Dog Guest at Christmas

18 Dec

Every Christmas our family gets together at our house for dinner and to exchange gifts. We have an older cat and our niece has a small dog. She brings the dog to our house every year, fully knowing that it is not welcome. Is it good etiquette that they should leave their dog home since we have a cat plus the dog is just not welcome ?

G., New York

Dear G.,

I assume that the dog presents a problem for the cat (chasing, barking, etc.). I agree that she should not bring the dog if she knows that he’s not welcome. Has anyone actually told her that it just doesn’t work out, or is everyone relying on common sense and hints? Clarity is a good thing, and even a difficult conversation can be handled with compassion and affection. I had to have a similar conversation with a relative whose dog marked my house when he came over (although he was perfectly housebroken at home). I asked for her help in solving the problem and we worked it out with a minimum of hurt feelings.  It could be too late to do anything about it this year since the boarding kennels are already booked (although she might be able to get a pet sitter to come to the house). Does she travel from out of town? If not, perhaps the dog would be okay at home alone for 5 hours or so. If the dog can be left home alone while she’s a work, it should be no problem to leave him home for a similar length of time for Christmas. 

If that’s not a solution, perhaps confining the dog during Christmas dinner and gift exchange with a baby gate, or putting him in another room, would be a temporary solution. You might also consider putting the cat in another room. You may think it’s not fair to confine the cat, who lives there. But actually, cats often prefer a quiet, private room when there’s more activity and people in the house than normal.  

In the end, I think if my uncle told me that the cat doesn’t handle my dog’s visits very well and then set up an area outside or in the garage for him to be when he visited, I’d end up making other arrangements without drama or resentment. Here’s a question to consider: If you didn’t have the cat (and someday you won’t), would the dog be welcome? Is part of the reason you wish she wouldn’t bring him because he’s noisy or destructive or distracting?  That’s perfectly legitimate and if it’s the case, you might want to just bring it up now and save yourself some awkwardness in the future if the issue comes up again.

Got a question about dog etiquette? Send it here.


Posted by on December 18, 2006 in Dog Etiquette


3 responses to “Dog Guest at Christmas

  1. Doug Stewart

    February 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    As a long time dog owner (current 2 Giant Schnauzers and 1 17-year old Border Terrier), I’m very interested in dog health. I’m particularly concerned about dog food and have started a site about it ( ). I’m wondering if you could give it a mention on your site?


  2. German Rottweiler breeders

    August 18, 2009 at 5:01 pm

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  3. Jane

    November 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    My husband and I recently purchased our new home together. Prior to this we never had a chance to have guests over in our small bachelor home, so we have not needed to address this issue yet. Christmas is approaching and my in-laws insist on bringing their 2 year old lab for the celebrations which are going to be at our new home.

    They brought their dog uninvited when we were moving in, at that time i requested that she not be in the home as there were boxes all over the place. I believe I am going to have an issue when it comes to Christmas dinner as they feel she should be in the home with them. I grew up in a home without animals, I have a white carpet in our living room and I can’t stand the hair on the furniture/carpet.

    My in-laws keep their dog inside. They are not mindful of cleaning her pawns when she comes back from the outside. They also let her beg at the table and put scrap food on their floor for the dog to eat. She is also a very hyper dog that they call consider a part of her family. My mother in-law refers to her as a daughter. I am concerned this behaviour will continue in our home. My husband feels that we should be letting the dog in the house during the holiday when they visit because she is a part of their family. I feel if I let her in this time I won’t be able to stop it the next. Am I being unreasonable? We have a fully fenced in backyard and other rooms, but I know that keeping her penned up will not be acceptable for them. Do you have any suggestions for a compromise?


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