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Keep your dog from acting like a turkey

By Ron Berthel

Associated Press

NEW YORK — You want your Thanksgiving guests to be bowled over by the fantastic meal you serve, not by your overenthusiastic dog when it greets them at the door.

But yours could be a polite pooch, with a little training.

Dog owners need to plan ahead to create special places and rituals to make their dogs feel comfortable when company arrives, says Sarah Hodgson, a Katonah, N.Y., dog trainer who just published "Miss Sarah’s Guide to Etiquette for Dogs & Their People."

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In an interview, she told the story of a recent house call ("I don’t do many") for a client who was worried that the misbehavior of Greta, her frisky 7-month-old, 65-pound Weimaraner, would ruin the Thanksgiving dinner party she had planned for 20-plus guests.

"I noticed that Greta was the first one to greet me" — a no-no and strictly the dog owner’s fault, Hodgson says. If the dog’s mistress doesn’t control the door, Hodgson explained, the dog naturally assumes the duty, having been given "the keys to the castle."

Hodgson’s training of Greta is ongoing and includes teaching her not to jump on arriving guests (dogs do so naturally to make facial recognition) and not to put her snout on the kitchen counter or dining room table.

"Shout at the counter," Hodgson advises. "Make it the ‘bad guy,’ not the dog." It works for the table, too, she said.

Hodgson also suggests that Greta’s mistress take her out for a vigorous activity, such as a Frisbee toss, on Thanksgiving morning to "tire Greta out and make her less energized" when guests arrive.

Here are some more tips, from the book, that might help you, your dog and your guests have one more reason be thankful on Thanksgiving:

• Establish proper etiquette by creating a special place by your (front) door where your dog can wait when company arrives.

• If you allow your dog to loiter nearby while you are eating, you will almost certainly experience interruptions. Politely ask guests to help civilize your dog by ignoring him until the meal has ended.

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• Teach your dog "to lie on a floor mat while you dine." To prevent hunger tension, feed your dog his own meal before you sit down to enjoy yours. Then send him to his special mat, instructing him to "settle."

• Table manners for dogs can be reduced to one basic maxim: Eat and drink only from your bowl. "If you want to share leftovers (with your dog), then do so in a manner unlikely to disturb your human guests. Wait until you have finished your meal, and then place a sensible portion in his bowl."

On the Net:

Hodgson’s Web site: www.dogperfect.com

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