Visiting Family With Your Dog: Etiquette for a Successful Stay

Rock the holidays with these simple dog etiquette tips and be the paw-some guest every host dreams of.

Updated November 16, 2023
Three generation family cuddling with their dogs

Heading out to see family with your four-legged friend? It's a blast, but a bit of doggy etiquette goes a long way to avoid family drama. Sure, your pup shouldn't dive into the turkey, but what else? Check out our quick etiquette checklist for a stress-free visit — because happy tails make happy holidays!

Before Visiting Family

Before hopping in the car, a little prep can save a lot of headaches. Consider the following checklist before heading out with your dog.

1. Up-to-Date Immunizations

You know, the biggies like rabies, parvovirus, and distemper. If you're scratching your head about whether your buddy's up to date on those, give your veterinarian a call. They'll either have a peek at your dog's vax record or, if they don't have the records, you can ask for a titer test.

Fast Fact

Many states require up-to-date dog rabies vaccinations and will not accept titer test results as proof of rabies vaccine. If you're going anywhere where this might be checked, bring proof of actual vaccination.

2. Parasite Preventatives: Fleas, Ticks, and Worms

Bringing in a pup and leaving behind some parasites isn't exactly the holiday gift any family member wants. Puppies should be tested for worms and be wormed if the test is positive. Most veterinarians recommend dogs be treated year-round for fleas and ticks. Keeping up with these basic preventatives is great for your dog — and just as good for keeping good family relationships intact when visiting family with your pooch.

3. Consider Your Dog

Another thing to consider before approaching your family about Fido tagging along is whether your dog's well-rounded in the social department. I mean, making sure they're cool with all sorts of new experiences — different noises, new people, unfamiliar scents, and especially other pets. You don't want your dog to get into a fight with another dog — for their sake and yours.

Two people with dogs in their arms

It's all about ensuring they're used to the hustle and bustle they might encounter during a family visit. If your dog isn't fully socialized, waiting until next time to bring them along is okay. If they are, continue on to the next step.

4. Practice Training

If your dog passes the social test, it's time to move on to training. If you're considering bringing your pup to the next family shindig, it's super helpful to give their training a little tune-up first. Make sure they've really nailed those basic commands like 'sit' and 'stay.' It's like a little insurance policy against any whoops-did-that-just-happen kind of moments.

5. Give the Host a Call

Springing a surprise visit on your family with your dog in tow isn't the best move. Even if your four-legged pal was a hit the last time, this visit might be different. There's a bunch of stuff to consider:

  • Is there a new guest with dog allergies?
  • What about someone not so keen on dogs? 
  • What if another guest's dog, who doesn't vibe well with yours, is already on the guest list?
  • Has the hosting family added a new pet to their home?

And let's not forget, the whole scene could be a bit overwhelming this time around — too much noise, too many people, and too much going on can be overwhelming, not just for your pup, but for your host and you as well. It's all about making sure everyone, including your dog, can have a good time without any stress or drama.

6. Ask the Family

While you definitely should ask the host, I'd also suggest asking everyone you know on the guest list if they're ok with your dog attending the visit. If they've never met your dog before, you can give them some info about their breed, how old they are, and their personality. They may feel a lot better if your dog is a laid-back lover who will cuddle up to them in front of the fireplace. 

Quick Tip

Sending some cute pics through the year of your furry bundle of joy can go a long way!

7. Coordinate Accommodations and Rules

If it's your pup's debut visit to this home or this group of friends and family, it's a good idea to ask for a calm area where they can retreat when things get too busy. And don't forget to check in about the house rules — like if your dog is allowed to wander around or if they should stay in their crate, the yard, or somewhere similar during certain times (like meals).

Wire dog crate or animal cage at home

Getting these details sorted out ahead of time can make the whole visit a lot smoother for you, your dog, and your hosts. When I bring my dog along, I want to make sure he stays out and about. If he can't stay out, I'll usually leave him at home and ask someone he knows to stay with him while I'm away.

During the Visit

Once you get there, two easy-to-say-but-harder-to-do steps are extra important.

1. Stick to a Routine As Much As Possible

When you're staying with family, keeping up with your usual routine can be a bit of a juggle, but it's super helpful for your dog. It might not be spot-on perfect — family time can be wonderfully unpredictable, but even ballpark timing for things like walks and meals can make a world of difference for your pup. 

2. Let Family Know Your Rules, Too

Make sure you let everyone know what your dog's rules are when you get there — like no feeding table scraps, or keeping your pup on leash when outside. Better yet, ask if your family would want to do a fun activity involving your pup, like making these Christmas dog treat recipes together.

Keep the Stress Down and Smiles Coming With Proper Petiquette

Planning ahead and having a chat with your family and hosts before bringing your dog for a holiday visit can be a game-changer. A little prep work goes a long way in ensuring a stress-free and pawsitively awesome holiday experience. Communicate any special needs, like dietary preferences or quirky habits, to avoid surprises. This proactive approach not only sets the stage for a harmonious gathering but also helps everyone, furry friends included, feel comfortable and welcomed. By ironing out the details in advance, you're not just bringing a pup to the party – you're bringing joy, tail wags, and a stress-free celebration for all!

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Visiting Family With Your Dog: Etiquette for a Successful Stay