The following comment arrived on July 6, 2012, but Aunt Savvy never received the comment notice via email, so this is being answered a month late (better late than never).
Dear Aunt Savvy,
I am sooo tired of having family coming over, assuming that they can also bring their dogs with them. I have an OUTDOOR dog.
They threaten me that if I don't let them run around freely inside my home, they will not visit me.
How or what can I do to properly tell them that I don't want them in my home?--A Dog Lover, But Not in My HouseDear Dog Lover,
The easy, glib answer: It's your house, so you make the rules.
However, Aunt Savvy is cognizant that navigating family issues can be tricky and that this may be more than just wanting to allow their dogs to run wild in your house.
You say that your family "threatens" you if you don't allow the dogs inside. This kind of fighting word concerns Aunt Savvy, who wonders if something deeper is going on than just dogs running wild in your home. Do your relatives threaten never to visit you again or to cut you off completely? Do they threaten you verbally or physically? If so, then this is a type of emotional blackmail, calling for drastic measures. If this is the case, then Aunt Savvy recommends a family meeting with a professional counselor present.
But let's assume that this is just an ordinary family disagreement over the place of dogs in your lives and homes.
Perhaps your family members are worried about the well-being of your outdoor dog and want to show why your dog ought to live inside; maybe they're right, maybe not. Aunt Savvy can only hope that Fido is well-cared for, has plenty of food and water, lives in a nice cozy dog house, and is properly groomed for the season. If this is the case, then your family should have no worries and need to respect your desire to keep your indoors pet-free.
So Aunt Savvy suggests that you prepare for the next family visit by providing a nice outside place for your canine visitors to play, eat, and drink, so, perhaps, a backyard cookout would be a great solution. Both family and dogs would feel welcome.
But be aware that indoor pets have a very low tolerance for extreme weather (heat, cold, rain, snow). In that case, then your relatives need to leave their dogs at home.
Now how to broach the house rules to your family: Aunt Savvy finds that writing a nice letter or email (Be sure to praise their pets in some way, if you can) to each relative can work well, explaining why their dogs should visit only when the weather is conducive for outside visiting. Emphasize that your relatives are always welcome but that, sometimes, the dogs need to remain at home.
Perhaps you are allergic to indoor dander, your canine kin are hooligans of the animal kingdom, or you just don't like the smell of dog inside your house. These are all valid reasons for not wanting animals roaming inside your house. But you must be careful not to unduly insult your family.
However, if your relatives don't wish to comply with your wishes, then you will have to decide if you want to risk alienating them for the sake of a pristine, animal-free house. If this is really important to you, then you must be upfront with them and tell them that the dogs will not be welcome inside your home. Period.
And then be prepared to deal with ruffled feathers and hurt feelings. Perhaps they will no longer want to visit your home.
Aunt Savvy suspects, however, that your family will eventually come around and forgive you for what they may perceive as quirks in your personality.
Worse case scenario: you may end up visiting their homes more often, where dogs are kings and queens of the castle.
And maybe that's not a bad thing.--Aunt Savvy