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DOG-WALKER SHOULD TELL OWNERS THEIR PETS COULD USE TRAINING

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Dear Miss Manners: For the past two years, I have been walking two dogs for a married couple who live across the street. My dog is heaven on a leash, and their dogs are hell on a leash.

My dog is well-trained. Their dogs are not trained at all. Their owners do pay me, so I do not want to give up the job. But how to I tell them politely, without hurting their feelings, that their dogs need training? If they were willing to pay the training-school fee, I would be more than happy to take the dogs myself, for no extra cost.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners appreciates your delicacy in not wanting to embarrass the dog owners. She probably shouldn't even be wondering exactly how bound up these people's egos are in their dogs' behavior, so as to make it likely that they would take personally the information that the dogs could stand improvement.

But even if that were the case, you would be free to mention this because you are a professional in the field, so to speak. If, for example, you were a day-care provider for children, it would be your professional obligation to identify any problems you might have observed and to suggest a remedy.

Dear Miss Manners: My son's bride-to-be has asked me, "If my father cannot give me away because of ill health, will you give me away?"

This seems awkward and inappropriate to me. How should I answer?

Gentle Reader: This is an unfortunate request. No doubt it arises from the notion (which this young lady is not alone in mistakenly holding) that the role of father must be cast with a suitable-looking gentleman, rather than that the spirit of that task be preserved by having a member of the bride's own family - most obviously, her mother - undertake it.

The charming way to call this to her attention would be to say: "Why, the best thing about this wedding is that I am gaining you as a daughter. I certainly don't want to start by giving you away."

Dear Miss Manners: When my 30-year-old son visited me, I found myself somewhat irritated by his frequent loud and uninhibited yawns. He assured me that he had had enough sleep and was not depressed.

He added that "in polite company" or at work, even if a bit bored, he would try to suppress his yawns or make them less noticeable, but that among his friends or at home, he felt more free to do what came naturally.

Taking him at his word, instead of being irritated, should I have been pleased that he felt completely relaxed, or do you validate my having been upset when he, at home, relaxed his manners and thereby possibly showed disrespect for his family?

Gentle Reader: Taking your son at his word, he does not consider his mother to be polite company. If Miss Manners were you, she would make it clear that his mother expects to be in polite company in her own house.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.

1993 United Feature Syndicate Inc.