Mind Your Canine Manners
The lure of the dog park is inescapable. That wide expanse of grass. Trees, shrubs and rocks dotted about. Perhaps a metal fence for added protection. As inviting as the scene may be, it’s essential that both you and your dog pass the test in proper dog park etiquette before you even enter the grounds.
There may be no signs posted stating “BAD MANNERS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED,” but every well-informed dog owner knows what they are. For those first time owners who have absolutely no clue, the following is a list of the most essential “do’s” and “don’ts” of playing safely at the dog park.
DO keep your dog under control at all times and DO make certain that he always comes when called. Pity those poor owners standing helpless and hoarse, leashes dangling, treat bags drooping, while their own dogs dance off disobediently into the distance. In the event that you dog escapes the dog park, be ready and know what to do if your dog goes missing.
DO make certain that your dog has been properly socialized beforehand. What’s worse than watching an aggressive dog going after a timid dog, resulting in punishment for one and pet therapy for the other? Make sure you’re up to date on all dog park etiquette before putting your dog in that situation.
DO ensure that your dog is up to date on all of his vaccinations, is heartworm negative and parasite protected. Think about all of those tiny, unseen menaces like fleas and ticks lurking about in the grass.
DON’T bring an intact male or female dog to the park. Picture the pandemonium that would ensue. Not to mention the potential for a passel of unplanned pups.
DO monitor the behavior of the other dogs in the park and be alert to possible signs of trouble. Step into referee mode and start dropping penalty flags on the field if loose packs are forming, playing is getting too rough or bullying has begun.
DO be prepared to leave the park if it means avoiding a potentially unpleasant or dangerous situation. Whether it’s your dog’s fault or someone else’s dog, finger pointing is preferable to finger biting. But both should be studiously avoided.
DO be considerate of the other dogs and their – hopefully — considerate owners. Stoop and scoop up carefully after YOUR dog. If you don’t appreciate your dog’s nose sniffing at, or your feet slipping on, another dog’s droppings, you’re certainly not alone.
Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.
Now, go play!
THE DOWNSIDE OF DOUBLE MERLES
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sadly, in the world of dog breeding, some dogs are
bred simply because they are thought to be beautiful -- by breeders and buyers alike. So it
is with the double merle.
Merle refers to a color pattern, not a color in and of itself. Merle dogs come in many
colors, the most common of which is blue merle, found most often in Australian Shepherds.
Blue merles are, in fact, black dogs with the black broken up into irregular patches by
lighter shades of gray. In some “circles”, the lighter, the better; the whiter, the prettier.
This has led to the irresponsible breeding of male and female merles in the hope of
producing as many light merles as possible. The unintentional result: the double merle.
Whether they are called double merles, lethal whites or homozygous merles, these dogs are
born carrying the MM gene, leaving them unable to produce pigment. Some of the most
popular breeds affected by this so-called MM genotype include Australian Shepherds,
Border Collies, Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, Collies (Rough and
Smooth), Dachshunds (known as dapples), Great Danes, Old English Sheepdogs and
The unethical practice of breeding double merles is generally condemned worldwide, not
only because so many are considered defective and put down at birth by their breeders, but
because of the health problems that plague them, namely, partial or complete deafness and
Numerous myths have arisen concerning double merles. If deaf, blind or both, they are
reputed to be aggressive, unpredictable, untrainable, prone to other health issues, even a
shorter life span. According to studies, however, none of this is true. Double merles, despite
their deficiencies, are generally quite healthy dogs capable of living long, otherwise normal
lives. And they are no more aggressive, unpredictable or untrainable than hearing and
To dispel another myth, there are homes more than eager to adopt, train and love such
special needs dogs. Experts stress the importance of not viewing them as “handicapped.”
While they do have certain limitations, they themselves are not aware of this, and can be as
active and affectionate, playful and pleasurable as any other dogs.
Families adopting double merles first receive their own training, and what they learn is
promptly passed on to their dogs. Deaf or hard-of-hearing dogs are trained through the use
of sign language or hand signals. Lights and vibrations can also be used. Deaf/blind double
merles are trained by touch signals and scent cues placed throughout the home. Blind
double merles are trained through the use of both sound and scent cues. All sharp edges at
eye level are either bubble-wrapped or cushioned by towels for added protection. All
stairways are baby-gated, and either a textured mat or a scent placed before each one to
alert the dog to the gates’ proximity.
And, so contrary to popular misconception, double merles can and DO lead happy,
balanced and productive lives. In fact, to the delight of their proud and loving owners,
double merles excel in many areas and numerous arenas. They often compete at the highest
levels in agility, win ribbons at kennel club showings, participate in K9 nosework, and
become therapy dogs – to name but a few.
Do you own a dog but want to rent an apartment or condo, town home or house?
If so, it’s vital that you’re fully informed before initiating this all-important process.
Why? Because too many dogs are either abandoned or surrendered to animal shelters as a
result of housing problems encountered by their owners.
It’s understandable that many landlords may be leery of renting their premises to dog
owners. Some tenants are thoughtless and irresponsible, allowing their pets to damage
property, to chew and defecate inappropriately, and/or disturb their neighbors – from
barking incessantly due to separation anxiety to jumping up on them or nipping them.
It’s therefore incumbent upon YOU to prove to prospective landlords that your dog is well
trained, well mannered and well socialized, and that renters like you will not only be
respectful of their rental property but will illustrate, by your example, that most pet
owners are both conscientious and trustworthy.
Since finding a rental property that welcomes ALL dogs regardless of breed or size can be
difficult, increase your chances of success by considering the following:
Allow as much time as possible for as thorough a search as possible.
Research all “animal-friendly” listings and all “animal-savvy” realtors by placing classified
Reach out to your neighbors and co-workers, friends and family, through networking sites
and social media for an even broader range of potential rentals.
Stop by the supermarkets and drug stores in your area to pick up free publications of
rental opportunities and visit such web sites as https://www.apartments.com and
https://www.rent.com for even more listings.
Create a “canine resume” detailing your dog’s positive personality traits. Include several
photos guaranteed to win hearts, list your dog’s favorite activities, food and treats,
certifications if any, and a brief adoption story. You should also include a letter from the
vet showing that your dog is spayed or neutered and up-to-date on vaccines, a letter of
reference from your current or most recent landlord (if applicable), and written proof that
your dog has completed a training class (if applicable).
While some landlords may advertise “no pets” or have size or breed restrictions, others
may be willing to make an exception -- particularly if they own pets or are pet lovers
themselves. It’s worth making an inquiry over the phone and even inviting the more
amenable ones to meet with you and your dog.
NEVER sign a lease that states, “no pets allowed” even if you happen to observe other pets
on the premises. But most importantly, never accept the word of a realtor, manager or
landlord that having one is “okay.” The only words that count are those WRITTEN in the
lease. If the lease clearly states “no pets allowed”, ensure that it’s either crossed out or
replaced with language approving your pet, and that all changes are initialed by both you
and the landlord.
Any pet deposit or monthly fees should be specified in the lease, but before signing it, first
discuss the matter with the landlord and/or renegotiate the amount.
Keep a signed copy of the lease with all of your other important documents where it can be
readily retrieved if needed.
Then, once you and your cherished canine companion are happily ensconced in your new
home, it remains your responsibility to reassure the landlord that he made the right choice
in renting to you.