Karen B. London
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Visitors Who Don’t Like Dogs
It’s an awkward social situation
Dogs are part of the family!

A friend of mine was telling me that when her sister-in-law comes to visit, it can be very uncomfortable because that sister-in-law really hates dogs. She voices a lot of criticism of the cleanliness of houses with dogs and the fact that so much time is wasted cleaning up after dogs, which my friend naturally finds annoying. To her, the dogs are family and the extra effort to keep the house clean is worth it. (By the way, I have been in this friend’s house and I consider it immaculate! I’ve been in houses that have a little too much dog hair and eau de dog aroma even for my taste and this house is nothing like that.)

It’s perfectly reasonable to tell potential visitors that if they don’t want to be around dogs, they are more than welcome to stay in a hotel and that you’d be happy to help them find a conveniently located one that is to their liking. However, we all know that family dynamics can sometime make this option very sticky. Being asked to kennel your dogs or keep them locked in the backyard or in one room are all requests that have been received by various friends or colleagues of mine from assertive relatives.

The simple reply that the dogs are part of the family and as such as not shut away or sent away, no matter how tactfully stated, is likely to upset the sort of people who would make such demands in the first place. It’s hard to explain how much we value our dogs to someone who just doesn’t get it.

If you’ve faced a situation with visitors who don’t love dogs and expect you to remove your dogs from the situation, how have you handled it?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Lynn Ericson Fi... | August 28 2012 |


I had a friend come for an afternoon visit who was terrified of my pitbull so I offered to put Charlotte in her crate when the friend came to the door with the intention of letting her out as soon as everything settled down and positioning the dog on the couch next to me on a leash.

The friend was too afraid to walk by the crate, as if Charlotte would pull a Houdini, rip the crate apart and sink her teeth in. I realized that was a real phobia--and my friend's visit would be mercifully short.

For most people, keeping Charlotte on a leash close to me works--and dressing her in a feminine pink tutu (really) decreases the threat. She has won most pit bull sissies over, who end up crazy about her.

Good luck. It's tough with family.



Submitted by DxxDog | August 29 2012 |

Not prepared to deal with my dogs when you visit me? Then dont visit!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 29 2012 |

Until yesterday I had a German Shepherd Dog (he went to Doggy Heaven yesterday)

I have many guests as I belong to Couch Surfers. Some people didn't realize I had a dog until they got here because they hadn't read my profile properly. For some of them it was a real shock because he was so big and he slept in the lounge where they slept. My attitude was "that's your problem not mine" and in the end he usually one them over with his friendliness.

I have other friends and relatives who didn't like visiting because of him and that's fine. We meet for coffee elsewhere and they didn't stay here. It's not my problem if they don't like a much loved family member.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 30 2012 |

I'm sorry to hear about your dog.

Submitted by Karen London | August 30 2012 |

Warm thoughts to you. It's so hard to lose a dog at any time, and I love knowing that yours won over the hearts of many visitors.

Submitted by Bruisersmum | August 30 2012 |

We have 5 dogs in our house ranging from a very small deaf Jack Russell up to a 70lb pit mix. Most are rescues and one in particular is rather "grumpy" and will only allow certain people to enter our home. If we have people visit we work around the dogs, sometimes they go to a doggie hotel for play weekend, sometimes they go out back with a yummy bone and sometimes they stay home. It depends on the situation and how I can make everyone, human and canine comfortable.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 1 2012 |

If I have a large group of people, I usually put the dogs in the bedroom. At some point during the evening I usually let them join. I'm sure some don't like it. I haven't ever had anyone say anything. I think they know better.

As far as I'm concerned, if you don't like my dogs, just stay at home. They are more loyal than most people I know.

My very best advice is find friends who have dogs and you won't have to worry every time they come over.

Submitted by Jessie S | September 4 2012 |

I usually tell people that I don’t know before they come over that I have dogs. If they are nervous around them when they get here, I usually give them a Healthy Bones biscuit treat so they can “make friends” with my pet-kids.

Submitted by Carolyn | September 4 2012 |

I think a little courtesy and consideration go a long way -- I don't necessarily like other people's kids all over me and I can appreciate that some may not love dogs.

I have a new young rambunctious dog. My sister, her kids and I were visiting my dad. I considered it a training opportunity. I kept Esme leashed and near me. I allowed her to approach and attempt to politely greet the non-dog lovers. As it turns out, neither were too interested in each other after all and the afternoon went well.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 5 2012 |

My dog is a resident of my home every bit as much as I do. If you wouldn't ask me, my husband, a roommate, etc. to leave when you visit, don't ask me to make him leave, either. If you do, one of you will be undoubtedly be leaving...and it won't be the dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 31 2014 |

Most of my friends/family are aware that I don't really like to be jumped on, nosed at, etc. by dogs. My mom's living with me temporarily and has a dog. As long as he gives me my space it's not a problem. The dog is not permitted to eat off of my plates or dishes either, because I find that disgusting. My house, my rules.

If I go to my sister's place I just wear old clothes and do my best to minimize contact with the dog. I don't ask her to "quarantine" the dog. But on the other hand, she knows if she visits me that the dog either stays at her place or at least out of mine. Again, her house her rules, my house my rules.

But that said, dog lovers should set reasonable boundaries for their dogs. If you're going to use the argument that the dog "is a member of the family," and you wouldn't make your spouse or kids leave, or keep them in the garage, etc. when people who don't really like them visit, that's fine. But would you let your husband hump your sister's leg when she comes to visit? Would you let your children try to lick guests in the face, hands, or ELSEWHERE? Of course not! So boundaries ARE healthy to a point. If someone is visiting that you know isn't really crazy about dogs, do your best to keep your dog from bothering them. It's just polite. If you don't like dogs, minimize your time visiting places of people who do like dogs - there are always other ways to spend time with them, such as meeting on neutral ground (go out for coffee, etc.)

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