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Mind Your Manners: The Ten Commandments of pet etiquette

By Pam Harvit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- My mother calls me Rosie, a lot. I don't mind the name Rosie, but my name is Pam. Rosie was her beloved dog who passed away more than 10 years ago. I sometimes have to remind Mom that I'm the daughter and Rosie was the dog, although I think she secretly considers us sisters.

I come from a family of animal lovers. In fact, our animals are considered furry relatives the minute they enter our lives. And, like family, we can be blind to or overlook the bad behavior they may exhibit.

This was brought to my attention recently when I received an email from a reader asking for advice. Here is a portion of her request:

Dear Pam,

What about manners regarding pets in public? The dog doo is epidemic in front of my house and most of it is from the pooch next door, as well as other neighbors' animals. What about taking a dog to someone else's house when uninvited? Also, what do you do with your own pet if you have people over? What about little dogs in carts in stores?

Signed, Tired of the Pooch Poo!

Dear Tired,

I feel your pain. No one enjoys maneuvering through unsightly piles of dog waste when out for a walk or run. They particularly don't like it in their yard, especially if they don't even own a dog. I speak from experience when I say there is nothing worse than retrieving the morning paper and stepping in a pile.

Besides being disgusting, it can be a health hazard. Many diseases and parasites may be shed in feces, making it potentially dangerous for other dogs or humans to come in contact with it. In addition, animal urine can wreak havoc on some plants and shrubs. Owners need to be cautious where they let Fido lift his leg.

Dog waste has become such a problem in some cities that along with leash laws, many now have pick-up-after-your-dog laws. It is considered illegal for a person not to pick up their pooch's poo. It would be very helpful and polite for your neighbor (or any dog owner) to consider carrying a plastic bag with them to pick up their animal's feces.

Years ago, there was a great website that was actually designed to help with this problem -- DogRomp.com would send an anonymous letter to the offending neighbor asking them to please refrain from letting their dog use others' yards as a doggy potty. In addition, they enclosed 20 plastic bags so if Poochie had an accident in someone's yard (namely yours), the canine-walking neighbor could clean it up immediately and dispose of it properly. The website appears no longer to be in use. Perhaps someone should consider offering a similar service again.

The uninvited guest

Just as you should never bring a guest to someone's home uninvited, good manners dictate that you should also avoid bringing your uninvited pet as well. Doing so could be a violation of someone else's comfort zone. Folks with allergies or who have a real fear of animals may be put in a very difficult situation.

It can be costly as well. Consider the following: A guest brought her pet uninvited to a party where the host and his children were extremely allergic to dogs. Imagine her shock when she was asked to pay a $3,500 professional cleaning bill after the party.

I understand the saying "Love me, love my dog" (or cat or whatever), but bringing them uninvited to one's home demonstrates a lack of respect to the host and other guests.

Pet-proofing for guests

Before your guests arrive, be sure to notify them that you have a dog or other pets in your home. That way, if your guest has any fear or phobia of animals, then they will have the opportunity to inform you beforehand. Also, those who may suffer from allergies or asthma will have advanced warning and can come prepared.

After your guests have arrived, consider putting your pet in another room if they start exhibiting unacceptable behavior such as jumping, repeated barking or displaying aggressive behavior.

Dogs in carts

When "Tired" mentioned dogs in carts, I assumed she was referring to animal strollers. I was not familiar with such strollers until once I peeked into one, expecting to see a small baby, only to find a furry ball, with long ears and a tail, peering back. While the dog inside was adorable, it took me a while to recover.

Strollers are not just for babies anymore. Owners of these strollers love the ease in which they can take their pet different places without harm. However, with the exception of a service animal, any pet entering a place that serves or sells food may be violating a city ordinance, regardless of being in a stroller, cart or any other carrier.

To help with your pet's manners, consider the following:

The Ten Pet Commandments

1. Thou shall clean up pet's poo that occurs on a neighbor's property.

2. Thou shall not take pet uninvited to the home of others.

3. Thou shall not take pet (unless it is a service animal) into eating establishments.

4. Thou shall not let pet urinate on neighbors' plants or shrubs.

5. Thou shall not let pet jump on, chew or tear furniture of the host.

6. Thou shall not let pet get into neighbors' trash.

7. Thou shall not let pet jump on others.

8. Thou shall not let dog bark incessantly.

9. Thou shall have up-to-date vaccines for all pets.

10. Thou shall not let aggressive (or vicious) dogs loose in the neighborhood.

Pam Harvit, M.S., is a certified corporate etiquette and protocol consultant. Email her at pharvit@suddenlink.net.


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