Golden Rules for Pet-Lovers

Golden rules for pet lovers - Dog on a sofa

Check first, and if your visitors are hesitant about animals or confess to an allergy to cat hair, don't inflict your animals upon them. Insouciantly exclaiming "she really likes you" as your visitor flinches from the insistent kneading of a sharp-clawed cat, simply won't do.

If you have house guests, keep pets out of their bedrooms, unless enthusiastically requested to do otherwise.

You may love your mutt, applaud its rambunctious barking and tolerate its messier excrescences, but you are making a big mistake if you assume the rest of the world feels the same.

When you are out with your dog, keep it under control. Be aware that small children (quite reasonably) and some adults are actually very frightened of dogs. So make sure that - if there is any risk of an upsetting encounter - you keep your dog on the leash.

Be aware that large, robust dog that loves to jump up, put its paws on shoulders, and slobber enthusiastically in people's faces may cause consternation, especially amongst young children, who are liable to be knocked off their feet.

It's no good muttering inanities like "he's just being friendly" or "he doesn't mean any harm" when you're dealing with a hysterically terrified child. Think carefully before exposing your dog to a small child and vice versa - if there's any risk of fear or injury shut the dog away.

Dog mess is an intolerable nuisance, especially in the middle of pavements and paths. If you have any respect at all for your fellow human beings, you will always carry plastic bags and remove it.

You may feel foolish and humiliated as you humbly clean up after your imperious, careless pet. But you have freely chosen to be a dog-owner, and that means accepting full responsibility for everything your dog does.

Watch your dog's restaurant etiquette. You  may not mind him putting his paws on the table and licking the gravy from your empty plate, but many people will find this unhygienic and intrusive and will be looking at your dog's antics with a very jaundiced eye.

Only take your dog to a restaurant (or even a pub garden) if he will lie quietly under the table, drink discreetly from a dedicated dog bowl and not upset fellow diners. As a pet-owner you will inevitably become accustomed to the anti-social behaviour of your pets. You will be blissfully oblivious to the relentlessly squeaking hamster-wheel, the pungent smell of freshly-opened cat food, the dawn barking ritual, or the dog and cat hairs that strew your cushions and stick, glue-like, to your guest's clothes.

But you really must think carefully about all these manifestations before inviting people to your home. You cannot simply assume that your friends and relations will share your tolerance and - within reason - you should do your best to accommodate their reservations (e.g. open the cat food when the guests are out of the room, vacuum your sofa before the guests arrive, oil the hamster-wheel etc. etc.).

Don't anthropomorphise your pets in public: you may think of them as furry near-humans, but cloying 'conversations', complete with baby voices and saccharine endearments, will embarrass your visitors.

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