Why are most dogs better guests than people?
Today, my plan is to write about the differences between some houseguests and dogs.
Generally, I love having visitors because when people visit, I can spend more time with them and get to know them better. While I do alright alone or with my partner, we love the company of other people; hanging out, cooking meals, enjoying conversations and also seeing our guests having fun.
But as you may know, having guests also comes with countless lessons and today, I am finally ready to share a few thoughts on this topic. My inspiration to write about visitors started with a conversation with Susan, the “wise” person in my life. Susan is not only a top-notch homeopathic practitioner, but she also helps me find solutions to my “human struggles”, such as challenges with some visitors.
I also want to point out that if you are reading these lines and you are one of the people who has visited our home, there is no intention to point at anyone personally. The reason I wrote this is not to make anyone feel bad but help us all be good guests and get invited back to our favourite destination.
You never know how many friends you have
You may have heard the saying that “You never know how many friends you have until you have a beach house.” While I don’t have a beach house, a place in a warm climate is enough to lose track of who is a true friend and who just sees a free place to stay.
However, in principle, I do disagree with Benjamin Franklin that “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days” because we have had the best times with many visitors and can’t wait for them to come again!
What is your hosting style?
If you have ever hosted someone, you will most likely agree that having a guest is always a surprise. As a host, I like to practice what I call “free range hosting”. I welcome people the first day, make dinner and breakfast, then show them a few maps, places to go and perhaps join them for some trips on occasion.
I also rely on people having the general common sense of what is and what is not acceptable. Most people would agree that picking your nose in a restaurant is not acceptable behaviour nor is burping or perhaps worse…😂🤪. However, when it comes to visitors, there are different cultural norms in different families, regions or countries. There are also many people who rarely host others and have no clue what it is to be a host.
Now, let me emphasize that I am not talking about a visit from your mother-in-law or your drunk Uncle Joe who came for a weekend visit and stayed for two years! Today, my focus is on helping you finely tune your relationships with the houseguests that you have actually invited and with whom you love spending time.
My experience is that the best guests are the ones who also like to host and because I have the experience of being both, a guest and a host, I decided to share…
12 rules to follow if you want to be the perfect houseguest and get invited back over and over again
I love surprises of all different kinds and have a few under my belt. Surprising my mother with a trip to Egypt, my sister at a wedding she thought I could not attend and also bringing one of my sisters to Europe as a gift for my other sister’s big 50th birthday.
However, expecting to crash at someone’s house without an invitation is a different kind of (unwelcome) surprise! Ask, confirm and ask again to make sure it is a suitable time for a visit. When you arrive, ask if there is anything you should know about the house and what you can do to “blend” into the household.
Dog comparison: A good dog never shows up to your home uninvited.
2. Help more than you think is necessary.
In the age of all-inclusive resorts, cruise-ships and enabling parents, some people do not realize that visiting a friend does not come with a concierge, maid and a garbage removal service! Hosting is fun but if you do not want to become the proverbial smelly fish in the host’s home, help clear the table, empty the dishwasher, perhaps mop the kitchen floor if it is messy and definitely do not sit on your ass while your hosts are doing the dishes after a dinner they made for you. Insist on helping as some cultures may consider it rude to ask for help.
Dog comparison: Dogs are always happy to clean up a little for you-especially when there is food lying around! And if they make a mess, they have a good excuse that nature has not given them hands 😉.
3. Ask how else you can help.
After 10 years of having guests who tend to stay for extended periods of time, we finally gathered the courage and asked for help with some small regular chores such as power washing the patio, folding the laundry or washing a few windows. If you dedicate only a few hours of your stay to lending a helping hand, I promise that you will find yourself on your friend’s VIP guest list in no time!
Dog comparison: Dogs are great helpers when it comes to laundry-especially finding that pesky missing sock! Unfortunately for us, nature has not equipped them with dexterity for washing windows!
4. Please do not mistake your host for a concierge or a maid!
The best part of hosting is seeing your guests have a good time. Funny enough, the most common complaint is about insects, spiders, and centipedes that find their way into the house. I never knew why it “bugged me so much” (no pun intended) that people constantly complain about bugs. Now I realize that the complaints make me feel like I am not doing a good enough job keeping the house tidy by their standards.
In other words, if you find a spider or a centipede in your host’s home, catch it and release it outside or if you don’t know how then google it! 🤓.
Dog comparison: Dogs don’t mind a home that isn’t immaculate and they never complain! They might even help you get rid of any unwanted pests and they can't even google!
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5. Follow through on requests from your host.
For example, please do not leave food out on the counters if you are visiting a warm climate. It is highly probable that doing so will result in an army of ants lining up for their “brunch” in no time (which will invariably result in more complaints about unwelcome six-legged guests).
Closing the windows and locking the doors when leaving is also a good idea and so is writing down the door and alarm system codes so your host does not need to repeat them over and over again! This also applies to the house address if you are returning. Lazy guests never make notes and they expect the host to be their underpaid secretary.
Dog comparison: Dogs will never leave food unattended but to say this, they do expect us to be their secretaries 🤪.
6. Offer to treat your host.
Most people do not realize it but hosting is not cheap; it means extra cleaning, groceries, electricity and time. And while some hosts may be able to easily afford to feed you, think of someone moving into your house, raiding the fridge on a regular basis and never buying any groceries! No fun.
There is no need to go overboard, but it is nice if guests chip in with groceries, turn off the lights and avoids doing five laundry loads a day just because they like to have fresh towels every day. You can never go wrong by being sensible and also considering the environment.
Dog comparison: While dogs are not able to take you out for dinner, they never cheap out on countless moments of happiness and tail wags 😁.
7. Share meal duties.
Your host may be the next Julia Child but I know very few people who would refuse to be a dinner guest in their own home. If you promise to cook, do not flake out at the last minute. Making false promises is definitely a recipe for not being invited back. I had these "fake kitchen takeovers" happen a few times and learned to always have a backup meal. Crazy but true.
Dog comparison: Once again, dogs can’t cook but I am quite certain they would if they could because they’d do anything to make us happy.
8. Do the math.
In most popular destinations around the world, a night in a hotel room goes for $200-$500 a night so if you are staying with friends, you are likely saving thousands of dollars!
I am quite certain your hosts do not expect much but you should remember that you are unlikely the only one who comes to visit. A considerate and caring host does not expect you to take them to the most expensive restaurant in town, but they will appreciate an invite for a casual lunch or dinner. If you have brought your friends to stay at your friends' house, be sure you, the primary friend, pays and leaves a note or card. Weirdly, I often find that the wealthier people are, the cheaper they are.
The best way to pay is to leave your credit card with the waiter when you arrive or make the arrangement to pay the waiter ahead of the time. After all, you are getting a really good deal by staying for free and your dinner invite is a universally accepted way to say thank you to your host.
Dog comparison: I guess with this one, we have to ask the bank to be progressive and start issuing credit cards for dogs 😂.
9. Rent your own car
Unless you are a close family member, good guests rent a car and do not expect their host to be their chauffeur. If your host generously offers you a vehicle, accept it but be clear you accept full financial responsibility for any costs (including increased insurance premiums) if there were to be an accident. The "stay, crash and leave" approach will leave your host sad and confused about the value of your friendship.
If you damage or break something, do not conceal the dent, but rather fess up and offer to pay for the repair. Finally, always refill the tank completely when you are returning the vehicle no matter how full it was before.
Dog comparison: Dogs can’t drive, but their excitement to come along for trips is a perfect expression of gratitude for sharing your car.
10. Please do not drag furniture around (especially on hardwood floors)!
Some time ago, we had to pay $8000 to refinish our hardwood floors after our friends dragged our sofa and chair across the floor to accommodate their toddlers. Doing a spot refinishing of deep scratches was impossible, hence we had to refinish the whole area! In the end, I chose not to tell my friends how costly their visit was but I do make sure this will never happen again.
It is also good to use coasters for hot drinks as the heat and moisture may permanently discolor wood surfaces.
11. Do not go overboard!
This is an important point. Most hosts like to be appreciated but it may make them feel uncomfortable if you give them expensive gifts or go overboard. A nice thank you card and a small token of appreciation such as a bottle of wine or Champagne or flowers will be kindly welcomed.
Dog comparison: As I said before, dogs know exactly how many tail wags is the right amount.
12. It is not about money.
No matter what financial position your friends are in, you should not expect them to pay for your holidays just because they can. Your hosts are likely the kind of people who are generous and genuinely care about spending time with people they love. It is very likely they have a house you like because they have spent their lives focusing on and caring about others and this is why life treated them well. This does not mean they don't get affected by bad guest experiences and generosity that back-fired.
If your hosts are in a popular destination, they very likely have encountered people who only remember them when they want to stay for free. Make sure you are not one of these fair-weather friends, stay in touch and show you are a real friend.
A funny story
More than twenty years back, I used to work as a vet in Whistler, BC, a ski resort town where people loved to come and visit. One year, a colleague of mine, asked if she could come and stay with her husband for a week. They did and then, when we went out on their last night, they forgot their wallet.
A year later, the same friend called me asking if another colleague of hers could come and stay with me for a week to ski in Whistler. When we went for dinner at the end of his stay, he too forgot his wallet!
One more year later…and I know what you are thinking. Another request, another visit, AND another forgotten wallet 🤣! What I found funny was that all three of these colleagues were from “one low-lying country in Europe.” Could forgetting a wallet be a national custom?
(I was warned by my editor not to put this in but why not. If you know how to be a grateful guest, this does not matter. I just found this funny and intriguing and wonder if there is an explanation?)
To end on a good note!
Research confirms that the happiest people are those who are generous and help others. People invite others to visit because it makes them happy to make a difference in their friends' lives and create memories that last lifetime.
If you have been invited to visit someone’s place, it is quite easy to be the perfect guest who gets invited over and over again! I am certain that if you follow these 12 rules on how to become a dream guest so that your friends will BEG YOU to come back!
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© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM