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November 9, 2008 “Puppy Advice for the First Family”

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

A working couple with two daughters, a new job and a major relocation has decided to get a dog. What were they thinking? But promises are promises, so to ease the integration of the First Dog into the First Family, I offer the following:

–Appoint a Dog Nanny. You can\’t just entrust the puppy to some aide who\’s running around putting out fires and calculating her next step up the political ladder. Dogs love routine, and life in the White House is anything but (that\’s probably what finally got to Barney). The girls will give the pup fun and affection, but it is a rare child under voting age who can be relied on to fulfill a dog\’s needs on a daily basis. A Dog Nanny is the answer.

–Move the residence to the first floor. This might make the Secret Service nervous, but with a puppy, you have to have quick access to the outdoors. When he gets that worried look in his face and starts walking in circles, you should be able to sweep it up in your arms, run to the back door and deposit it on the grass in a matter of seconds. Not only does this avoid a spot on your rug, it gives the pup a chance to succeed and get some well deserved praise—an important component of training. You don\’t want to be rushing down the corridors of power with a leaking puppy at 2 a.m.

–Get a smallish dog. Big dogs are murder on floors. No matter how disciplined you are about trimming their nails, they still manage to score the floors, giving them that rustic, distressed look. A small dog doesn\’t weigh enough to do any damage, even if you occasionally forget to cut his nails. Also a large, young, enthusiastic dog is bound to jump up on an occasional guest before it is fully trained. You don\’t want your Rottweiler jumping up on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Little dogs jump up too, of course, but they are not likely to create an international incident in the process.

–If you get one of those hypoallergenic breeds—a poodle or poodle-mix—make sure that the dog can see you. These dogs have adorable curly fringes hanging down over their eyes, but remember, if you can\’t see the dog\’s eyes, the dog can\’t see you. A good dog learns to read her people like an open book, mostly by interpreting their body language, but she can\’t do this if her vision is obscured by a curtain of hair.

–Get a really good trainer (this may or may not be the same person as the dog nanny) and have him or her work with the dog AND the President every day. Impossible, you say? Not if you want to avoid the spectacle of the President running after a dog who would rather chase a squirrel than obey the Commander in Chief. If the First Dog does not acknowledge the President as alpha, the opposition leaders may start getting ideas. So don\’t skimp on the training: the entire planet is watching, and so are its dogs.

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