- Right reason: Adopt for the right reasons. Do not adopt if you only find the Vodafone Pug cute because a pup becomes a family member and requires time, attention and love.
- Warm welcome: Take consent of all family members. All members should be willing to welcome your new bundle of joy.
- Right breed: Consult a veterinarian/breeder for the right breed for you. Ensure you have time and commitment to take care of health, training, grooming, exercise needs and most importantly spending quality time with your canine baby. Do keep into account the energy level and requirement of the breed with your activity levels.
- Basic training: Train your pooch from Day 1. A well-behaved trained dog is a pleasure to be around.
- Age matters: A two months old puppy needs constant care in terms of food, cuddles and housetraining in comparison to a pup who is older. If you have somebody at home who can take care of the pup, will be great.
- No leash, no collar please: Please do not tie your dog or leave him in the garden/garage/guard room/balcony at home. Let him be free and comfortable in your home with you.
- Attending nature’s call: Before you leave for work and as soon as you are back, first attend to your dog specially his exercise and nature’s call needs. If you have help at home – who can do it, walk him will be nice. You can also keep newspapers in a shallow pan where he can relieve himself. This is important because this way, even if the pooch uses this space for relieving himself once in a while, your house would not be dirty.
- Dog proof his space: In order to keep your dog safe and also to ensure he does not hurt himself in separation anxiety, remove harmful things from his space. Give him things he would need – his comfortable bed, his toys, and of course plenty of clean drinking water and his regular food.
- Take help: If possible, you can have a help or a walker who can take your pooch out for his walk, when you are away. Ensure he is a reliable person and he takes him out on a leash.
- Spend quality time: Whenever you are at home, try to spend good quality time with him. Train him, play with him, groom him, take him out for a walk … do what two of you like!
- Make him comfortable: Depending on the weather ensure the pooch is comfortable, also if the pooch is at home alone – leaving the radio on for him is a great way.
- Toys: Toys to stimulate him and keep him busy are good. You could buy a Kong which can be filled with yummy treats to keep his boredom at bay.
I never imagined that I will be a pet parent someday. It’s my daughter who taught me how to love a pet. In fact, she was always afraid of dogs but wanted to have one. I don’t know how this miracle happened in my life as my daughter’s fear of dogs has gone away and I can’t stay away from my dog. Today she can pet him lovingly – she adores dogs now.
–Sahana Sharan, Mumbai
Growing up having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) left me with no friends and no one to talk to. My parents never wanted to come out of that state of denial because even today very few understand what ADHD is. I had waited for eight long years to get a pup. My brother convinced my father was two straight weeks, at last I have someone to talk to… Nimbus my pet! He lies down near my feet whenever I sit and work late in the night! Call it moral support or whatever, it works wonders. I am able to sit for long hours without realising I have ADHD. Someday, I wish to write a book or make a movie on Nimbus. He deserves it!
–Kaushik Keshava Ramanuja, Bengaluru
It happened when I was just 14 years old. One day while I was playing in our lawn, I heard a puppy yelping. I went out and found a small puppy under papa’s scooter, who seemed to have got separated from her mother. I adopted her and named her ‘Naughty’ – an adorable and loving dog! She was scared of firecrackers; because of her we never burst firecrackers on Diwali for almost 15 years. Even now – after so many years whenever we hear the sound of a firecracker, it reminds us of Naughty!
–Shweta Trivedi, Raebareli
We first adopted a stray when I was in class III in 1978. It happened on a very cold winter night, a puppy standing at our gate called us helplessly. My mother instantly rushed to pick her up. We named her Blacky. She stayed with us for 12 years and gave birth to two lovely sons called Tiger and Sheru. They all have gone but I can never forget them. Today, I am more than 45 years old and blessed with Bruno (Labrador) who has been growing along with my daughter. The amount of love we get from our pooches is unforgettable!
–Paramjeet Singh, Moga
My first puppy was a beautiful stray named Timmy. Got her from my uncle when I was in school around 15 years back. I took her home just for one day, but she stayed permanently with us as our family member. She was a sweetheart, the first pooch in our family. She was followed by Bonny (Doberman), Don (Labrador), Bindu (daughter of Timmy and Don) and Jacky (German Shepherd). All of them respected Timmy as the senior most in our family.
–Satyanarayan Swamy, Bengaluru
When I was just four years old, my parents asked me what I would want to become. “Animal doctor!,” I replied. They laughed. We got Sandy, a German Shepherd, when I was five. When I was in class VIII, I adopted a cross breed female dog named Cookie and four strays. After them came Blacky who gave birth to a sweet little pup named Jack. I also adopted a female German Shepherd named Lara and newest member in the pack is my first Pug called Liza.
–Nishi Chand, Lucknow
I’ll never forget the days Bruno helped me when one of my legs got fractured and I was bedridden for two months. Bruno was a brown Dachshund son of my parents’ pet dogs Buster and Juju. He stayed by my side during those days and only got down from the bed to answer nature’s call. The fracture healed within two months rather than the four predicted by the doctor. We shared an intuitive relationship which helped me become a true pet parent. My grief of losing Bruno in 2008 was lessened when my second pooch Coco entered my life.
–Vatsala Shukla, Delhi
Since childhood I saw army training dogs and wondered how they did it. My love for animals compelled me to help injured and abandoned ones. My parents always supported me for all these activities. Seeing my love for pets, my parents brought home a German Shepherd. I mark it as an important day of my life. It was on 3rd March 2010, I became a true pet parent to a German Shepherd.
–Pramit Kumar, Agra
5-6 months before departure
Veterinarian: Identify an authorised veterinarian in India who has experience with dogs travelling overseas. He should have microchips and a blood-serum-centrifuge at the clinic as well as a connection to EU-laboratories and a reliable courier company.
4 months before departure
Microchip + blood test: Minimum three months before the departure and minimum 30 days after vaccination, blood sample of the dog needs to be taken for a serological test. “This serological test for rabies has to be carried out as follows: a neutralising antibody titration at least equal to 0.5 IU/ml carried out on a sample taken by an authorised veterinarian at least 30 days after vaccination and three months before being moved. The titration has to be carried out in an EU-approved laboratory.” (Web source: Government of Austria: Entry and re-entry of dogs, cats, ferrets and other pets into Austria when travelling from third countries)
The blood-serum must be sent via courier (recommended: FedEx; if necessary special permissions for import of blood-samples into the EU for laboratory-tests are done by the courier company). The serum should be packed in ice immediately by the veterinarian, who then informs the courier company right away. During the transport of the serum from the Indian vet-clinic to the EU-laboratory the cold chain needs to be stable. Once at the EU-approved laboratory in the EU, the rules and regulations are the same for Austria and Germany as well as for many other EU-countries. However, check for exceptions like Finland, Malta, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Each animal has to be identified by a clearly readable microchip. The microchip number has to be identical with the number used on all forms.
2-3 months before departure
Airlines: Check the updated rules and regulations for pet travel on the website of the airlines.
- Call before your booking to check if space is available on the plane in the cargo hold. Upto eight kg (container size up to 55x40x23 cm) the pet can travel in the cabin.
- Book your flight tickets to the EU. Your pets must be on the same plane.
- Register your dog(s) via phone with the airline using your booking code.
- Purchase a flight-transport-container for your dog(s). The dog must be able to comfortably lie down and stand up in the container. Some airlines also provide a transport container. However, if you have your own, the dog can get used to it before travel. Transport containers are available at pet shops.
14 days before departure
EU-forms: The authorised veterinarian needs to examine the dog(s) maximum 14 days before departure and fill in the necessary forms: “Veterinary certificate for domestic dogs, cats and ferrets entering the European community for non-commercial movements (Regulation (EC)No 998/2003)”
48 hours before departure
Indian quarantine certificate: The last certificate needs to be obtained maximum 48 hours before departure from the Indian Animal Quarantine and Certification Service Station.
Approximate expenses: costs (costs can vary)
- Microchip + Blood sample + Service charge at the vet: 4,500 INR
- Courier (FedEx) transport of serum from India to EU: 2,000 INR
- EU-Laboratory Fee for Test + Certificate to be paid directly to the Lab;
35 Euro – 75 Euro depending on the Lab (2,300) 5,000 INR
- Flight transport: depending on the Airline; New regulations from 1st June 2011 at Austrian Airlines: Price per transport container (not weight of dog as before: 30 Euro/kg), depending on the size of container; e.g. container: 80x55x55cm (Medium size) = 150 Euro or 9,800 INR
- Transport Container (M size) (5,500) 6,500 INR
Sum of all costs per dog approximately is (425 Euro) 27,800 INRImportant forms, regulations and addresses: links + contacts
- Government of Austria: “Entry and re-entry of dogs, cats, ferrets and other pets into
Austria when travelling from third countries”
- List of important documents (Movement of Pets) Information and specimen certificate: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/pets/nocomm_third_en.htm
- Recommended EU approved Laboratories:
AUSTRIA: AGES Institut für veterinärmedizinische Untersuchungen, Robert Koch Gasse 17,
A2340 Mödling, Austria, Fr. Dr. Wodak, ph: 0043(0)50555-38230, email@example.com; www.ages.at/ages/ueber-uns/veterinaermedizin/formulare/tollwut-formulare/, Test done every month; Results available after 1-2 weeks;
Costs: 57 to 70 Euro GERMANY: Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen/ Diagnostic Laboratory
Institute of Virology Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Frankfurter Str. 107, D-35392 Giessen, Germany, Fr. Dr. Schichowski, ph: 0049(0)6419938351-63, firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.vetmed.uni-giessen.de/viro/en/diagnostik.php; Tests done 3x per week. Results available after 3 days. Costs: 35 to 45 Euro
- List of EU-approved laboratories for serological rabies tests:
- Recommended Vet: Dr Chaggars Dog & Cats Clinic, D-150 Saket, New Delhi-110017,
Ph: 011-26963525, 011-26515990, 011-26564087, 011-26962774, 09810089089, Email: email@example.com
- Animal Quarantine and Certification Service Station:
Dr Vijay Kumar, Quarantine Officer (SR), Animal Quarantine and Certification Service Station, Kapashera,
New Delhi – 110 037, Tel: 011-2506 3272, Fax: 011-2506 0647
- Recommended Airlines: Lufthansa: www.lufthansa.com (Transport of Animals), Ph:+49-1 80-5747100 Austrian Airlines: www.austrian.com (Transport of Animals), Ph: +43 (0)5 1766 1001
(All information has been carefully collected by the author through interviews with various veterinaries in New Delhi, pet-parents who travelled overseas from India and through research on the internet. Some of the regulations might change very fast. Therefore please check all sources relevant for your pet and country of destination before departure).
- Puppies require special attention: Encourage your puppy to interact with the world around her and be open to new situations or environments. This is also known as ‘socialisation’ and involves exposing your puppy to as many new things as possible.
- Dogs who are properly trained are much easier to manage, and can adapt more easily to new training programmes. Proper dog training should ideally be started as soon as you bring a dog into your home.
- Be sensitive to how quickly your dog can learn new commands. Different breeds of dogs have different levels of intelligence and will learn at different speeds.
- Pets respond to love and reward. Teach them right behaviour with patience.
- Dog training is a process of teaching a dog to perform behaviour in response to certain commands, most commonly as sit, lie down and teaching him to relieve himself outside.
- Potty training in particular can be difficult as some dogs need a bit of time to adapt going for that outdoor. House training is important issue for puppies. Consistent and regularly reinforced rules, litter box, crate or paper training can be successful.
- Success of your dog training directly depends on your clear understanding of the dog’s nature. When the dog wags his tail it means that he is pleased with the situation and he would like to play and have fun.
- Build a strong trust between you and your dog. This does require time and energy, so do not be lazy about it. Communication is pivotal when it comes to getting your dog’s confidence.
- There is no dog too old or young to learn these techniques. Regardless of the kind of background the dog has, any dog can be properly trained.
- The most effective way to train a dog involves using treats and positive reinforcement, besides clicker can also be used.
- Pet parents and dogs who attend training class together have an opportunity to learn more about each other and how to work together under a trainer’s guidance. Training is the most effective if all those who handle the dog take part in the training to ensure consistent commands, methods and enforcement.
- Most dogs live with people who want them to behave in ways that make them pleasant to be around, keep them safe and provide for the safety of other humans and pets. Dogs don’t figure out basic obedience on their own. The fundamental rule that must be remembered is that one should never apply human standards of society onto the dog with the assumption that the dog will understand.
- The hardest part of the training is communication with the dog in a humane way that the pet animal understands.
- Feed your puppy a special puppy-food diet for their first years.
- Feed your dog a high-quality, nutrient-rich dog food formula that is balanced enough to ensure proper digestion. It is also best to avoid dog food that contains artificial preservatives, colours or chemical flavouring. Fresh food is always best!
- A nutritionally balanced diet, with constant access to fresh water, is must for your dog.
- Groom her on a daily basis. Move a brush or comb through the hair of your dog, ensuring that her coat remains smooth and free of tangles. Make sure to keep her ears as well as teeth clean.
- Bathe your dog at regular interval as frequent bathing can dry out her skin and coat and result in skin infections. The best bet would be to bathe your dog once in a month. In case she gets too dirty in-between, rub her with a damp towel or wash just the paws.
- Give her lots of exercise. Keeping her busy physically will also help keep behavioural problems at bay. Walk her at least twice a day and play with her to keep mentally stimulated.
- Never keep your dog tied up.
- Provide proper area for your dog.
- Dogs crave companionship and do not like to be alone for long periods. So, try to spend as much time with your dog as possible.
- Collar your dog and attach an ID to it, with the dog’s name, your name, address and telephone number written on it.
- A proper physical examination of your dog on a monthly basis is a must.
- Regular veterinarian check-ups are recommended for your pooch.
(Arun Bajpai is an artist, stylist, interior/exterior designer of villas by profession and above all a great pet lover).
Fleas are small (1.5 to 3.3 mm long), agile, usually dark coloured, wingless insects with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 1.8 m and horizontally up to 3.3 m. This is around 200 times their own body length, making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper.
Why should you know about its life cycle?
In order to understand how and why treatment options work, it is important to understand the flea’s life cycle, since various modern treatment and prevention products work on different parts of this life cycle. The flea developmental cycle can be completed in as little as 14 days or last up to 140 days, depending mainly on temperature and humidity. There are several stages to its life cycle: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa or cocoon, and adult. The length of time it takes to complete this cycle varies depending upon the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and the availability of a nourishing host. Yes… the various flea stages are quite resistant to freezing temperatures.
What is a flea bite?
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) or flea bite hypersensitivity is the most common dermatologic disease of domestic dogs. Cats are also afflicted with FAD, which is one of the major causes of feline military dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis is caused by flea bites, specifically the saliva of the flea. It is a very itchy condition and predisposes to the development of secondary skin infections. Oddly enough, most animals with flea allergy have very few fleas – because they are so itchy, they groom themselves excessively, eliminating any evidence of fleas. However, a couple of flea bites every two weeks are sufficient to make a flea allergic dog itchy all the time. Any animal can become allergic to fleas, although some dogs are more attractive to fleas than others. While feeding, fleas inject saliva that contains a variety of histamine-like compounds, enzymes, polypeptides, and amino acids that span a wide range of sizes (40-60 kD) and induce Type I, Type IV, and basophil hypersensitivity. Flea-naive dogs exposed intermittently to flea bites develop either immediate (15 minutes) or delayed (24-48 hours) reactions, or both, and detectable levels of both circulating IgE and IgG antiflea antibodies.
Flea bite injecting saliva leading
to development of flea allergy dermatitis
Clinical signs associated with FAD are variable and depended on frequency of flea exposure, duration of disease, presence of secondary or other concurrent skin disease, degree of hypersensitivity, and effects of previous or current treatment. Non-allergic animals may have few clinical signs other than occasional scratching due to annoyance of flea bites. Those who are allergic will typically have a dermatitis that is characterised by pruritus.
- In dogs, the pruritus associated with FAD can be intense and may manifest over the entire body.
- Classic clinical signs are papulocrustous lesions distributed on the lower back, tailhead, and posterior and inner thighs. Dogs may be particularly sensitive in the flanks, caudal and medial thighs, ventral abdomen, lower back, neck and ears.
- Affected dogs are likely to be restless and uncomfortable, spending much time scratching, licking, rubbing, chewing, and even nibbling at the skin.
- Hair may be stained brown from the licking and is often broken off.
- Common secondary lesions include areas of alopecia, erythema, hyperpigmented skin, scaling, papules, and broken papules covered with reddish brown crusts. The rump and tailhead areas are typically the first and most evident areas affected.
- As FAD progresses and becomes chronic, the areas become alopecic, lichenified, and hyperpigmented and the dog develops secondary bacterial and yeast infections.
- In extremely hypersensitive dogs, extensive areas of alopecia, erythema, and self-trauma are evident. Traumatic moist dermatitis (hot spots) can also occur.
- As the disease becomes chronic, the dog may develop generalized alopecia, severe seborrhea, hyperkeratosis, and hyperpigmentation.
How is it diagnosed?
Flea allergy dermatitis is a common cause of itchiness and scratching in dogs, but other medical problems can lead to similar symptoms. Other disorders that must be excluded are: Food allergy , Atopy, Trauma or other cause of local skin irritation, Sarcoptic mange, Cheyletiellosis (a mite infestation), Otitis externa (ear infection) and Primary keratinization defects.
Other test options are:
- A complete medical history including questions about itchiness, areas of involvement, prior history of skin problems, diet, response to therapy, and any concurrent medical conditions.
- A thorough physical examination, including examination of the skin.
- Fecal flotation tests to determine the presence of concurrent gastrointestinal parasites or identify tapeworms, which are transmitted via fleas.
- Skin scrapings examined under the microscope to detect mange mites (sarcoptes, cheyletiella, demodex). The sarcoptic mange mite can be very difficult to find and several skin scrapings may have to be collected.
Some pets may have more than one medical problem. For example, scratching or biting due to flea irritation can cause a “hot spot” (acute moist dermatitis) and secondary bacterial skin infection (pyoderma) can follow.
Final diagnosis of flea allergy is made based on history, clinical signs and a positive response to flea control.
How can it be treated?
Treatment of flea allergy dermatitis involves three phases:
- Prevention of flea bites – The most important part of protection is preventing flea bites with aggressive flea control on the dog and in the environment.
- Treatment of secondary skin infections. Antibiotics and antifungal drugs may be necessary to treat secondary skin infections triggered by the flea allergy.
- Breaking the itch cycle. If the dog is intensely itchy, a short course of steroids may be necessary to break the itch cycle and make the dog more comfortable.
How can it be prevented?
- Use of effective & safe flea control product on the dog on a regular basis beginning one month before the flea season starts and continuing up until one month after the flea season ends.
- Use of frequent vacuuming and carpet cleaning strategies to remove eggs and larvae from the dog’s indoor environment. Use of professional cleaning or exterminating service in difficult cases.
- Frequent grooming of the dog with a “flea comb” may be helpful to remove fleas.
Attempting to control fleas on our dogs is a multi-step process. There is no successful ectoparasites’ control programme that does not involve treating the environment. To have a successful fleas control programme, one must follow steps to remove fleas from the indoor and the outdoor environment. For the same, usage of insecticidal product as water spray or mopping is suggestive in the pets surroundings also.
(Dr Manish Kawatra, Dr Mandar Deshpande and Dr Vishal Surve of Bayer Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd.)
In the last issue, we discussed how to zero in your search for a perfect puppy, how to make him comfortable at home and taking care of his heath needs. Here’s more on this crash course in the field of pet parenting. Keep your dog safe
- ID tags: Get an identification tag with your name, address and phone number and make sure it is attached to your dog’s collar at all times. This will increase the chances of your pooch being returned to you if he is lost or ran away chasing a cat! Have current pictures of your dog handy in case you need to start a search for him.
- Travel safely: It’s always fun to take your pet on family trips. Take extra precautions and plan ahead of time to make sure the vacation goes smoothly. Never allow your dog to hang his head out of the car window.
- Find a boarding kennel or pet-sitter: If you are unable to take your dog with you, make adequate arrangements for his care in your absence. Check out the kennel beforehand, inspect the facilities and listen to what others have to say about the place.
- Prepare for disaster: Make an emergency kit with first aid equipment and some food. Keep it at a quickly accessible place in the house. In case of other emergencies, like sudden illness or hospitalization, enlist a friend or family member to take care of your dog. Leave a list of general care instructions in a safe place.
- Make a will: Make arrangements for the safety and care of your dog for his lifetime in your will.
All work and no play make
Bruno and Bruno’s parents dull!
- Play!: Dogs, of course, love to play. Some live to play! Set aside time each day for play sessions. Not only does it provide an outlet for your pup’s energy, it strengthens the bond between you two.
- Go on walks: Take your dog on frequent walks. He will enjoy exploring the neighbourhood scents and smells and will benefit from the exercise. So will you!
- Talk to your dog: He might not understand the words but dogs do understand the tone and pitch of human voice. Oh, and don’t forget to scratch your dog’s belly often.
- Give your time: You may be tired after a long day at work or home, but your dog spends the entire day eagerly waiting for your return. Remember, you are the centre of your dog’s world. Give him time- pet, talk, play, laugh, share and love.
Train yourself to train your dog
- Know who is the alpha: Dogs are pack animals by nature and need to know who heads the pack. You should be the pack leader and establish the same in your dog’s understanding of the family as a pack.
- Basic commands: Training your dog will not only prevent destructive behaviour on his part or make life easier for you, but will also stimulate the dog intellectually. Basic commands such as sit, stay, come and down are also essential for your pet’s safety.
- Socialise your dog: To ensure that your puppy grows up to be a confident yet friendly adult dog, expose him to different people and places regularly. Take him to the park, to the pet store, on a walk through your locality and meet up with other pet parents.
- A dog with a job: Keep your dog active mentally as well as physically. Teach him to fetch the newspaper, carry a bag or even his toy. Make your doggie sit before giving a treat or lay down before going for a walk. Give your dog a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Breed responsibly- rather, avoid breeding
- Sterilise: Spay or neuter your dog to prevent accidental breeding resulting in unwanted puppies. Animal shelters are full of puppies looking for homes. Don’t add more to the number.
- Breed to improve: Breeding should only be done for the advancement or raising the standard of the breed. Consider the consequences, as well as the expenses of breeding a litter before you do so. Be ethical.
Participate and get involved
- Join a kennel club or local group: Meet others with dogs and plan group activities. If there aren’t any such groups in your neighbourhood, take the initiative to make one. Your dog will thank you!
- Be up-to-date: Equip yourself with knowledge about the canine world, be it new training techniques, toys or even food brands. Keep up with the latest dog news and information.
Be a canine ambassador
- Set an example: How often have people commented on your dog based on the previous experiences with other dogs? One irresponsible pet owner in a neighbourhood can make life difficult for all pet parents. Try not to be that one.
- Respect your neighbours and house guests: Don’t expect everyone to love your dog as much as you do. Keep him on your property and if he has a barking problem, teach him not to bark without real provocation. Don’t force your dog’s company on a visitor who isn’t comfortable with dogs. They’ll never know what they are missing in life!
- Know and follow local laws: Read up on the laws regarding dog ownership in your area and respect them. These may include registration, leash laws and breeding laws. In case of the absence of any such laws, use your common sense to ensure well being of your pet, and the neighbourhood.
- Stand up for the voiceless: Be aware of any legislation developing in your state with regard to pet dogs or even local strays. Have an opinion on the issue and don’t shirk from voicing it. Someone needs to talk on behalf of the voiceless, right?
- Share your dog: Dogs are invaluable when it comes to providing company to humans, for example, visiting the sick, helping the disabled, playing with specially abled children, locating missing persons, and much more. If you think your dog has the right temperament to benefit others, help him help the world.
- Flaunt your fur baby: Of course, you should reward your dog and let him know when you’re proud of him, but let others know it too. Many dogs love attention and being in the company of humans. Bringing a well-behaved dog into public places and showing off his tricks and talents is a great way for both of you to socialise while having fun.
- Don’t let your dog down: You aren’t a dog parent just on the weekends, or when you have spare time. You aren’t a dog parent only when he is well behaved, or when people compliment him, or when he wins at an event. You become a pet parent when you bring a dog into your family and remain a parent throughout the dog’s life. If you can’t keep that commitment, don’t make it. And once you’ve made it, don’t break it.
Try to live by the famous quote, “My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.” May you graduate from being a pet owner to being a pet parent with honours. To test how well you are doing, check whether the tail beside you is wagging or not ….
A graduation ceremony is not just about black cloaks, tassle hats and degree rolls but a recognition of progression from one stage of life to another. Here’s a crash course in the field of pet parenting.
The two phrases mentioned above, ‘pet owner’ and ‘pet parent’ are often used interchangeably and hence, the dividing line between them may seem confusing to many. Owning a pet is limited to buying a dog or cat and can be interpreted as referring to your pet in terms of a possession. On the other hand, parenting the same puppy or kitty is a lifelong process, which begins even before you bring home your new fur child. If you are a dog lover and thinking of bringing home a pup, consider the commitment a pet dog entails. If you already have a dog or even a pack of dogs, deliberate how well you are fulfilling your obligations as a pet parent. Here’s a guide to pooch parenting:
Think before you act
Recognise the commitment: It’s a lifelong emotional and financial commitment. Assess whether you and your family are willing to commit yourselves to parenting the pup for at least the next ten years.
Evaluate the suitability of your lifestyle: A dog will become a large part of your life and hence it’s important to ensure he is compatible with your lifestyle. For example, if you are very active and intend to take your dog on long walks or excursions, a dog who has a low energy level will not accommodate well. These considerations are not just restricted to you but also include your family members’ hobbies, activities, personalities and schedules.
Make a list: Based on your evaluation, determine what qualities and characteristics you want in a dog. Some important aspects to consider are size, energy level, ease of training, grooming needs and temperament. Do you have children or elderly at home? Do you want a guard dog or a lap dog? Address these questions beforehand.
Shortlist suitable breeds: Once you have made a list of ideal characteristics, do your research work. Narrow your choices and select a few breeds that fit closest to what you are looking for. Remember, a mixed breed or ‘mutt’ can often fulfill your criteria for selection, unless you are very particular about the way a particular breed looks.
Find contacts or visit shelters: You have a better chance of finding a healthy puppy if you get your dog from a responsible, ethical breeder. If you are looking to adopt, visit animal shelters in your area and talk to the staff there. Be open to adopting a dog with special needs, if you think you can make the extra commitment.
Be inquisitive and expect questions: Ask the breeder any questions you can think of about his dogs, breeding programme and the breed in general. If you are not convinced with the breeder’s replies, trust your instinct and look for another one. When you find a breeder you are comfortable with, visit the kennel and meet the dogs. Inquire about health problems of the breed, whether any health tests have been done on the dogs, possibility of any genetic problems and what can be done to prevent or control them. A responsible breeder or shelter will ask you about the type of home you can offer. Ethical breeders and shelters are as committed as you are to finding the right dog for you. Give honest answers to their questions.
Take the plunge and make the commitment
Finalise your puppy/dog: If your breeder has an opinion about which puppy is right for you, take it into account. If you are re-homing an older dog or adopting from a shelter, ask your contact person for information on his health, temperament, behaviour and past history.
Get your papers in order: Information about the sale or adoption should be in writing. Your contract should include details regarding any fees/cost, health guarantees, spay-neuter agreements, re-selling of the pup etc. If possible, also include what will be done, if for any reason, you are unable to keep the dog. Most responsible breeders and shelters will insist that the dog be returned to them. Also, get the kennel club registration papers for your puppy from the breeder.
Ready. Set. Go!
Prepare yourself: Try to make the transition smooth for both, you and the puppy. Buy essentials like food, water bowls, collar, leash, treats, toys, shampoo and grooming tools required for the particular breed in advance.
Plan a schedule: Discuss and decide who in your family with be responsible for ensuring food and water are given timely, walking and taking the pup for toilet breaks, grooming and training. Emphasize the importance of the entire family following the same schedule to help the new pet adjust better and learn faster.
Dog-proof your house: Just like you childproof a house for a toddler, make adequate changes to ensure your puppy’s safety. Make electrical cords inaccessible to curious paws and wet noses. Move breakables or ‘chewables’ to higher ground. Block off areas of the house that you want off-limits to the dog. Check your fence for broken areas and ensure there is no route for the puppy to run out. Start putting your shoes in the closet!
Crate training and bedding: Every dog needs a quiet place to call his own and feel secure in. If you are planning to crate train your dog, get a crate, a mattress or a doggie bed suitable to the breed size. Create a comfortable area for him.
Buy some toys: Provide your dog with a variety of toys of varied textures and sizes to prevent him from playing with your socks and shoes, furniture, pillows- just about anything! Get some chew toys to ease the teething process and control destructive chewing from the beginning.
Find a veterinarian: Talk to other pet parents about their experiences with their respective vets. Choose a veterinarian for your dog before bringing the pup home and have him examined by the vet as soon as possible.
Bring your dog home – finally!
Welcome your new pet: Give him the best welcome possible. Remember it’s not just about you living with a new pet, but also the pup living with many new humans. Encourage mutual respect, patience and lots of love.
Give your puppy time to adjust: Separated from his siblings and mother, plus a new environment and new people, most puppies would feel homesick, insecure and scared. Give your pup time to adjust to his new home. Let him explore the new surroundings under supervision.
Make introductions: Introduce your dog to members of the household gradually. Don’t invite neighbours, friends and other family members to ooh and aah over your fur baby until he feels safe around you. Introductions also include meeting other animals in the house. Don’t expect all your pets to get along right away, and don’t try to force them to play together. Give them time to adjust to one another. Always watch out for any out-of-the-ordinary behaviours displayed by either the new pup, or older pets.
House-breaking: Toilet training begins the moment you bring home your pup. Whichever method of housetraining you have chosen, for example, paper training or crate training, make sure that all members of the family know about it and enforce it consistently. Accidents will happen, so be prepared to clean-up.
Vaccinate, visit the veterinarian: Set up a schedule for regular check-ups with your vet and follow the vaccination schedule. Don’t shy away from asking the vet questions about your dog’s diet, behaviour, activity level or other concerns. Have a vet’s number readily available for emergencies.
Diet and exercise: Figure out a diet that works best for your dog and suits you as well. Keep the diet consistent. Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Make sure that your home and yard are free from poisonous substances and be aware of foods that are unsafe for dogs. Dogs need regular exercise and are prone to health problems resulting from the lack of it. Most dogs love walking, playing ‘fetch’ and catching Frisbees and would rather do that than laze around!
Groom and bathe: Grooming is not just about fluffing up Fifi! All dogs should be groomed regularly for health reasons. The frequency of bathing and type of grooming depends on the breed, coat length and texture, amount of dirt in the dog’s environment or the amount of dirt your dog likes digging into! Some short-coated breeds may need brushing once a week, while some longer-coated breeds need daily brushing to prevent matting and to reduce shedding. Other aspects of grooming include nail clipping, brushing the teeth, hair clipping and paw pad care.
Be alert to changing needs: As your dog grows from a puppy to an adult to a senior, his needs will change. He will sleep more often, require a different diet, be less active and may face problems associated with old age. Your pet may not be as ‘fun’ as he once was, but remember he is the same dog you loved as a puppy and committed yourself to.
Let go when the time comes: If, due to illness or old age, your dog reaches a point where his quality of life is severely compromised, ask your vet what to do. It may be difficult for you but think about your fur baby’s suffering. Letting go is sometimes the kindest thing you can do.
Over the years, we have related the term ‘hygiene’ or cleanliness with just a ‘bath’ when it comes to our pets, but it is not so. Here’s what is meant by pet hygiene.
Whenever you give a bath to your beloved pet, you feel that the canine kid has become neat and clean. But while giving him a bath, did you give special attention to areas like the eyes, ears, under pads, nails, toilet areas, under stomach and the teeth. Here’s what you can do to keep your pet hygienic:
- While giving your pet a bath, ensure that no soap or shampoo goes into his eyes and ears.
- If your pet belongs to a hairy breed, loose hair can enter the eyes while scrubbing and irritate our pets. Take them out with the help of a cotton ball.
- If your pet is a Pug, Pekingese, Sharpie, Bulldog, Bloodhound, Bullmastiff, etc, they have folds beneath the eyes. Try to wipe in between the folds with the help of your fingers. Such areas should also be later dried properly with cotton balls or a soft towel after the bath. Regular cleaning of these areas will keep your pet away from skin/fungal infections, which easily develop in moist or damp areas.
- Clean each ear with dry cotton balls after the bath to take out any wax deposits and any residue.
- The under pads, under stomach and the toilet areas need to be individually checked and scrubbed to take out any unwanted deposits.
- Do not clip your pet’s nails at home as they carry live veins and if not clipped professionally can start bleeding.
- Some pets give out bad odour even after a nice bath. What we may not realise is that the odour might not be coming from the body but Whroo, Whroof, yes you got it right, it may just be coming from the mouth. If your pet has a dirty brownish colour deposit on the teeth (tartar), it may give out a bad odour. Brushing the teeth with toothpaste or using other products which can be added to the food for tartar removal can tackle this issue.
- Give your pet regular chews to chew at as the chewing action helps in removing the tartar deposit on the teeth causing bad breathe.
- If you still smell an odour, check his ears and if still something is bothering you, do visit your vet to get your pets anal glands checked!
- With the summers in and if you have a breed with long hair, give your pet a summer clip to keep him knot free, relaxed and chilled out through the season.
(Preeti and Sanjeev Kumar of Scooby Scrub, New Delhi are professional certified groomers (Thailand) and animal welfare workers.)
For all those you are skeptical to keep your child and pet together, here comes the respite. You can nurture a beautiful bond between the two, which you all can cherish for life.
A widespread concern amongst countless pet loving parents is the safety of their little children around the canine companions of the family. In fact, living with pets can account for some of the most valuable learning experiences in the growing up years of children. What it takes is only a little understanding of your pet’s and your child’s mind frame, along with a little effort to guide these mentalities towards the positive areas. And when these efforts begin to pay off, you would get to witness one of the purest and closest relationships to have flourished in your home.
How children benefit from pets?
- Affectionate relationships with pets help in bringing down levels of stress and depression, which are much on the increase among children from all age groups and social backgrounds. A dog becomes a source of best confidante.
- Positive feelings towards dogs and animals in general are also, in addition, known to be instrumental in developing positive self-esteem in children, along with other social virtues such as compassion, patience, nurturing and empathy. Pets play a significant role in the personality development process of a child.
- Responsibility is perhaps the most important lesson that your child is likely to learn at a very young age by living with a pet dog.
- Adopting a dog is no lesser than caring for a small baby. They both depend on us for food, shelter, love and care. The truth however is that once the attachment develops between the kid and the dog, feeding, walking, bathing, and grooming will no longer seem like work but a lot of funs. Encourage your child in helping you take care of the dog and praise him or her for the good work.
- Further, the activities that your child would participate in while caring for the dog would help instil a sense of discipline and patience; luckily for you, at a fairly young age.
- Pets have their own specific time slots fixed for walking, feeding and sleeping and tend to follow the set schedule consistently. Your child then, having been explained this by you, would have to be particular about following the schedule.In addition, by being occupied by these activities, your child is also likely to spend lesser time watching television or playing video games. Isn’t that something to cheer about!?
- A pet around the house also helps the couple who are expecting their second. Small children tend to feel insecure and depressed at the arrival of a new baby brother or sister in the family. However, having learnt how to spend loving and fun time with the house pet, such life transitions can become easier for your child. It would also teach your child a very important lesson of sharing.
- For those who fear your child’s health merely due to the existence of a pet in the house, it is interesting to know findings of research, which report that, children who have pets at home have a stronger immune system than those living without pets. The reason stated is children run less risk of being sensitive to allergens.
- Games/training sessions teach the child about goals/objectives and achieving success in it helps improve their confidence and makes them focussed too.
- According to a new Swedish study, children can improve their reading skills by practicing reading aloud to their dogs.
- Since dogs communicate by their body language a child can thus learn to understand and read non-verbal communication.
- Needless to say a dog helps a child remain fit and active.
- Children also learn to cope with emotional issues and life’s upheavals better.
- A child learns to trust, be a good listener, learns to focus not only on self but also on people around. Most importantly, a child gets a sense of security with a friend who is truly his.
- A child can also learn beautiful aspects from a dog’s personality: be enthusiastic, express your feelings, have perseverance (specially when he wants a treat!), enjoy small moments of life, look for opportunities and be a friend, live in harmony with nature, Live & Let Live!
There is no denying that the busy schedules of parents these days leave them little time to spend with their children. Why not make that available time quality-time? And what better than to have some fun with your kid while walking, training, feeding, bathing, playing and planning for your canine friend—all of you together as one healthy happy family!
Establishing the fact that adopting pets can be more beneficial than harmful for your child, we imply again that kids and pets can get along famously.
Fostering a beautiful bond between a child and a pet
You, as parents, can help in building a safe and loving relationship between your dog and your child. To achieve this, it will be useful to follow certain basic guidelines or rules, the application of which will ensure a great start for both your child and pet, while they love and enjoy each other’s company:
Basic obedience – a must: Make sure that your dog is well trained and well socialized. Basic obedience skills should be well established in your pet, by which, commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘stand,’ ‘stay’ and ‘no’ are obeyed consistently. This will enable a better relationship with your pet.
Your child– his little pet parent: Try to transfer responsibility of the pet over to your child but under your supervision always. This can be accomplished by letting your child actively participate in all the activities associated with your pet, including walking him, feeding, playing ‘catch the ball,’ etc. He would realize that the child means to take good care of him and will reciprocate in kind gestures. Also divide duties according to the age of your child.
Your pet needs to be respected: Teach your child that pets are not toys, but living beings who have feelings and experience pain. Some children resort to cruel ways of playing, which is totally unacceptable. Teach them to be kind and gentle.
Touching the right way: Teach your child how to stroke a pet gently and lovingly. Show him or her how to touch which body part appropriately and make clear which parts the pet would not like to be touched at. In this way, you would help in making interactions between your pet and your child, loving, fun and pleasurable.
Don’t let your dog chase your child: Your child must be made to learn that he or she must never run in front of a dog or try to run away from a dog. The reason being that dogs are instinctive hunters and tend to instinctively start chasing anything that runs in front of them, owing to the creation of a predator/prey instinct.
Giving space: Give your pet his own exclusive space in the house. If your dog does not have a corner or a bed for himself, it is advisable to create one. It is important, in addition, that your child respects the space given to the dog and does not disturb him while he is enjoying that space. Animals, like all humans, also need their own personal space and time. If they are deprived of it, they are likely to compete for it. Children, being the smallest in size in the family, tend to be looked at as the easiest competition for your pet. Also ensure when your child’s friends are over, your dog is not disturbed and is at ease.
Respecting possessive nature: If there are certain things that your pet is extra-possessive about and tends to protect from others, it is wise to keep your child away from those things. These might include some toys, food, his bed, etc. Your pet is likely to become aggressive at the time he feels insecure regarding his prized possession, perhaps thinking that it might be snatched away. Teach children not to trouble a dog while eating/sleeping and never to snatch a toy away from him.
Encouraging good hygiene: Encourage good hygiene in your child, especially when it comes to interacting with your pets. Ensure that your child washes his or her hands regularly, especially before eating anything, since a lot of his or her activities in the house will involve touching the pet or something that belongs to him.
Behavioural training – a must: If your pet displays certain behavioral problems, such as becoming aggressive at situations, resisting obedience training, being excessively disobedient, throwing tantrums, showing excessive fear of some situations or people etc., deal with them at the earliest. It is advisable to consult a veterinary doctor or a behaviour therapist to diagnose the cause behind the problems and further find solutions to them.
Your guidance and supervision – very important: You must take the initiative in caring for your pet and encourage your child to actively participate in doing so too, of course under your supervision and guidance.Under your guidance enjoy this beautiful bond!
As the day was dawning, I saw a bright enthusiastic light. It came to me and was just like a shooting star in the night. His eyes were shining bright, In his posture was might. I was touched by his beautiful sight, I was delighted, I named him life. He took the dark side of my life, And brought joy. His furry fur was white as snow, His ears soft as foam, His move was gentle as wind His nose was wet as rain. He won my heart by these things. He made an aim for me to live in this world, We both promised each other to live together forever. And we both have spent these many years together, In talking – playing – enjoying and doing things, which we both like a lot. If there is rebirth, then I wish for having Snoopy as my pet in all my rebirths. Having a beautiful dog like Snoopy is just ‘AWESOME’.
–Rashmita, Hyderabad (Winner of the Softas Creative Kids Contest–Intas)
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