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Old November 23rd, 2004, 02:19 PM
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Finding way for friends and Fido to get along

TORONTO (CP) - If she could, Eve Drobot would take her dog everywhere

When she used to pick up her daughter from school, she would take Spotski, a Polish Lowland sheepdog, much to the delight of the other children

While on family vacations in Europe, Spotski - who could be a doggie double for storybook Mr. Muggs or Disney's Shaggy D.A. - was made to feel at home in shops, cafes and even restaurants. "He is welcomed everywhere but theatres and the opera," said Drobot, a Toronto writer and self-described proud dog owner. "It's fantastic."

But not everyone is as cool with pets - especially when it comes to inviting them into their homes. Often folks without pets don't think to invite dogs along when asking people over for dinner or to spend a weekend at the cottage. And often pet owners make the mistaken assumption that their hosts would love to have Fido frolic in the yard.

There is a pet etiquette - petiquette - that ensures once friends, family and pets are together, everyone has a good time

After all, it's not just petless people who may not want a dog along for the soiree.

"People don't want your dog, mostly. Even if they have dogs, they don't want your dog," said Drobot.

She remembers one gathering where the dog owner didn't want her guests to bring dogs to her place.

"Her dog is a vicious bitch ... It's too stressful for her dog to have other dogs around so if you're invited, you're not allowed to bring your dog. It's ludicrous," said Drobot.

If the pet isn't mentioned in the invite, the proper thing to do is ask, says Deena Cooper, of Deena's Dog Service in Toronto. Never assume your dog is welcome.

"You don't know if one of the other guests is allergic, if young kids will be present or if they have a cat."

Once the invitation has been specifically extended to the four-legged family member, the owner must ensure that the pet behaves politely, says Andrea Piazza, a dog trainer at Calgary Canine Centre.

"I know that sounds kind of funny, but you don't want a dog - be it a chihuahua or a Great Dane - coming in and jumping all over the furniture, jumping all over people. They need to understand that they need to respect their surrounding."

Bringing dog equipment may reduce unwanted behaviour

Piazza recommends bringing a portable kennel so if a pet needs a time out, there is a place for them to chill

Baby gates are also a good idea, she said. Just as these ingenious devices keep babies and toddlers from getting into trouble, they can keep Fido from slinking off to a living room that is meant to be seen and not sat in. And, of course, toys and treats are a good distraction.

Cooper also has some tips the host can follow in order to make canines more comfortable

If it's a summer barbecue, keep dogs away from the cooking area and provide a bowl of water in a nice shady spot.

When confined to the indoors for a holiday feast, the same rules apply

Make sure there is a specified space for pets so that toes don't get trod upon and the turkey is out of harm's way. If your guests find it hard not to pick at the bird when passing by, imagine how hard it is for Fido

Also, the dog owner would be very flattered if a host thought enough of a visiting pet to buy a special chew toy or some treats, Cooper said.

In addition to those doggie amenities, she recommends having an old blanket upon which weekend guest pooches can sleep.

"Set some ground rules, especially if you have young ones around," said Cooper, adding "Never leave kids and dogs alone."

Even if you think the dog is the most docile or the child the sweetest, a playful tug on the ear could irritate an animal with an ear infection and it is always important to remember "a dog's mouth moves four times faster than a human hand," she said.

In the wake of recent stories of dogs biting people or poison found in dog parks, the underlying tension between dog owners and non-pet people has bubbled to the surface.

Ontario introduced legislation last month that would make the province the first one to ban pit bulls. It is expected to become law by the end of the year.

Pit bulls are already banned in Winnipeg and two Ontario cities: Windsor and Kitchener-Waterloo. Some cities, such as Vancouver, have enacted bylaws requiring the animals to be muzzled and leashed

Other jurisdictions, including New Brunswick, are considering bans or partial bans on dogs based on breeds

"You can't ban a breed, it's all about the owners," said Drobot, who wrote Class Acts: Etiquette for Today some years back. She believes today's lack of manners is responsible for the situation.

It is an owner's responsibility to train a dog and follow rules, such as keeping dogs on leases and stooping to scoop pet poop.

"When it comes to etiquette, rules are what makes it possible for the world to work," she said.

There's a lot of work to be done before your dog is ready to visit and mingle with guests. The Dog Legislation Council of Canada has come up with some tips to help dog owners, whether the dog in your home is a pure-bred puppy or an adult dog from a shelter.

-If you want your companion dog to be welcome in other people's homes or welcomed by your guests, obedience training and consistency are key.

-Before you get a dog, investigate training possibilities. You must be trained to train your dog; sending your dog away teaches the dog to obey the trainer, not you.

-You must be consistent. You can't feed Sparky at the table one day, then push him away the next. A begging puppy may be cute but can be more difficult to deal with as a full-grown dog. Remember that puppy behaviour is magnified as the dog reaches maturity and full weight.

-The simplest commands are the best: Come, Sit, Stay are vital. These make your dog easy to live with, and may save the dog's life should the dog get out of the house or yard.

-Being a responsible owner does not mean being an incredibly stern taskmaster, taking all joy out of life for the dog. It never means physical abuse if a dog doesn't adhere to the rules

-Manners are as important for a dog as for a person. A responsible owner does not allow his or her dog to jump on guests, beg or steal food, shred garments, or bare its teeth and corner a guest in the bathroom. A responsible owner trains his or her dog to sit quietly until invited to greet a guest. A responsible owner trains his or her dog not to steal food from a buffet or drink beverages left unattended. A responsible owner cleans up if the dog soils in another person's home or yard.

-Regular grooming and dental care will make your dog a pleasure to pet and hug. If you're uncertain of how to groom your dog or clean its teeth, ask your veterinarian or a reputable dog groomer.

-Know your dog. If you have a large, lovable and loving but clumsy dog, keep the dog away from children so there is no chance of injury to a child. If your dog is sick, or tired, you might be best boarding the dog or leaving it at home, or finding a quiet room where the dog can nap

-Bad behaviour must always be stopped at the first occurrence, before it escalates. If your dog is aggressive with other animals or humans, find a trainer who specializes in aggressive animals. Then, be a responsible owner and control situations. Learn about dog bite prevention.

For more information visit The Dog Legislation Council of Canada's website at www.doglegislationcouncilCanada.org
Our stories derive from various news sources through press releases and from various pet-related sources. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them here.
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