rough? She can easily be a house guest, but she’s going to need to do it on her own terms. She has the good house manners to serve her well, but being naturally reserved, she may find all the extra energy and excitement in large gatherings a bit much. Pretty exhausting, actually. It may bring on reactive behaviors.

  • Things to keep in mind…
    • If you decide to bring your Diamond along with you as a house guest, you’re going to need to be on your game. She’s going to need lots of management if there are many people, children and other pets present.
    • Allow her to escape the festivities from time to time. Decompression is crucial for her.
    • And really think it through. Will she be happier coming with you in a stressful environment or happier at home or with a trusted caregiver?

Finally – if your dog scored Grinch…time to be honest. You’re probably NOT going to be invited to spend the holidays with anyone. And that’s a GOOD thing. More than any holiday gift, your dog needs a safe space and safe people to chill with. He needs time to let himself relax and do lots of fun dog-things with people who love him and know him.

  • Things to keep in mind
    • Don’t try to force social situations on your Grinchy dog. More exposure will not magically transform your dog’s attitude and will only increase his fears.
    • Your dog may never be a social butterfly, but he can learn good manners. With the help of a professional dog behaviorist, the two of you can work together to help your dog feel better.

Alternative Ideas

You’ve carefully considered the above. Let’s say you still want to go to your relatives for the holidays. And you don’t want to leave Nash at home. But you don’t feel comfortable staying at the in-laws for such a long time.

You’ve got options! Let’s explore them:

  • Consider making your home base at a nearby Airbnb or dog-friendly hotel. Spend part of the day with the family and then kick back at your room. This gives you and your dog more breathing space.  You can slowly introduce him to everyone for a shorter period of time.
  • Reverse the invitation. Offer to host the holidays at your place. Your dog will be in his own space and you can more easily help him relax. More work for you, but less stress for your dog.
  • Maybe you could plan a gathering at a central location? Neutral territory where everyone can come and go as needed. Rent a cabin or stay at a dog-friendly resort.

So are you in? You’re going to bring little Jazzy with you? Yay! Now comes the fun part: preparing for your holiday stay. These tips to help your dog be the perfect house guest will make a difference.

Review Your Manners

Nothing makes a better impression than a dog who listens well.

Your dog should at the very least have his basic obedience behaviors in place (sit, down, stay, etc.) Review them. Practice them. Make them perfect in the weeks before your stay.

Mind your Ps and Qs

Literally!

Make sure your dog is completely housetrained before staying at someone’s home. Keep in mind that many dogs like to mark territory – especially if there are other pets in the house. Keep an eagle eye on your doggo if your suspect he may want to stake his claim!

And if your dog tends to be a barker under stress or excitement, have a plan of how you’ll quietly handle that.

Brush Up

This goes along with the above, but arrive at your host’s home with a sweet smelling and perfectly clean pooch. A good brushing and bath before you leave home will be appreciated by all.

Dachshund in a red sweater near a Christmas tree is a perfect house guest
Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Practice Makes Perfect

If your dog has never spent the night away from home – or even been a guest in a someone else’s house before, consider a dry run. This is especially important for your Diamond in the Rough.

Have a friend nearby who would love to help you practice? Pack up a pretend overnighter, your dog’s bed and bowls and head over for an afternoon of “vacation.” You get bonus points if your friend really invites you to spend the night! Slumber party!!

Packing

Packing your bags is half the fun of spending the weekend away from home.

Even if you’re just going to be away for several hours, you’ll still want to pack a bag full of things to help your dog feel comfortable and at home. Bring your dog her own bowls, food, treats, plenty of poop bags, and a blanket or travel bed. A travel crate is a MUST unless your host has a secure and out-of-the-way place for your dog to rest if things get a little too crazy.

Look here to find our post on the 21 Essentials for Road Tripping With Your Dog. We’ve got a downloadable packing list you can print to make sure you have everything you need.

Before you leave home…

  • Call your host. Make sure they remember your doggo is coming along.
  • Ask if there are activities planned your dog won’t be able to attend, like a dinner show or ice-skating party. Research the best pet-sitters or drop-in daycare and book them now.
  • Talk to your host to see if they have a spot in the house you can set up your dog’s safe space to take a break from the festivities.
  • Make plans to arrive early. You’ll need extra time to walk your dog, take care of potty business and shake off some energy. Then you can enter fashionably late to greet guests and start the party.

Staying for a few days?

Settle in to your new surrounding and set up your dog’s belongings. He’ll know this is ‘home’ for now. Ask your host where you can take your dog to potty, where you can dispose of bags, etc. If accidents happen, jump in and take care of them immediately. Gold stars for you!

If you’ve ever stayed at relatives or friends with a baby or toddler in tow, you KNOW how much work that can be.

You have to be prepared with and for EVERYTHING. You have to acknowledge that your child may act their worst with all the newness and boisterous activity. They may be wild and crazy. They may be overwhelmed and cry. They may not like everyone. They explore and get into every nook and cranny. They play with their cousins. They fight with their cousins. They get possessive over toys and don’t want to share. They get overtired and don’t want to settle for a nap.

Dogs are a lot like toddlers.

Story time: Chloe loves to have people over for gatherings. She’s a party girl. But she tends to get on the excited side (slight under-exaggeration) when the action heats up. An after dinner game of charades where people are jumping up, moving around and laughing loudly can send her over-the-top. She jumped up on one game player and knocked her into the coffee table. So Chloe now retires to the bedroom with a chew treat while humans play games.  

All that is to say: know your dog’s triggers. Take action before they get out of hand.

Even if your dog has been to your host’s home before and knows them well, the bustling excitement of a large holiday celebration can be over-stimulating. Help set your dog up for success.

Supervision is key, especially if there are other pets or children present. Keeping your dog on leash, at least initially, can help you scope out the situation and navigate through the house and around guests.

Keep treats on hand for greeting new people nicely or for distracting when necessary.

Boundaries

You’ll have them. Your host will have them. Communication is super important. Don’t guess – ask!

Find out what is and isn’t allowed during your stay. Nothing like making a faux pas at someone else’s home! For example, your host may prefer not to have dogs on the furniture or allow them in the kitchen. Honor that and make sure your dog does, too.

White dog lying on a sofa near a Christmas tree is a perfect house guest
Pexels

You’ll also need to advocate for your dog in cases where you have strong preferences. Grandma may think it’s perfectly okay to sneak your dog a piece of pumpkin pie – and you think it’s perfectly NOT!

You may run into not-dog-people: Cousin Mike finds it hilarious for your dog to break his place command while he teases him with a toy. Do not be afraid to speak up. Gracefully.

  • Educate: (“It’s really important for Gibson to learn to stay in his place until he is released.”)
  • Redirect: (“Would you like to help train him?”)
  • Or remove your dog from the situation if necessary. (“Oh, I think Gibson needs a potty break – we’ll be back in a minute…”)

Your dog is counting on you!

One other thing to be aware of: If your host does not have a dog of their own, their home may not be dog proof. Wagging tails can knock over antique vases. Muddy paws can ruin white carpeting. Poisonous houseplants may be around.

Children and Dogs

I’m saying this loud and clear. As a dog mom AND a human mom, this is vitally important stuff:

No matter how well your dog gets along with kids, you will need to be actively supervising 100% of the time if children are present. Your dog needs you to read his body language and gauge how he’s feeling.

Herding breeds can be especially problematic with children who are running or screaming; when those herding instincts kick in, things can go wrong quickly. Nipped butts, anyone?

Even a dog who loves kids can be taken off-guard by a child who interacts with him inappropriately. Not all children are dog-friendly! All it takes is one second for lives to be changed forever.

Give your pupper a break. This is HIS holiday trip, too. Let him rest in his travel crate if children are getting too rambunctious. And make sure kids (and adults) do not go near your dog while he’s crated. Away from the action is the perfect place for a travel crate.

(You may want to crawl in there and escape with him for a while!)

What About Other Pets?

Kitty cat sitting under a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts

Staying at a home where other dogs or pets live? If your doggo is already friends with them – perfect! Be prepared for lots of fun. If not, supervise interactions.

Keep in mind: your dog is an intruder to the host’s dog. She might be very defensive with a strange dog in HER house. That’s only natural.

If your dog is good with cats and other small pets –great! Just keep a watchful eye on interactions. And if your dog is NOT small animal friendly? Please leave your dog at home. The other pets and your host don’t need the worry of keeping everyone safe.


So what do you think – is your dog house guest ready? Are YOU ready to be a house guest with your dog?

If not, it’s no big deal. Visiting is not every dog’s cup of tea. No guilt here if the best place for your dog is her favorite pet care facility or a trusted pet-sitter.

P.S. What are your favorite tips to help your dog be a perfect house guest? Share in the comments.

And be sure and share the Perfect House Guest Quiz with your friends!

Keep these tips on hand. Pin to your favorite Pinterest board.

6 Comments

  1. I appreciate your quiz because, honestly answered, it will provide owners with solid guidelines to ensure a good visit to friends or family and valuable trips to allow them to prepare properly. A dog is like a small child it needs your help and guidance to ensure a happy time is had by everyone.

    I can’t honestly say, as a cat owner, I can’t welcome a dog into the house, but only because the cats have never been close to a dog in a positive way. Some cats however, are great with dogs – I know some of the local cat cafe adoptees (?) moved to homes with dogs and took over!

    1. admin

      It’s always so hard to know how each individual dog is going to react to strange cats they meet. Some dogs love their own cats but still want to chase cats they are not familiar with. I’ve actually taken one of my cats as a house guest!

  2. Buffy passed with flying colors. It helps that she’s a senior dog and blind. She’s mellowed out a lot and mostly stays by my side. I’ve brought her to motels but not as a guest at someone’s house, but we do have parties at the house, especially for Christmas. I have brought a different dog as a guest and she was also fine.

    Your tips are right on. Mostly to watch your dog a lot for signs of stress especially around children and other pets. At a new place, I usually walk my dog a lot more to wear her out and also to prevent accidents from happening, especially nervous dribbling.

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