Pets are as alive and sensitive as we human beings are. Pets need equal attention. Read on to develop a Beautiful Bond.
In the dark corner of the living room, late at night, a major robbery is underway. Dad is keeping watch while his daughters, Doreen and Angel, are devouring vegetable peels, biscuits, leftover food and soiled baby diapers. After that, they tear apart garbage bags, destroy food containers and defecate and vomit throughout the house. Mom is hiding in a corner, fearful. These are my four English Cocker Spaniels (Leonidas, Chikita and their two daughters, Doreen and Angel) and they have been destroying my home since my infant arrived in June 2014.Pets rebel because you neglect them for a long time, particularly when a newborn arrives in the house and takes away all your attention. Though you may try everything—assertiveness, scolding and brutal punishment — nothing works. Finally, you give them away or abandon them. Every day, countless pet dogs are found abandoned and tortured to death on the cruel streets of our country. Why must we discard our pet when a child is born? How can we restore love and peace between pets and pet parents?
Problem with somebody
The core of the problem is that most pet parents consider their pets as emotionless creatures purchased for their entertainment. “They’re just animals without feelings. They’ll adjust anywhere,” says John, an ex-pet parent of Boxie, a Golden Retriever. Divya and Netto* (*names changed), a couple from Bengaluru, gave away their dog Bruno, a Pug. “Our doctor warned us about asthma caused by dog hair and rabies and other infections. And what if Bruno bites our child?” they fear.Senior veterinarian and canine behaviourist Dr Duraikumar, joint director (retired), Petma Pet Clinic and his associate Muralidharan, specialist in infectious diseases, share their expert opinions, “In general, pets are part of many children’s lives. Parental involvement, open discussion and planning are necessary to help make pet parenting a positive experience for everyone.”
Dogs and newborn
A newborn may be a great joy for parents who dedicate twenty-four hours a day in the baby’s service, but for pets it signals stress and insecurity. For an intimate, enjoyable and positive relationship between pets and pet parents, there must be continuous reciprocation of affection and attention between them. The love between them increases with increasing interaction like grooming, playing, walking together and even cuddling.Do pets suffer depression when a baby takes away their masters’ attention? “Not all dogs are affected by a baby’s arrival,” asserts Dr Duraikumar, adding, “If first-time parents can detect a difference in their pet’s behaviour around the pregnant mistress, then it will be especially helpful in determining whether their pets will have a problem with children in the near future. That would be the best time to get help from a professional dog trainer.”At home, my dogs felt totally isolated; no more play-time or affection. Even their walks and meal-times became irregular. Our guests constantly warned us about infections to our baby from our ‘dirty’ dogs. “There isn’t much risk of infection from household pets,” stresses Dr Muralidaharan, “Zoonoses i.e. common infectious diseases transferred to humans from animals depend on several factors, the most important of which is direct interaction of pets or humans with wildlife.” He further emphasises, “The best way to avoid infections is to get your pet from a source you trust. You can consult your veterinarian for professional advice on the same.”
No desertion at all!
When cheerful pets are neglected, they gradually become defensive, fearful and introvert. Dr Duraikumar explains, “Dogs are diagnosed with destructive tendencies when they destroy things we don’t want them to. However, not all destructive behaviours are the same. Dogs who have symptoms like anxiety, fear or aggression in combination with destructive behaviour are diagnosed with Secondary Destructive Behaviour. In such cases, you must urgently consult your veterinarian.”
At home, I agreed to give two of my destructive dogs in adoption. But wouldn’t they just end up becoming someone else’s problem? Also, how could I guarantee their treatment by the new pet parents? There are many pet parents who discard their dogs unhesitatingly for reasons like: the dog is too big, eats too much, is destructive, neighbours complain of barking, relatives are afraid to visit, etc.Too many pets are stranded on cold, dark streets away from the comforts of a warm, loving home. House pets aren’t street smart and end up as road-kill, victims of brutal street-dog assaults or abused and mutilated by cruel humans. A large portion of dogs are abandoned by irresponsible people. Commenting further on the abandoned pet’s state of mind and health, Dr Duraikumar states, “In such stressful situations, animals suffer an intellectual decrease. An abandoned dog undergoes three well-known stages of grief – Protest, Despair and Detachment. Additionally, the physiological consequences of stress are weakened immunity, gastric ulcer and worsening of hair condition which, in turn, lead to nerve and stomach ache that induces the dog to eat inedible objects.”
Need for little patience and understanding
Why can’t we try to solve the problem with a little patience and understanding? By realising that pets are actually our family members (just like our children), we can save them from suffering the horrible punishment of abandonment. “A pet can sense the changes in the pet parent’s approach especially when the parent is trying to safeguard him from frustration.” Dr Duraikumar continues, “The best strategy is to redirect your pet’s focus on something else and find a safe space where you can control your dog better and where it is not too aroused by its surroundings.”You can hide or dispose the objects that the dog likes to destroy and immediately find yourself becoming more peaceful and relaxed. Then create a fixed and consistent routine for feeding and walking. Try to ignore small faults and encourage your pet’s efforts with innovative ways to bond with them while you’re doing other activities like playing with your child, watching TV, reading the paper, etc.I did not give my dogs away. Instead by accommodating their needs along with those of my child, I found the situation improving each day. Dr Duraikumar concludes, “Caring for pets is a great learning experience for kids. It teaches them the values of responsibility, gentleness and respect, not only for dogs but for other living beings too.” In no time, your pets too will transform and you will have peace and love at home again!