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What is a Courteous Canine?
Author: Kate Connick ©1999

shepherd mutt

My business name is Courteous Canines, LLC. This begs the question, "what is a courteous canine?" The truth is that there is no such thing. A dog is only as polite or as rude as its owner. The following are qualities of persons who are responsible and well-mannered dog owners.

They ALWAYS pick up their dogs' solid waste. Dog feces are unsanitary. Not only do they smell bad and create mess, they can be a source of disease and parasite transmission. Owners who allow their dogs to foul public areas with waste are the primary reason that dogs are prohibited from so many places. Dog stools leach into the soil and can contaminate public drinking water with e. coli bacteria. Even when the fecal material is confined to one's own property, all it takes is a gentle breeze to ruin a neighbor's outdoor barbeque with unpleasant odors.

Similarly, they are careful about where they allow their dogs to urinate. It is inappropriate to allow a dog to lift its leg on vehicles, buildings, and well-tended gardens, for example.

Their pet dogs are neutered. A castrated male or spayed female makes a better, healthier, more contented pet. Numerous dollars are spent employing animal control officers to pursue and capture stray dogs - many a result of overpopulation, many out roaming in search of a mate. Even more money is spent impounding those animals and destroying them. Every litter of unwanted puppies costs taxpayers money. It is estimated that approximately 8 million dogs are destroyed in pounds every year (and that doesn't include the additional number of dogs hit by cars or killed through other accidents). The compassionate pet owner does not add to that surplus by casually breeding their pet.

Their breeding stock, if any, is only bred after thorough and brutally honest evaluation and screening for health and temperament. It is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to be a truly responsible breeder who actually improves their breed by selectively breeding only healthier, better-tempered animals. A dog can be the best pet or show dog in the world but not worthy of being bred if something like hip dysplasia or dominance aggression hides in the genes.

They keep their dogs ON LEASH when in public. In Westchester County, for example, the law requires that dogs in public areas be restrained by a leash no longer than 6-feet in length. There is a good reason for this. Very few dogs are reliably obedient off-leash in the presence of compelling distractions like other dogs, wildlife, playful children, etc. Even a friendly dog running loose can frighten people or other dogs. If one's dog jumps on someone in greeting, it could knock them over and injure them. It could also provoke a dogfight if it approaches a dog that is on leash. It is supremely inconsiderate to allow one's off-leash dog to approach others and disrupt them. Further, all it takes is one single instance of delayed obedience or disobedience for a dog to become a roadkill or unrecovered stray. Even well-trained dogs make mistakes. A leash is an owner's best friend. Leashes keep dogs safe and alive and prevent them from becoming nuisances.

In spite of the previous paragraph, some persons do allow their dogs off-leash in public. These people, if they are considerate, ALWAYS call their dog to them and put a leash on them if anyone appears. Parks were not created for dog owners and are increasingly posting signs that prohibit dogs. If a particular public area does not enforce leash laws, the polite dog owner will voluntarily prevent their dog from being a pest by not allowing it to approach anyone else unless specifically invited. The single most knuckle-headed, inconsiderate thing that dog owners do is yell, "He's friendly!" as their loose dog charges up to a person or a person with a leashed dog. That person may have a dog phobia, or their dog might be fearful or elderly. Polite owners respect others' personal space, and do NOT allow their dogs to run up to others in public.

They do not harbor animals that they know are dangerously aggressive towards people. I love dogs. I also believe strongly that dogs who bite people, particularly children, should be humanely euthanized. No child deserves to grow up emotionally or physically scarred by a nasty dog. The truly responsible pet owner makes no excuses for their dog's aggressive behavior. They seek out the assistance of professionals and either correct the problem, if possible, or destroy the dog so that no one gets hurt. If they cannot correct the aggression and refuse to destroy the animal, the very least they can do is take strong measures to prevent tragedies by muzzling the dog in public and always keeping the dog on a leash or behind a fence. Responsible owners do not lie to themselves or others and place their dog in situations where a bite will occur.

They do not allow their dog to annoy people by making excessive noise. All dogs bark, but a dog barking continuously for several hours is a nuisance. Imagine a neighbor with an infant trying to nap, or one who must sleep during the day because they work a night shift, or one who works or studies at home and must concentrate. It's one thing to play with your dog and have some momentary yipping, or to allow your dog several woofs to alert you to the mailman, but it's terribly inconsiderate to leave a dog outside for hours on end and allow him to bark, whine, and howl.

They commit to owning a dog for its entire lifetime. A sad statistic is that only 20% of all dogs remain in one home throughout their lives. Many puppies are purchased or adopted on impulse, only to be given away, sold, or dumped at the pound when they've outgrown the cute stage and begin to manifest behavior problems. Dogs require time, energy, and money to maintain. The responsible pet owner evaluates their life situation before bringing home a dog.

They provide appropriate food, shelter, and veterinary care. Far too many dogs are obese. Many people don't think of putting a coat on their small or short-haired dog when they walk it on a cold winter day, even if the dog is shivering. Conversely, many dogs cook to death in cars on hot summer days. Some dogs don't receive proper vaccinations or have stool samples regularly tested for internal parasites. Other dogs are never groomed. Responsible owners make it a priority to know and provide proper care.

They obey all laws pertaining to dog owners. Typically, these laws require obtaining a state dog license (available through the village clerk's office), keeping the dog leashed while in public, having the dog regularly vaccinated against rabies, picking up dog waste, and not allowing the dog to make excessive amounts of noise, especially during the night. These laws simply codify basic good manners.

They take the time to teach their dogs basic manners and socialize their dogs so that they will not be uncomfortable or unruly around different kinds of people in everyday situations. Every pleasant, well-behaved dog and every responsible, considerate dog owner is an ambassador for all dog owners. You demonstrate a desire to be a responsible dog owner by participating in obedience or agility classes, and I applaud all of my students for that. Continue always to represent dog owners in the best possible way by conducting yourself politely and responsibly. It makes us all look good!

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