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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ownership Etiquette (OE) What is it, who has it & how do you attain it?

Ownership Etiquette (OE). What is it, who has it, & how do you attain it?

I have owned close to 20 dogs since the time my oldest son was a wee one. I didn’t always have Ownership Etiquette as it can‘t be handed down with Aunt Mary’s old jewelry, there really isn’t a school to teach it, and there’s no handbook that comes with the adoption of a new dog. But I suspect there should be.

So, is it something that is acquired like a fine wine which ages over the years?

Hey look, I get it, some of us love our dogs more than we love our human counterparts, but unless we are willing to become Grizzly Adams and make that move into the solitude of the forest, there are rules that need to be followed in a dog lover’s society. The sooner everyone gets it, the more places your dog might be accepted!

When you bring a dog into your home you need to be able to feed it, train it, seek medical care for it, and spend time with it. Unfortunately many think the job ends there. However this couldn’t be further from the truth. When a State has to sign into law that, ‘one must pick up the feces their dog has deposited in a public arena,’ it is really very, very sad! To me this borders on the ridiculous! If you are not conscious enough to know that you don’t leave behind your dog’s poop on someone else’s property, you are in a coma and you should not have a dog!

Heck, why not just take your kid’s diaper and leave it where you last changed your kid? Really, where is the common sense? Where’s the moral compass?

To be honest with you, I was kinda stuck on what to write about for this week’s blog article, but then there was a happening in my life that brought this subject to the forefront.

Now, now, don’t take offense folks!  Lots of people have not yet fully gripped the velocity of Ownership Etiquette, and without experience, you really can’t expect to attain it overnight.

I admit, there was a time after Chance got his therapy dog status that I would ask if he could come with us to family functions or weekend visits because lets face it, he and I were attached at the hip! After all he was my baby, my project, and he was a well behaved dog. Heck who wouldn’t want him around? But that’s how “I” saw him, and I quickly learned that not everyone can tolerate and love him the way that I do.
If you can believe it, some are actually repulsed at the first sight of a long stream of drool flowing from his mouth, others don’t like the long hair, and some are just not into dogs at all. So that’s it, I get it! I’ve finally evolved into Ownership Etiquette! Oh sure along the way there were indeed hints given to me. Like the time my sister-in -law was up for a visit and after a couple drinks she got a little too friendly with one of the dogs and that’s when I heard, “Ooh! ooh! Sally? Peter? He’s got spittle! Hurry! Spittle!” as her outstretched arm reached to grab anything to wipe it off her.

Spittle? I thought. Hmm, okay!

She was of course being as polite as possible when she realized she had gotten in over her head by petting a Newfoundland when there was plate of pepperoni and cheese sitting on the table beside her! Her actions though, were actually very good as far as people etiquette!

Then there was that time we were headed back to Long Island for a weekend and I asked a family member if I could bring Chance along to which he bluntly replied, ‘No.’
Yep, there’s yer sign! I never asked him again and I never visited him again unless I had prepared in advance to have Chance taken care of in my absence.

So the signs are there, but one has to actually hear them, and hear them the first time.

So, does Ownership Etiquette take years to flourish, just as a fine wine is cured and made ready for your palette? Ah, raise your glass my friend, take deep breaths, smell the cork and enjoy. Well, to that I say, bullshit! I hate wine! Break out the flippin’ vodka and orange juice and let’s talk!
It’s time to learn before you have crossed that fine line of dog lover and dog owner. They are indeed separate and need to be seen as such and quite possibly taught as such!

There are many training courses to teach an owner how to make their dog sit, stay, come, heel, down, etc. But I have yet to see a class taught on the etiquette of dog ownership!

Aside from the aspect of poor etiquette, one also has to think about how selfish they are being to their dog. One dog’s source of enjoyment can be another dog’s nightmare and stress factor. As well mannered as Chance can be, I know his limits, and a good dog owner sees that in their own dog. Would I ever lock Chance up in a room full of toddlers and walk away? No! He could not handle that! However, his brother Steeler, probably could. You have to know what your dog’s limits are and respect them, don’t just throw them in the water and let them sink or swim.

So, what makes one a responsible dog owner and who makes the rules to that effect? Aside from a law that tells us we must pick up the poop our dog leaves behind, it is more of a moral compass or a common sense kind of guide not to assume that every situation you are going into is the right place for your dog to be.

The rules below are based on common sense and a moral compass. I am sure that I am omitting many and I gladly welcome those to post their own rules in the comment section of this blog.

1) Ask at the time of responding to an invitation if the invitation includes your dog. If you forget to ask at the time, don’t assume it does.

2) If you are told the invitation does not extend to the dog, don’t whine and cry about it. Just make a decision on how important the event is to you. If it’s important, then make arrangements for the care of your dog before the event. If it’s not important or not affordable, then stay home.

3) Don’t ever blackmail a person with, “well I just can’t come to another function if I can’t bring my dog!” Poppycock! You can!

4) Think about the stress that the event may cause your dog. Just as the example given above with Chance and toddlers, you have to make those decisions for your dog.

5) What will the weather be like during an outside event and how will you handle it? Is it to hot, to cold, etc? How will your dog be protected from harsh weather at an outdoor event? Will the dog be allowed to go inside? There are so many questions to ask yourself and prepare for.

6) How will your dog react if it needs to be couped in an area among other dogs and away from you? If the reaction is not what you had hoped it to be, what then is your backup plan?

7) If you are allowed to bring your dog under certain conditions, then abide by those conditions or the dog is not going to be invited again. When your  dog is invited to ones home it is considered   “your"  responsibility. So don’t get hammered on  a few drinks and forget you even brought the dog with you! There’s nothing worse for a host than to have to worry about anything other than hosting his or her party. It is simply not within the moral compass to ask them to do anything more for you or your dog.

8) Understand dog pack dynamics and what it means to bring your dog into an already established pack. Know that your little dogie can disrupt even the most well balanced pack if that pack is not used to it being around. By the way a pack can consist of only two dogs.

9) Follow up to rule #8. Don’t assume that because a person has many dogs or because they train dogs, that your dog is going to be a well received guest! That’s like asking you to take your job home with you, where’s the relaxation in that?

10) If your dog has any bladder related issues at all such as marking or incontinence don’t even ask if you can bring it! There’s nothing worse or more disrespectful for a host who has spent their time cleaning and preparing for their event than to have your dog lift its leg on their couch or worse yet, on another guest! (Yeah, it happens!)

11) Don’t assume that it is alright to feed your dog from the table while in your host's home, especially if it’s food your host has prepared for you! Do we really need to see you taking a rolled up piece of turkey and fling it across the room to your dog! (Ah, watch how Fido can catch!)

12) If you are not a dog owner but making plans to visit a home that has a dog, be prepared to deal with it in a polite manner or don’t make the visit. Most owners do not see their dog as the piece of property as law describes them. They may not put the dog away in a separate room just as you would not lock your annoying child in his bedroom! While it would it be nice if they did, don’t expect it. If it is bothersome to you, meet in a park or restaurant or you may find that your friendship diminishes until such time as the dog dies!

13) When walking your dog in the public, keep your dog on a leash! There’s nothing worse and more degrading to another human being then to be approached for a crotch sniff by an unknown dog! And when I say leash, I don’t mean those silly retractable leashes that give you almost no control over your dog whatsoever. Don’t be lazy, use a standard size leash, take the two steps required to meet the woods edge so your dog can poop. At least you will still have control over him.

14) This one I learned from my son.  If you are allowed to bring your dog into a non dog home and you spend the day, offer to vacuum up the dog hair! Yes, thank you Jason! Not only for doing that, but allowing me to see that it needs to be done as well! You my son are evolving toward your diploma of OE!
15) Don’t allow your dog to approach either a leashed or unleashed dog without first asking the owner's permission. Hopefully the two owners meeting are abiding by the leash laws set in place to protect the public. Again, your dog may not be so cute to me! It may remind me of the dog that ate my cousin’s foot when we were young!

16) If you are not breeding your dog, fix it. There is nothing more annoying than having a dog in the neighborhood howling all night long over a female in heat.

17) Dogie bags? Yeah! They make those!

God in his ultimate wisdom created many wonderful things and among them were boarding facilities! And on the seventh day he said, “Alas, let the hotels and home pet sitters that also harbor our dogs grow and become prosperous!”

So there you have it. Ownership Etiquette, it is not a hard and fast rule, but it is expected. You’ve found it, so keep it, and live up to it! Keep in mind you are the one who chose to spend your life with a dog.

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