Pet Etiquette: What Every Owner Needs to Know

Top pet etiquette tips for at home, when traveling and when on a walk.
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Shutterstock photo

When we got our golden doodle puppy, Cooper, I hired a dog trainer to come to the house to teach us both some lessons. The trainer didn't know what I do for a living (teach manners), and so it was especially funny when Cooper and I continued to mess up and do the wrong things, when she literally said, “Teaching dogs to behave is like teaching your kids to have nice manners. Can you do that?” I decided right then and there NOT to tell her what I do for a living.

While we all know the “Golden Rule” as it relates to dogs, “pick up after your dog as you’d have others pick up after theirs," but there are many other pet etiquette tips that many pet owners either don’t know, or choose not to know. I will admit that I didn’t know all of these tips either when I got Cooper, but after making a few faux pas myself, I have since learned these tips to be a polite pet owner.

At Home

If you have guests in your home

  • If your dog gets overly excited to the point of making your guests uncomfortable, or if he likes to put his nose in their crotch (like mine does), put your dog in the other room/outside.
  • If you have a large dog, you need to warn people when they come to your house in case they are scared of large dogs.
  • Let people know you have a cat or dog in case they are allergic. If so, make sure you put the animal away and even sweep-up the cat/dog hair before they arrive if you can.
  • If you know someone who doesn’t like cats, don’t let your cat literally walk all over them. Put the cat outside or in another room.

If you are a guest in some else’s home

  • ASK first before you just drop in at your friend’s house with your dog in tow.
  • Be smart about it. If your dog isn’t good around other dogs, don’t take him; if he is skittish around new people, don’t take him; if he is destructive, don’t take him! You should also clean up after your dog wherever you go.
  • Don’t assume your dog is welcome at every social gathering. A family with a new baby or an ailing parent might be extra-sensitive about germs, so ask beforehand if Fido’s allowed to come. Once you’ve got the OK, you should always be prepared to replace or repair any items your pet damages or destroys.

For children

  • Remind little ones that they should pet and play with animals softly and with kindness. Pets are great for kids, but some children need to be reminded that they can get hurt if they are played with too roughly.
  • Have children help with pet chores such as taking the dog for a walk, feeding or giving the pets water, and brushing the dog.

When Traveling

  • If staying at someone’s house for vacation you need to follow the rules of pet etiquette and not assume they want your cat/dog too. If it’s the first time, you might ask your hosts where a boarding place is near their house where you can take your animal if they’d prefer the cat/dog not stay at their house. Giving them an option and not just saying, “Is it okay if I bring my cat/dog?”, at least gives your hosts an option if you propose another solution.
  • The rules are the same whether your pet will be resting his paws in a hotel or at a friend’s home: “Treat pet travel like a privilege, not a right”, says Arden Moore, who penned both "Happy Cat, Happy You" and "Happy Dog, Happy You." “Arrive with a clean, well-groomed animal and pack enough supplies to keep him that way. Baby wipes are helpful after an especially muddy walk; a spare towel is handy for an end-of-day wipe-down. Have paperwork, tags and licenses on hand, especially if you’ll be traveling by air or spending time at a campground. Even if your pup sleeps in your bed at home, pack a roll-up dog futon for vacations, and encourage him to stretch out there.”

For children

  • If you're staying in someone's home, remind your kids to respect their house rules when it comes to your pets and theirs. For example, not to let your dog on the furniture if your hosts don't allow that.
  • If your kids are old enough, ask your children to walk your host's dog as a nice thing to do for them.

On a Walk

  • Always scoop the poop! A Golden Rule in pet etiquette.
  • Don’t let your dog pee on anything that a human would touch like flowers in a garden or trash cans.
  • In dog parks follow the rules like don’t bring a dog who doesn’t get along with other dogs! Also, follow the dog park rules yourself, but if others don’t, it’s not your job to be the enforcer.
  • If your dog doesn’t get along well with other dogs or people, give a warning before dogs or people approach. Certainly, don’t let this dog off leash if you don’t know what he will do.
  • If your dog does bite another dog (and hopefully not a person), do give them your name and phone number in case their dog needs medical attention. If that is the case, you should pay 100 percent of the vet bill. It’s the right thing to do. If your dog bites a person, I know you’d give your contact information immediately and then contact them as well to make sure they are okay.

For children

  • Make sure they have a "poop bag" with them so that they are prepared.  🙂
  • Make sure they are comfortable walking the dog especially if it's a large one who likes to bolt away after a squirrel. You don't want them getting hurt like my son has been with our 75 pound squirrel-chasing dog.

For more information on etiquette, or to discuss having Aimee conduct an etiquette program for your company or group, please go to her website at Registration for Aimee’s Modern Cotillion for 5th and 6th graders this spring will open soon. Contact her at for more information.