Philip Galanes on Social Etiquette and Pets

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Love your friends but hate their dog? Should you warn guests with allergies that you have a cat? Philip Galanes offers advice for dealing with pets in social situations. He's the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Do you have questions about social etiquette and pets? Or do you have a story to share? Let us know—leave a comment!


Philip Galanes

Comments [77]

Our 70-lb pit bull raised 2 children from infancy.

Pits are easily trained because their loyalty is all-consuming for them. Want me to be gentle as a lamb for you? No problem. Want me to fight to the death for you? No problem. The human is their GOD,more than any other breed I've ever seen. It's all in the training. (I was raised with all kinds of animals--and let me tell you, you're far, far more likely to be bitten by a small dog than a large one.)


--Pits were the most popular dog in the US for 100 years, especially on farms.

--Pits were the All-American dog, viz. the Little Rascals' "Petey."

--A pit won TWO medals in WWI-- for loyalty and bravery, which is very typical of the breed.

--A pit rode along on the very first cross-county trek in a motor vehicle (1903-1904); his picture was featured in a NY Times front page article, right between pics of the 2 drivers. One of the drivers said, "Of the 3 of us, he was the only one never to utter a word of profanity."

Oct. 07 2013 06:00 PM

It's a toss-up as to which Phil is the bigger ignoramus and loser. Sad people. Very sad. But made me appreciate my pets even more, so thanks for that. I would choose them any day over sorry prigs like you two.

Oct. 04 2013 12:41 AM
LB in BK from Brooklyn

Amy - I know, it's just a figure of speech to illustrate how ridiculous the callers fear is. You cannot own/breed or sell venomous snakes as pets in this state, so if someone is "parading" their pet in public you can rest assured that it is harmless. If you don't want to risk a bite, then do not touch it. Thats a rule that people should apply to ALL pets cats, dogs, snakes or birds.

Oct. 03 2013 01:08 PM
Amy from Manhattan

LB, anacondas aren't venomous either!

Oct. 03 2013 12:59 PM
NinaB from NY

I know there are some dog owners who are just jerks who don't clean up, but can someone please explain to me the people who actually bother to bag the poop, but then just leave the poop-filled bag on the sidewalk? WTF?

Oct. 03 2013 12:54 PM
LB in BK from brooklyn

A man out walking with his python is "seeking attention"? What is this nonsense?! Snakes are living creatures who enjoy sunshine and fresh air, and pythons are not poisonous anaconda monsters that are going to leap off the man's shoulder to attack passers-by. In fact, the caller is probably at more risk from a passing chihuahua then this man's pet. Just because a person has a pet that is not a dog or a cat, does not mean they are seeking your attention. I have two chihuahuas, two parrots and raise dart frogs and I am not looking for any self validation from your reaction to my animals, I personally just find them fascinating. The fact that he takes his snake out into the world once a day is kinder then keeping it locked in a box in a one bedroom apartment.

Also this breed-ist fear over pit bulls is getting out of control. It's the owners you should fear, not the dogs.

Oct. 03 2013 12:53 PM

This guy may know something about etiquette (although not much beyond common knowledge as far as I can tell) but nothing about pets. He has no business posing as an expert.

Pythons are constrictors. They are not poisonous.

Pit Bulls are not just any dog. While an individual pit bull may be gentle and loving, they are responsible for vastly more injuries and deaths of people and other dogs than all other dog breeds relative to their numbers. Why? Think about it. Not only are they often raised to be violent, they are bred for their jaw strength and propensity to attack other dogs. They logically tend to attack people as well.

Sorry, really pathetic guest.

Oct. 03 2013 12:53 PM

@Ninab from NY - the biggest problem with dog parks is that people think of dogs as kids and that they "want to play". dog parks about about exercise and socialization. your dog should be socialized BEFORE it comes to a dog park. You should have trained your dog and be pretty confident its good with others dogs BEFORE you show up. Any person who brings a dog they just found, rescued, etc without the above confidence is irresponsible and dare i say an idiot. As a pitbull owner and advocate I would say rescuing a pitbull, a great deed, doesnt give you the right to show up at a dog park with this dog. You didnt train the dog and do not know what miserable situation it may have come from.

Oct. 03 2013 12:51 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Terrible stereotypes about Pits. They are way down the list as dangerous (number of dog bites). The minority of dogs who are trained to fight, can be rehabilitated as the Michael Vick case proved. Sweet, loving, protective animals who served nobly in WW1 and WW2.

Oct. 03 2013 12:49 PM
The Truth from Becky

Estelle WHAT??!! I am not offering him a bag! I very calmly say "hey don't let him Sh*t there" I am hoping the vulgarity offends them as much as letting their dog sh*t in front of my house offends me.

and cats, just plain nasty, always licking themselves, witches pets.

Oct. 03 2013 12:46 PM

@ wendy from manhattan. The fight very well could have been mutally started. that happens at dog parks. dogs arent kids. You assume risk the second you walk in. The pit bull owner was wrong by walking away. If an owner is unscrupulous they will raise a bad dog, regardless of breed.

Oct. 03 2013 12:44 PM

Pitbulls are predisposed to being VERY friendly and gentle with adults and children. Sweet dogs.

They do happen to be territorial with other dogs, particularly males with other males.

The pit bulls that are overly aggressive are the ones that have been bred and raised by MACHO ASSHOLES.

It's NOT the breed, IT'S THE OWNER!! As most dog problems are...

Oct. 03 2013 12:44 PM
Bklyn from Brooklyn

Ellen from Southport, you might want to be more specific -- "my dog is going to jump on you, and sniff -- should I lock him up?" Plenty of people enjoy dogs and are not afraid of dogs but don't want to get mauled.

Oct. 03 2013 12:42 PM

@chip - Pit Bulls are not inherently dangerous. We are on our 3rd. never had a problem. Father in law is on his 2nd. never had a problem. But as a kid i was bit by my uncles german shorthair pointer who was trained for hunting and to be a family pet. It's not the breed. Sometimes its not even the owner. Remember dogs are living creature with their own personalities.

Oct. 03 2013 12:42 PM
Zach from West Palm Beach

Phil Galanos is great. What a nice, intelligent, sensible, kind, considerate person. I thought it was hilarious when he just said "dog on dog".
We also love, Pat O'Connor, and the Ubels.
And we love Leonard!!

Oct. 03 2013 12:42 PM

1. pitbulls are the latest breed to be demonized for aggression. used to be dobermans, german shepherds. trace it to the owner first.

2. pythons are not poisonous or aggressive. again, its the owner who is screaming for attention, and whose job it is to be a proper caretaker.

Oct. 03 2013 12:41 PM
wendy from manhattan

My greyhound was mauled and almost killed by a pit in my dog run - $4,000 to save her, of course worth any penny. The other dog's owner walked away and would provide no contact info, and a bystander interfered by saying she saw it was mutual, which it most certainly was not. any suggestions?

Oct. 03 2013 12:40 PM
Eli- 5 from Brooklyn

Pythons aren't poisonous, they strangle, squeeze their 'intended' targets

Oct. 03 2013 12:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

No, pythons are not venomous! They kill their prey by constriction. I don't think *anyone* would be stupid enough to walk down the street w/a venomous snake outside of some kind of container.

Oct. 03 2013 12:40 PM
Ninab from NY

- If you find a lost dog without tags, take it to a vet to check if it has a microchip.

- Re. pitbulls - They are a super-trainable breed, aiming to please their owners - whether they're trained to be polite or to fight. The problem is many people adopt them not knowing their backgrounds and unable to anticipate or control a prospective incident. They are strong, strong dogs, and they can do more damage than other breeds. My dog nearly lost an ear to a pit whose owner found her days earlier and brought her to the dog run not knowing what could happen. Yes, socialize your dog, but use a basket muzzle until you are sure of the dog.

Oct. 03 2013 12:39 PM

i own a deaf pitbull who is super friendly and great with our 9 month old daughter. dogs are dogs first. breeds are NOT a guarantee of behavior. Im more concerned about the little dogs that get pampered and have bad attitudes. these owners must realize if their dog was 60 pounds it would be a terror. responsible dog ownership requires you value life, human and canine alike.

Oct. 03 2013 12:39 PM
Bklyn from Brooklyn

re: talking to dog walkers about picking up their dog's poop -- you can be sweet, low-key and non-confrontational and some folks will still be hostile and aggressive in response. I have dogs, I feel pretty relaxed about the situation, and I still get yelled at by defensive (usually women, figure that out for me!) dog walkers who probably are mad at getting caught walking away from their responsibility. I sometimes offer one of the bags I have in my pocket, it can't get any friendlier...

Our dog group in Prospect Park, FIDO, recommends that dog owners police each other.

Oct. 03 2013 12:38 PM
Nick from UWS

The story from Florry From Ossining below is a perfect depiction of the personality of dog owners.

Oct. 03 2013 12:37 PM

Pitbulls are the number one cause of dog bite related fatalites, and account for nearly half of all such fatalites (CDC). Even Peta recommends a ban on pit bull breeding. These dogs have no place in neighborhoods with children.

Oct. 03 2013 12:37 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

One way to get someone to pick up after a dog is to offer a plastic bag. That way you don't reprimand and antagonize the owner. You're just helping him do the right thing.

Oct. 03 2013 12:36 PM
The Truth from Becky

Same for kids BUT we are talking about dogs right now!! Just like an animal lover always evading the real is NASTY to have your dog Sh*t in the street, at someone's mail box and NOT pick it uP!!!

Love Dogs, hate irresponsible dog owners!!

Oct. 03 2013 12:35 PM
Penny from Downtown

The topic of reprimanding people who don't clean up suggests another visit from Mr. Galanes. Could we have a future show on the etiquette of being a crank in New York? For example, I glower at drivers who cut into the crosswalk or are pushy about turning. It's my only crank behavior (I think), but constant and intense. Am I crazy?

Oct. 03 2013 12:34 PM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

We have a high mileage used dog with the remarkable ability to violate the laws of physics: more comes out the back end than goes in the front end.

Oct. 03 2013 12:34 PM
Amy from Manhattan

If you find a cat or dog on the street, 1st look for a lost cat/dog flyer to see if there's someone you can call. If not, put up a found cat/dog flyer yourself. (But be careful...that's how I got my last cat!)

Oct. 03 2013 12:33 PM
Barbara From Shark River from Neptune NJ

Once a dog left a "gift" on my lawn. Sometime later I found my cat busily trying to bury it!!! He looked pissed!

Oct. 03 2013 12:33 PM
Melanie from New Jersey

What a very frustrating discussion on pit bulls! There are many, many pits that are friendly and wonderful with children. Please don't contribute to their bad rap! Lots of dogs can be mean and dangerous - it's all in how they're raised - but no dog is "pre-disposed" to danger!

Oct. 03 2013 12:33 PM
The Truth from Becky

Dog owners THINK everyone loves their dogs the way they do! They don't consider some people are afraid of dogs. They head straight for you with their dog without reeling them in on the leash as they pass you! IGNORANT...and don't even get me started about the trespassing on the lawn with the dog...if that is okay why not just let him Sh*t in front of YOUR house? Why walk him?

Oct. 03 2013 12:32 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Really, how 'gentle' do we have to be with people who violate? This would be a good topic of discussion.

Oct. 03 2013 12:32 PM

Cat allergies can be cured with the herb Mullein. My husband was allergic to cats when we met. He took the herbal extract of Mullein for a few months before he moved in, and now he is totally fine. The cats who used to give him asthma attacks now happily sleep on top of his head. It was a very happy solution.

Oct. 03 2013 12:31 PM
A.M. from nyc

Speaking of social "q's," manners, and basic social intelligence... Why is this guest always name-dropping and flaunting his connections with wealthy people (Hamptons, etc.) and celebrities? He actually just stated: "It's really hard to get Kerry Washington and Cecily Tyson together--I'm sure you've had both of them on your show--but **gettting them together I'll tell you is a complicated thing but the payoffs can be amazing when *you* put the right pair together."


Oct. 03 2013 12:31 PM
Amy from Manhattan

To go back to the beginning of this, I don't think someone who curses at their dog for *normal* dog behavior is going to respond well to "Do you think we could do something about this problem?" More likely they'll either yell at you or do something abusive to the dog. Dog training? Some people need owner training.

Oct. 03 2013 12:30 PM


A NEW YORK TIMES columnist?!?!

This is pitiful.

Oct. 03 2013 12:30 PM
Oscar from NY

I can't stand big dogs, black dogs, pit bulls and some others, I like the little ones only , I can't stand the owners of big digs because I see them as racist and somehow linked with some "white" supremacy gene and plus its sexual, dogs also have the souls of human beings that's why these ppl specially yuppies and most keep them and live them

Oct. 03 2013 12:30 PM
John from NYC

Lois: All dog breeders are irresponsible.

Oct. 03 2013 12:29 PM

Kitty litter boxes are full of pathogens. Pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems should stay away from them!

Oct. 03 2013 12:29 PM
Jenna from UES

What about dog pee on plastic garbage bags or your stoop?

Oct. 03 2013 12:29 PM
ursonate from boston

I had an epiphany recently that one of the keys to keeping the litter box area from smelling is to clean the scooper after scooping.

Oct. 03 2013 12:28 PM

Correction. The ASPCA does not euthanize animals that are taken in. The ASPCA is not the city shelter - that is the Animal Care & Control which may euthanize animals that are not adopted or if they have no space.

Oct. 03 2013 12:28 PM

there are shots for allergy. my wife was allergic to cats, now we have two. there is no need to get rid of the cats. trust me.

Oct. 03 2013 12:28 PM
Nick from UWS

Dog owners don't even care about their dogs as they claim to do. I've met dog owners that keep a dog the size of a horse in a 400 sq ft apartment, which is torture for an animal that size. And when you ask a dog owner about cats, you get "Oh I hate cats....they're too independent." What kind of person dislikes another being's independence? That's called "fascism" as far as I know.

Oct. 03 2013 12:27 PM
Alexandra from Manhattan

Am I unreasonable to be upset by friends who brought their large labrador
to my weekend home and in the course of their stay left an incredible mess,
and never offered to do anything to put the place back in the pristine condition I had it in when they arrived?
(I had told them they could bring the dog, but never again.)

Oct. 03 2013 12:27 PM
JR from NYC

the cats stay.

use worlds best litter and no smell.

Oct. 03 2013 12:27 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

What does Phillip think of the woman that noticed a cat in distress at a local store, took the cat to the Vet, and now faces criminal charges?

Oct. 03 2013 12:27 PM
Salma from Manhattan.

You can also take the lost animal to a local vet to see if they are micro-chipped. My dog is microchipped and her collar tag says so.

Oct. 03 2013 12:26 PM
henry from md

Years ago, when I was living in NJ, I was once threatened by a German type wolf hound that came around me barking and curling his snout in an aggressive fashion. All this time his owner, an unfriendly kind of guy, sat there like a little Himmler obviously enjoying himself at the sight.

I called the police later and guess what, I might just as well have called the post office.

Oct. 03 2013 12:26 PM

Dog ownership is a PRIVILEGE!!

It is NOT codified in the Constitution OR the City Charter!!!


Oct. 03 2013 12:25 PM
Lauren from red hook, brooklyn

I have a very sensitive whippet/shepherd mix. He doesn't like to be pet by strangers, though he will give it a tentative shot if people are extremely gentle and patient. Mostly, it's best to ignore him. Out in the world, he's most comfortable just being left alone by other people. But he's so handsome, everyone wants to go HEY GUY! YER SO PRETTY! They lean over, and try to touch his face, and it freaks him out. He tucks his tail or starts to shake. If they don't take *those* obvious cues, he'll show his teeth. I'm very stern about that, and we don't let it escalate, ever. I just wish people understood animal behavior a little more. I've started putting a vest on him that says working dog, so that people will just give him some space. But I feel guilty about that, because he's not. Anyway...just a wish for non-dog owners. Please ask people for permission. Understand that some dogs have baggage and sensitivities, and just like people, not everyone wants to get to know you. (-:

Oct. 03 2013 12:23 PM

Yikes NICK!!!!!!!! You sound quite "unlovable!"

Oct. 03 2013 12:23 PM
ken from 10025 UWS

I had a woman allow her dog to come up to my 1 year old daughter, who was in a stroller, and when I asked her to move her dog away from my child she said "No". I said mentioned that "I don't like dogs" and she responded that "she doesn't like kids" and when I pointed out that I didn't put my daughter on her dog she started defending her dog and telling me that her dog is friendly. She never apologized and couldn't understand why I was being "rude".

I don't dislike dogs, it is the rude dog owners I dislike.

Oct. 03 2013 12:23 PM
Susan from nyc

What about dog owners who do not curb their dogs? I take care of the tree beds on my block and so many people just lift up their dogs and put them in the tree beds. Dog urine and excrement are not good for the plants in the tree beds. We try to keep our neighborhood clean and beautiful by taking care of our tree beds. What can we do besides putting up signs that people ignore?

Oct. 03 2013 12:22 PM

What happened to issuing EXPENSIVE CITATIONS to the narcissistic dog jerks that don't curb their pets correctly!?!?

Oct. 03 2013 12:22 PM

I have issue with dog owners who have their dogs off the leash - especially dogs like pitbulls, who may be gentle, but for which there is a lot of trepidation in the general populace. This especially happens in a park setting. I often stop, and have the dog owner state something like "Don't worry, he is friendly" as the dog approaches and sniffs. I really don't know how to respond - maybe something like "But I am afraid of dogs, it's nothing personal - so I don't want your dog reacting to that". Any comments or suggestions?

Oct. 03 2013 12:22 PM
steve from upper west side

Like people, some dogs are better behaved than others, some more social than others. There is no such thing as an inherently bad dog. There are TONS of irresponsible and/or un-knowledgeable dog owners.

Oct. 03 2013 12:20 PM

Can we discuss the phenomena of the idiots that push their dogs in strollers and in "doggie Bjorns"?!?!?

Oct. 03 2013 12:20 PM
Nick from UWS

Whatever happened to the curb your dog laws in NYC? Why are dog owners allowed to let their dogs piss all over the sidewalks, trees, stoops, where people have to walk? They are the worst people in the world.

Oct. 03 2013 12:19 PM
Lois from West Milford

Scenario: You encounter someone with the same dog breed as you have. During the conversation, they mention they got the dog from breeder X. You know breeder X is irresponsible and her dogs frequently develop a particular horrible medical condition. How do you best alert the person to watch for it, without seeming to insult the dog that they love very much?

Oct. 03 2013 12:19 PM
marcia from Doggy Park Slope

As a trainer and owner of a dog walking/companion animal care agency in Park Slope, I often find that we need to train the owners, and we let them know when people run away saying "Oh that dog jumps on me". We let the owners know that we want good relationships with the people on their block and in their buildings and we would like to show them some tips/tricks for handling their dog, by the way I am waiting on line.

Oct. 03 2013 12:18 PM

What about people who can't control their rowdy, noisy children? "Could you stop your kid from... screaming, hitting, biting... Please!"

Oct. 03 2013 12:18 PM

I LOVE dogs! My parents showed dogs when I was a kid...


Oct. 03 2013 12:17 PM
Nick from UWS

Dog owners tend to be extemely anti-social, completely inconsiderate, and tend to think that they and their dog is the center of the universe. People have dogs because they feel they are not lovable by people. Dog owners have been some of the worst people I have ever met. What kind of person wants to drag a helpless animal around by a rope?

Oct. 03 2013 12:17 PM
Arthur from NYC

It's outside the topic, but how can we deal with neighbors that chain smoke (next house) and we end up with a heavy smell of after some. The guy is not very nice and I don't want to antagonize him further but I am concerned about the health of my children

Oct. 03 2013 12:16 PM

bad manners are bad manners , whether its pets, kids or themselves. in modern times, bad manners has become the norm. everyone is special and right, always.

Oct. 03 2013 12:11 PM

...AGAIN with Philip Galanes?!?!

Oh, DOG!

Oct. 03 2013 12:09 PM


Oct. 03 2013 12:04 PM
Florry from Ossining

I love dogs and live-in pet sit, because I can’t have one, but when I told one of my mother’s neighbors to curb his dog AND use a poop bag he gasped and shouted, “If you talk to me again I’ll drop my pants and personally sh**t on your lawn, lady.” I’m still stunned and still not sure exactly what happened.

Oct. 03 2013 12:00 PM
mike from manhattan

I overheard Philip at a restaurant (bad manners?) telling a woman his theory for why house pets are suddenly, seemingly so popular. I think he was dead-on. Get him to tell you. And was that bad manners?

Oct. 03 2013 08:59 AM
Ellen LoGuidice from Southport, CT

Hi Phil,
I have a one year old lab mix, he is quite well behaved but does jump on people when they first arrive. I don't allow it and try to stop it but sometimes I can't. My question is when I ask the guest, worker, appliance repairman etc, if they would like me to lock him up before they come In, they mostly say no, but once they are inside and vinny ( my dog) is wagging near them and sniffing and licking them, they look visibly annoyed. Should I at that point just lock the dog up? Ask again or let them deal with it. It's always an uncomfortable situation.
Thanks... Jumpy Vinny

Oct. 02 2013 06:06 PM

What, if anything, do you say to the person whose car window you have just smashed in to save the dog they left locked in to die of heatstroke? Do you offer to pay for the damage? Threaten to report them to the police and/or ASPCA? Actually do that?

Oct. 02 2013 05:12 PM

What's up with all my friends who are now acting like their dogs are service dogs? All of a sudden, is everyone disabled?

Oct. 02 2013 04:58 PM

Hi Phil! ...Question! During the summer while sitting on our community beach a neighbor came on to the beach with her huge lab. and jumped to sniff me etc...I shooed the dog off because I was taken by surprised and annoyed. This neighbor then looked at me snarky and barley said anything like sorry. Really? I felt like I was wrong. Should she have at least said sorry? I have a dog and would not have allowed this...

Oct. 02 2013 03:16 PM


Oct. 02 2013 03:08 PM

Am I the only one who sees that pets are being treated more and more like children? Headline: Pets are NOT children. So leave them at home where they belong.

Oct. 02 2013 03:02 PM

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