Real Estate

NYers doping pets, using doggie stunt doubles to get past co-op boards

For the first 30 minutes of the co-op board interview, the Frenchton — a mix between a Boston terrier and a French bulldog — was a little angel.

But as the minutes ticked past and the dog’s drugs started to wear off, her owner got nervous.

“She gets excited when she meets new people, so we gave her Benadryl,” said the 51-year old marketing executive. “The vet told us it would help. She was prescribed it to help with itchy skin, but he said to give it to her that day close to the interview” to keep the dog calm.

The woman and her husband had fretted about their finances being up to snuff when they ditched a Village rental for a tony Upper East Side co-op. Their accounts were fine, the board said — but there would need to be an interview with the canine member of the family.

“They made it clear,” the marketing exec said. “If the dog was a problem, we would not be getting the apartment.”

Trainer Bash Dibra (seen here with Delilah) offers courses specifically for getting dogs to behave in co-op board interviews.
Trainer Bash Dibra (seen here with Delilah) offers courses specifically for getting dogs to behave in co-op board interviews.
Emmy Park

With pandemic work-from-home situations breeding separation anxiety and other bad behaviors in dogs, more New Yorkers are scared of needy or mischievous pets blowing their co-op board interviews — so they’re drugging their pooches, calling in stunt doubles and shelling out for special training.

“When a prospective purchaser calls me, their dog is one of the first things I ask about,” said Wendy Sarasohn, a luxury-resident agent at Brown Harris Stevens. “It can be as significant … as how many millions [of dollars] of liquidity they have.”

Sarasohn has also seen clients slip a sedative to their dog. They were empty nesters swapping a Great Neck mansion for a Park Avenue co-op, and their pet was used to having the run of the place, running and barking as much as he wished. “It was a big dog, and they weren’t sure whether he would behave,” she recalled.

Another prospective tenant wanted to buy in a building where pets were limited to weighing 25 pounds or less — but her dog weighed almost 50 pounds. “So she put him on a strict weight loss program,” hoping that if the canine at least looked a little less rotund he could slip past the board’s critical eye, Sarasohn said. Luckily, “they didn’t weigh him.”

Even for slim, city-slicker dogs, the broker said she recommend owners work with Bash Dibra. The New York City dog behaviorist has long been a TV staple, but he’s discreetly carved out a lucrative pandemic niche: priming Fido to be co-op board ready, at $500 per session.

Real estate agent Wendy Sarasohn said a potential buyer's dog "can be as significant" in the approval process "as how many millions [of dollars] of liquidity they have."
Real estate agent Wendy Sarasohn said a potential buyer’s dog “can be as significant” in the approval process “as how many millions [of dollars] of liquidity they have.”
Stephen Yang

Dibra told The Post he’s hired a couple times each month, with numbers on the rise thanks to the upcoming spring buying spree.

He usually works with owners over several weeks, priming dogs to walk on a leash without pulling, come quietly when called and, of course, never jump on people. “The end result? We get a great dog that will pass a board and be a great member of the family,” Dibra said.

"Shark Tank" star and Corcoran Group founder Barbara Corcoran said potential buyers sometimes swap in a different dog for interviews.
“Shark Tank” star and Corcoran Group founder Barbara Corcoran said potential buyers sometimes swap in a different dog for interviews.
ABC/Getty Images

The trainer added that he understands why boards put pooches under such strict scrutiny: “They have to think about insurance. If there’s a dog that’s a biter, it’s a problem for the building because the rates skyrocket.”

Some buyers, though, just give up and call in a ringer.

Power broker Barbara Corcoran recalled one such case of an apartment-shopper worried that their bad-tempered toy dog would scupper a deal.

“So she borrowed a Shih Tzu that looked just like her dog for the board meeting, and passed,” the “Shark Tank” star said. “When she moved in, I bet the board thought the dog had a personality change. I’m sure that happens a lot.”

Indeed, Sarasohn has similar stories — like the wannabe buyer worried her pup “might not stop barking, or pee on the carpet. He was very finicky about who he was nice to.”

So the woman borrowed the canine of a friend from the local dog run, and left her own troubled pet at home. The well-behaved stand-in breezed through the board interview.

Meanwhile, Philip Salem at Compass real estate has a different solution: Hollywood high-gloss. He counsels clients to put together a heart-melting montage of adorable dog footage, set to appealing music, to share with a board even before being summoned to an interview.

“It’s a doggie resumé. You can do anything on an iPhone in less than a minute,” he said. “Pictures with children, [a dog] dressed in a costume, sleeping — it’ll pull on the board’s heart strings.”

Broker Philip Salem suggests clients create movies showing how adorable their pets are, to win over co-op boards.
Broker Philip Salem suggests clients create movies showing how adorable their pets are, to win over co-op boards.
Stephen Yang

Salem often sends videos to selling agents, too, reassuring them that a potential buyer’s dog is docile, and gets letters of attestation from groomers and dog walkers.

That’s how he helped one family score a prime co-op in Fort Greene recently. Their nine-year-old rescue had worked as a therapy canine for stressed-out students, so the wife put together snaps of him with kids and in a Halloween costume.

“We got a letter from the doorman at our current place saying he wasn’t loud and yappy,” the wife, a pharmaceutical exec, said. “We had to bring the same number of reference letters for the dog, if not more, as for us.”

Still, she wan’t taking any chances: The day of the board interview, she took her pet for an extra-long walk, then dosed him with anti-anxiety medication.

As for the Frenchton on Benadryl, the interview went 90 minutes and the dog slept through most of it. The owner only felt a little guilty: “We had jumped through so many hoops there was no way we would not be getting that apartment.”

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