Girly Dogs?

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Hello everyone! This is my first blog at Dog Star Daily and I'm so excited to be a part of this educational forum and discussion group. I'd been pondering what to write about in my first blog and was going to write something about the holidays, but then a more pressing issue came up that I simply had to address. I was relieved when President-Elect Obama and his wife Michelle announced a few weeks ago that they probably wouldn't be getting a puppy for at least the first few months after moving into the Whitehouse. As dog trainers we all know that the absolute worst time to add a new dog to the family is during hectic, busy times, like the holidays or right after a big move. I was also hoping this revelation would give people time to calm down a bit and allow the Obamas an opportunity to reflect a bit more on their decision, do their own research, and ultimately select the best dog for their family. Ahhh, finally, the clamoring would die down.

And then last week on 20/20 he uttered those two infamous words ..... "girly dog." Sigh.

What's that about? What exactly is a girly dog anyway? Is it a breed of dog that girls are more attracted to? Has there been a study conducted that I don't know about? I ask because in the 25 years I've been in the dog biz I've been attracted to a multitude of breeds and seen girls (and boys) with all sorts of dogs. But for the sake of argument isn't the dog supposed to be for his girls, Malia and Sasha? If that's the case, it seems to me he should be looking for a dog that they would want. Or does it mean a dog that looks or acts girly, or feminine? Okay again, this definition needs a little clarification and perhaps a bit of scientific analysis. If masculine and feminine are human characteristics, how on earth can we attribute either to canines? Although males and females do sometimes have slight differences in appearance in regards to conformation and body type in many breeds, bitches are often smaller than dogs, sometimes have slightly finer features, etc, but all in all, that is something we bred into them, not something that occurred naturally because of their gender and certainly isn't anything they did on their own! So what exactly does girly dog mean?

My guess is a girly dog is the same thing as a frou frou dog, as an ankle biter, little yapper, glorified lap dog, or any other derogatory terms I've heard attributed to toy breeds and small dogs in general. Well, as a pet parent to three Maltese, who are all male, by the way, I find it offensive. Of course they, on the other hand, could care less. And maybe it shouldn't bother me either, but it does. It bothers me because to me it is a way to completely dismiss anything a small dog does or give a small dog any credit. I know some small dogs that are exceptional, not just for small dogs, but for any breed, and yet there are still people who somehow have this idea that they aren't even dogs! Okay, so who cares, right? It undoubtedly says more about the person who feels that way than the dog. Well normally I wouldn't care, but I had the chance to experience this breedism up close and personal when participating in the Greatest American Dog TV show on CBS this past summer with one of my Maltese, Andrew. It seemed no matter what he did, some people just didn't even consider him a dog and looked right past him to the "real dogs", and yes, some people actually said that.

So, for President-Elect Obama and anyone else who dismisses dogs based on their size, allow me to present exhibit A - my darling husband Michael. I've included a photo of him with all three of our so-called girly dogs sitting in his lap! By the way, Mike is a police sergeant and former United States Marine. Oh, he is also 6'3", about 245lbs, and was a power lifter and competitive bodybuilder in his younger years. We have shared our 25 years of marriage together with many different dogs. Currently in addition to our Maltese, we also have a Dalmatian, a Pharoah Hound, a Standard Poodle and an Irish Terrier, none of which would be considered girly dogs by the status quo. But guess which dogs are his favorites? Our little ones. In fact, I have never seen him bond so much with a dog as he has with our tiniest Maltese, 3 lb Geoffrey. They are almost inseparable. If we're out and Geoffrey is with us, Mike is usually the one carrying him. Funny, nobody has ever walked up to 6'3", 245 lb Mike and asked him why he's carrying that little girly dog, frou frou dog, or ankle biter! Maybe it's his size (Mike's, not Geoffrey's) that prevents people from saying anything, but I have a feeling it is because they can tell Mike doesn't define his manhood by the type or size of dog he loves. Yes, ladies, I married one of the good ones!

President-Elect Obama says he wants a "big, rambunctious dog of some sort." Hmmmm, sounds like he's looking for a Marley. And it also sounds like he may be equating misbehavior and lack of training as masculine traits. Uh oh, I think I'll save that discussion for another blog. While it is our job as dog trainers and behavior counselors to educate new and prospective dog owners, I could tell by her reaction that Michelle Obama didn't particularly care for her husband's comments either. I have faith in her and have a strong feeling she will be the one who educates him.

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