Looking to bring a puppy home? Whether you are considering a Pedigreed pooch or a mutt, would-be pet parents must not walk blindly into the adoption process without thinking it out thoroughly. Here are 10 tips to help you along this process.
01 Adopting a puppy at the wrong time: The wrong time could be for both the puppy and the prospective pet parents. Never adopt a puppy who is less than six weeks old. It is the puppy’s birth right to receive love and nourishment from his mother and play with his siblings. The mother’s milk is also full of immunoglobulins which protect the puppy until the age of two months. If you feel the breeder is trying to pass a really small puppy as older (yes, this happens) gets a vet to examine him.
Do not adopt a puppy when there is a major emotional or financial upheaval at home. Getting a dog
during a major cash crunch, just before moving to a new city or even just after a new baby in the house puts too much pressure on both parties. Puppies and pet parents need to spend a lot of quality time together. So time it right.
02 Bringing home the wrong dog: Fell in love with the little Golden Retriever puppy in the pet store window? Find those waifish eyes and goofy face irresistible? He’s so tiny right? Well, he is now. But remember, he is going to grow to an 80 pound adult. That’s a lot of dog to fit in one tiny apartment. Get a Dachshund instead. He’s probably not going to take up much room.
03 Breed specific idiosyncrasies: While every breed comes with certain qualities, they also have some problems. Most large and giant breed of dogs in India have canine hip dysplasia. Brachycephalic breeds (flat-nosed) come with problems like Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, dry eye syndrome) and short airway syndrome. Presence of such conditions is difficult to determine at the time of adoption. However, they are invariably present. Speak to your vet about the breed you have in mind before adopting. Be prepared to make major changes in your current lifestyle to improve your dog’s quality of life. Large breed dogs need carpeted flooring at home and lots of walking outdoors. KCS requires frequent administration of eye drops, probably throughout life.
04 Immunisations: A puppy adopted at six weeks of age must receive his first immunisation within one week. Immunisation schedule may vary from region to region, even practice to practice. However, the fact remains that the complete immunisation schedule must be followed. Find a reputed vet and choose a good brand of vaccines. These vaccines must be maintained under ‘cold-chain’, which means the temperature must be maintained between four and eight degrees centigrade from the time it is manufactured to the time it is administered to your pet. Otherwise the injected vaccine may not produce the desired level of immunity.
05 Feeding your puppy baby food: Most new pet parents start feeding their new arrivals with human infant food like ‘Cerelac’. Unfortunately the nutritional requirements of an infant puppy are different from that of a human infant. In a period of accelerated growth, like that which is observed in the first few weeks of a puppy’s life, nutritional deficiencies could lead to skin and growth disorders.
Breeders most often wean puppies onto puppy food, so when adopting a puppy, make sure you find out which brand was being fed, the consistency of the food and frequency. It is critical that you keep the puppy on this same food for the first three days after his arrival to avoid indigestion. Then change him over to starter food slowly, over the period of a week.
06 Overfeeding your puppy: Let’s just all agree, it’s the Indian attitude to express love through food. But that is not true, either for humans or for dogs. Overfeeding a puppy leads to obesity later on in life. This leads to a number of problems including osteoarthritis and crippling lameness in some dogs. Therefore, only feed as recommended on the diet chart present on every bag of dog food.
07 Not exercising your pet enough: Long before dogs were domesticated, they were predators. They hunted in packs for food. The same instinct endeared their lupine forefathers to human. Dogs were initially domesticated to protect and hunt for man. Later on, they were used for herding. Of late, however, dogs are adopted just to be loved. Humans often forget that dogs have very keen minds and need good physical and mental activity to cater to their primeval instincts. People underestimate how much energy lies bundled up in their dogs. This is the reason dogs resort to destructive behaviour – because they have little else to do.
So, take your little pooch over to the walled terrace or front yard for a good romp. Later on, after she is immunised, put on your jogging shoes and take her out for a walk, at least twice daily.
08 Obedience training: Obedience training is the canine version of education. Obedience training should never be an attempt to turn your dog into an automaton. It, however, is the key to good communication between you and your pet. For example, instinct dictates a dog on a leash must pull. According to the dog, by pulling, he is only doing what he thinks is the right thing to do. Of course, the pet parent is going through hell trying to keep his dog from being run over. Leash walking, which is a part of obedience training, educates the dog that by walking next to the pet parent and letting him lead will keep them both happy.
Enlist the help of a good trainer to help with canine communication. Start young. Obedience training starts with potty training.
09 Sterilisation: Every pet puppy needs to be sterilised. Period. Do not be taken in by people saying that a female dog must be bred at least once in her life-time to satisfy her emotional craving for motherhood. Remember, in the wild, not all the females of the pack breed. It is only the alpha male and female who produce the little ones. The submissive females are all eliminated by a disease called pyometra (pus in the uterus). Sterilisation in the female is a permanent procedure, involving the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Studies have shown that sterilising a female dog before her first heat cycle (at around five months age) reduces the chances of mammary tumours (breast cancer) drastically, later in life.
Neutering (sterilisation) of young male dogs at around the age of five months reduces hormone induced aggression. Whole (unsterilised) males are prone to perineal hernias and prostatomegaly (prostatic enlargement) in later life. The sterilisation procedure does not affect their territorial behaviour – they will still continue to guard their home.
However, you will be gifting them a longer and healthier life.
10 First aid: Puppies attract trouble. They sniff, chew and lick in an attempt to explore their rapidly expanding world. Puppy proofing your house is definitely a good idea. But accidents do happen. There are times when the symptoms are overt – like a wound or vomiting. However, many people do not know whether their puppy has fever. Therefore it is essential that pet parents learn a few ‘first aid’ techniques like how to clean and dress a wound, how to check your pet’s temperature, how to administer oral medication to your puppy, etc.
A puppy is a wonderful new addition to you family. Let’s make it a beautiful experience for all involved.
(Dr Kadambari Venkatraman is a self confessed cynophiliac. She shares her home with two dogs and a number of other transient boarders she fosters. She has a Masters in Veterinary Surgery and Radiology and currently works with Animal Care Clinic in Hyderabad as a Consultant Veterinary Surgeon).