Ask The Trainer: “My Sister In Law Hates My Dog!”

“My sister-in-law hates dogs. I could shut my dog in the basement whenever she comes over, but I don’t really want to. What is the etiquette here?”


“Anonymous” writes,

“My sister-in-law hates dogs. I could shut my dog in the basement whenever she comes over, but I don’t really want to. What is the etiquette here?”

It’s always difficult when a guest doesn’t love animals the way that you do. We want our guests to feel welcome and comfortable in our homes, but on the other hand, we shouldn’t have to shut members of our family away just to make our guests more comfortable.

After all, if your sister-in-law hated children and you had kids, would you shut them away? So it is okay to resent being asked to do the same with your beloved pet.

Some people simply aren’t able to shut their dog in a room when guests come over – Dogs with separation problems may bark disruptively or cause damage in the room. Even well adjusted dogs may simply assume that you’ve made a mistake by locking them in the bedroom and will yap to let you know that they want out.

On the other hand, refusing to lock your dog away could be seen as inconsiderate, which would cause family drama, and no one wants to deal with that, either. Furthermore, you don’t want your sister in law to feel like you are choosing a dog over her – which would seem insulting to someone who doesn’t understand the important role that dogs can play in our lives.

In general, I have a “love me, love my dog” policy.

However, I would be willing to bend that policy on occasion in the following situations:

  • If there is an allergy involved.
    • (…And if there is, then honestly locking the dog up isn’t going to make much difference – there’s dander all over your house.)
  • If my policy is going to cause family distress
    • (If your sister in law is your husband’s sister for example, does he support you or does he want his sister accommodated?)
  • If my dog is not well behaved.

This last point is also the most vital – it is reasonable to ask non-allergic guests to tolerate a polite, well behaved dog. It is not reasonable to ask any guest to tolerate a jumpy, barking, drooly, mooching dog with no sense of personal boundaries.

So, with that in mind, here is the most vital obedience command to teach your dog:

On Your Spot/Place


Choose an out-of-the-way location with clear boundaries, such as under the coffee table, or on a mat or dog bed. Teach your dog to lie down in that place on command, and then continue to chuck treats at periodic intervals as a reward for staying there. Start with asking your dog to stay there for a minute or two at a time, and slowly work your way up to longer periods of time.

Meal times are a great time to practice this. It teaches the dog to stop sniffing around your feet, which no one likes, and works the training into your daily routine.

Then try doing it when dog-friendly guests are over. Tell them that they can pat your dog AFTER he has done his time on his spot.

Soon you will be able to order your dog onto his spot when your sister in law comes over, and keep him there, with the occasional “thank you” from you in the form of a high value treat.

That way your dog gets to stay in the room, gets a few treats, and doesn’t pester your sister in law. Win/win!