Miss Manners: Pets are family — and family can wait in the spare room

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a debate among a local group on the topic of a dog owner’s responsibilities when hosting an event in their home.

One faction says, “My dogs are part of my family, so they’re going to be interacting with guests.” Another faction says, “As host, your responsibility is to your guests first, so your dog should be in a kennel or outside.”

My own thought is that our dogs are part of the family, but that we have a responsibility to train them in at least basic manners (such as commands like “sit,” “down,” “stay” and “drop it”). Also, if I invite someone who hasn’t been to my home previously, it is my responsibility to tell them about the dogs so that they can decline if they have allergies or are otherwise uncomfortable with dogs.

I believe I understand my responsibilities as a dog owner, but I’m not sure of them as a host.

GENTLE READER: It seems to Miss Manners as if you have that reversed: namely, that you know your responsibilities as a host (looking out for the comfort of your guests) but not those of pet ownership (teaching family manners).

Frisky is welcome to roam the house when guests you know to be compatible with her are present. But there are also times, and methods, for managing interactions among family and guests -- many of which do not leave anyone looking in the window with sad eyes while the rain pours down on them.

For instance, you expect your spouse to curtail a fixation on devices to spend time with the guests; you expect the children to come down and say hello; and you do not include your brother because he had a bad breakup with one of the guests 20 years ago.


Neither you nor your family members interpret any of those as a disavowal of kinship. Why, then, do so many pet owners think it questions their relationship with Frisky to put her in the bedroom for a few hours with her food and water? She might prefer that to having to listen to your college roommate telling the same story every time.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Some people will ask for permission to do something -- and immediately do it anyway! For example: asking if they may borrow a pen, while already picking it up. Asking if they may have a candy from a bowl, then grabbing one. Asking if they may pet a dog while they lean forward and touch the animal.

How can I ask them to actually wait for the answer, instead of assuming that I was going to say yes?

GENTLE READER: Although you have the right principle, Miss Manners thinks that how objectionable the behavior is depends on the ask. And the normal rule that it is rude to correct another person’s behavior applies in any case.

But you asked how to stop this behavior, so she will tell you: Respond quickly, with a warning that is likely to stop the perpetrator dead in her tracks. “Careful, that pen leaks!” “That’s not candy, it’s a marble!” or “Careful, he bites!” will all serve.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to