It was the summer of 2014, when my husband and I realized we both have always wanted to pet dogs. Getting a pup home is almost like having a baby, except for few responsibilities. They rely on us for vaccination shots, food, play, training, exercise and love.
If you are a first time pet parent, the first few days, or weeks might be overwhelming, but don’t worry, things will get way better. There will be so much more fun and love around that you might find it difficult to leave your pup/dog alone, even for a few days.
It has been almost two years since our decision, and we learnt many things along the way. I know these would be useful to many new, and soon-to-be pet parents as you make this most beautiful, life-changing choice. Trust me, because we had a fair share of “If only we knew this before” moments.
So, are you all ears?
Phase 1: Making the decision:
- Everyone in the house needs to be on board with getting a dog home. The dog is going to be a part of the family, and you don’t want to ruffle feathers before the word ‘go’. Also, while it might be a good idea to gift your kids with pets, the onus still rests on the elders. Ensure you can schedule time for your dog’s walks and play, before giving in to your child’s demand.
- While responsibilities are the branches, commitment is the root of this love. Once you bring a dog home, there should be no looking back. Several million dogs are being abused and abandoned every day, so let’s not add to it. This article of a dog running after his master, who abandoned him, might have had a good ending. But not every dog gets that lucky!
- Maintaining and caring for a dog has its share of expenses: food, medical, toys, etc. Based on the type of food, the breed of the dog, medical necessities, this would widely differ. Make sure you are still ready for the plunge.
Phase 2: Getting the facts right:
“Adopt. Don’t shop.” has become the mantra of all pet lovers. However, not all of us outsiders and first timers know what it means. Here is the why and what of it:
#There are neither stringent laws for animal protection, nor right awareness. Result: There has been steep rise in puppy mills, and breeders all over the country. There are several pet stores, and sellers selling pets on olx, FB, and the like. They are easily accessible, and sell dogs for lesser money than reputable breeders, that it has become necessary to nip their supply and our demand in the bud. Why?
These puppy mills, and most of the breeders (if not all) are interested only in the money. This means several female dogs are stuck in small cages most of their lives, and are mated constantly to give litter after litter of puppies. They are starved, malnourished, and often live on their own poop. It is neither good for the mother, nor the puppy and its health, so we need to step in.
Question the inevitable. Do they allow us to visit them? Are they willing to show us the mother? Do we know if the dogs are being cared for? If the answer is a resounding no, then that’s a red flag. I have come across puppies in pet stores that are locked up in crates, without food, water, or toys to play with. Most often their pee and poop in the crate doesn’t even get cleaned. As long as we keep buying from them, we are not only encouraging them
indirectly, but also animal cruelty.
Here is a special coverage on puppy mills by Oprah Winfrey to shed more light:
#Talking about breeders, there are also reputable breeders, who take enough care in nourishing the dogs that are with them. Depending on their standing, and the breed, they charge per pet. While few choose this route for ‘Conformation’ a.k.a. dog shows, many of us tend to buy, as we don’t come in contact with adoption centers as much as pet stores/breeders. Pet parenting in India has seen much rise only off late, and so right resources are not that handy. So yes, we have plenty of beautiful, healthy pups and dogs out there, but they want us to take home these priceless little fellows for free 🙂
When dogs don’t find a home, or are abandoned, they get euthanized in most countries. While in India this doesn’t happen as far as I know, many dogs do get killed illegally. The ones who rescue dogs might be able to tell several stories that will make your heart bleed. So now that you know the different options, please consider visiting an adoption center 🙂
The question of breeds?
There are so many different kinds of dogs out there: from the small pom and chihuahua, to the medium lab and golden, to the great dane and rottweiler. While few of us might have some sort of preference, or fondness to a particular breed, few of us might be just as happy with any one of them. The smaller breeds tend to bark a lot more, while they are also easy to carry around. Labs, golden are very friendly to family and strangers alike. Each of the breeds are unique and same, all at the same time.
However in my two-year association with everything dog, I have seen dog rescuers advocating on the need to take home indie/desi dogs, here in India. Because: thousands and thousands of them get killed, or die in road accidents, with not many people caring for them. As a native to the sub-continent, they are able to adapt a lot better to the conditions here compared to other breeds, and that’s definitely a plus. Having said that, even other breed dogs are put up for adoption. As long as we make sure we don’t make way for illegal breeding, majority of battle is won.
There are so many arguments, belief systems and opinions as it is, when it comes to adoption vs. buying, or indie dogs vs. other breed dogs. As a first time pet parent, I too learnt several things along the way, and I am merely passing the baton to the next pet parent: What you choose is up to you! 🙂
Because while we debate in the name of breeds, dogs are busy being dogs: loving and playing with each other like there is no difference, and the below picture says just that ❤
We surely could learn a thing, or two from ’em.
Phase 3: Prepping:
Phase 3 is all about getting acquainted with the doggie world. There are plenty of books, videos, online forums, and Facebook groups to give us the necessary glimpse, counsel, do’s and don’ts. There is no one way, because every dog is unique, and so also there are different schools of thought be it food, behavioral training, etc.
To start somewhere, we followed several dog experts like Ian Dunbar and Cesar Milan, and read their books. While familiarizing, you will also come across hot debates, support and criticism of Cesar’s approach. The idea is not to get carried away with any theories or approaches. Our intention is to merely acquaint ourselves with the doggie world, and tailor-make it to our own dog’s needs, as necessary, appropriate, and humane.
After all, our dog is our baby, we are not going to let some one else tell what to do with it. But eh, a bit of help on the way never went for a waste. Right?
I also recommend Ian Dunbar’s Before you get your puppy, and After you get your puppy books (Amazon link , or pdfs at dogstardaily – before book & after book). Once you get going, and grow your network, you will find several online video streaming and reading to keep you informed on the go, while you also discover newer experts in the field.
Phase 4: Ta da. You’re ready!
After the three phases, all you need to do is get that puppy, or the adult dog home. While few prefer a puppy, getting a house broken – i.e. potty trained – adult dog home must be equally exciting. Be open, and see what comes your way. Please remember:
- Every puppy needs to be with its mother for the first 8 weeks of its life, to get all the nourishment. If whosoever that gives you the pet says otherwise, be warned.
- Ensure vaccination shots and registration is in place, and do the follow-up as required.
Once the brat comes home, with minor and major bumps here and there, and a lot of frolic and glee, you are now officially the greatest pet parent your pet will ever have 😉 Congratulations!
Few pointers to help you with Phase 4:
Once you read Ian Dunbar’s books, you will also get familiar with terms like house breaking your fur baby. While few of them mention crate training, not all dogs prefer being in crates. My dog, and several dogs I know never used their crates. What works for you and your pet, doesn’t have to work for everyone else.
Dogs in their puppy phase can eat anything and everything in their vicinity. They need to be monitored constantly. Ensure wrappers, or things of any sort are not lying around the house. So puppy proof the house, before it’s too late.
Like babies, pups also go through their teething phase. They would constantly look to gnaw at things/clothes/pet parents 😀 You can train your dog to tell her/him on how much is too much. You would be quite amazed to see how quickly they pick up things. While discipline is always necessary, a bit of fun teething must always be welcomed.
This is also a good time to work on their bite pressure. Ian Dunbar talks about training your pups with this process, and very soon they learn what not to do. Here is a video 🙂
Since they are just like babies, we have to second guess their symptoms if something doesn’t look right. Meet the vet as situation demands. Observe their stools, sleeping pattern, etc. While Google is usually handy, having a reliable vet, who is a phone call away is equally important.
While it is not always the case, I have come across people, who believe that not only it is normal, but even ‘right’ to have their dog tied outside, through rain and shine. This is a big no-no. Dogs are pack animals, meaning they love being around us. Even if you are going from the living room to the kitchen, your fur baby will follow you. So don’t tie them outside please 🙂
Dog food is another area under constant tension. Should I give home food or canned food? Which company’s kibble might be better for your pooch? Likewise several questions have been raised, and I came across this report last year. Based on affordability, time, and several factors, you would come across just the right tasty and healthy choice for your pooch. Don’t you worry.
Please note kibble as a food option is mostly recommended for the first 6 months by vets, when your pup’s growing phase is at its best. Our home-made food might not give it the all-round nutrition that it needs. Observe your pup, and make changes where required.
Do ask the adoption agency what they were giving to your pup, and slowly shift to the new recommended food when you bring it home. Here is the thing, when a dog’s main food is changed, say from one company’s kibble to another, or from rice to chicken, etc., we should transition from old food to new food over the course of a week. Start with 75:25 for two days, then 60:40/50:50 for another two, 25:75 for two more, before we make it 100%
If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, has loose stools, something is not sitting well in its stomach. Research and network before switching your dog’s food, as there are several food choices that are toxic to dogs. Please note while there are few people who claim that their dogs love chocolate cookies, or onions in their pasta, there are also articles suggesting that they are toxic. There are always exceptions, but no risk is worth our pooch. Right?
Side note: I have come across few pages/groups in FB, where they deliver home-made food for dogs in Bangalore/other metros. Be on the look out, where necessary.
When they grow up from being a puppy into adolescent brats, please know that, like human kids, they might like to challenge us. We might have to revisit training, and let them know what is and isn’t accepted from them. It is said many dog owners tend to give up or abandon their puppies at this age, when they see a little rebellion. We don’t want to do that, do we? Expect it roughly around their 6 months, and as you add kindness with discipline, they will catch up 🙂
Ticks and fleas: There is a possibility that your pooch might get infested with either ticks or fleas, if left un-monitored in the country side, or with other dogs who are a host. It would be a good idea to check your pet for ticks, especially after a walk near dry countryside lawns, or as necessary. In the one time that my dog got infested with ticks after a visit to the local shelter, we tried several options, when finally a spot on worked for her. Be open to various options, and stick to what works for your pooch.
While it is important to trim your dog’s nails, please remember a little close cut might rupture their blood vessel, causing them to bleed. Unless you are very sure, get a professional groomer to help you out.
Dogs cannot survive as much heat as we can, so keep your dog well hydrated and cool enough in summer. Do not leave your dog in the car while you go for a 2 minute shopping. If you think your pooch is strong enough, or it’s just a short while this post from PETA will change your mind.
Pet travel in India is still at a nascent stage. While there are few airlines that offer this option, please note that dogs who have a smaller nose like pugs, might not survive air travel. As for alternate option, a confirmed first AC booth or coupé gives us an option to travel in Indian railways. Here is a detailed post from dogspot that gives you more info.
If travelling with your pooch is not an option, make sure you research on kennels and home stays for your dogs before making the plunge. Hotel for Dogs in Chennai and Bangalore is one good option I can think of 🙂
Get acquainted with – K9 vocabulary like separation anxiety, hot spot, rainbow bridge – neutering/spaying, and why we need to do it – dog shampoos, ear cleansers – their bathing schedules, and why many don’t like it.
Watch movies like Hachiko, Eight Below, Marley & Me, or read articles like this to know what it means to have a dog in your life.
Like there are different types of humans, dogs are wildly different too in their energy and temperament. The boys and the girls also express affection differently. Learn about them. 🙂
Get them used to bikes/cars/vacuum cleaners when they are small.
Not all toys can handle our dog’s love. Most of them might not survive few hours, or sometime minutes. Get used to it 😀 There is always an option to do some online shopping, so check out sites like barksnlicks.com and headsupfortails.com for toys and more. Lastly, here are a few FB groups that you could join to get things rolling: Bombat Dawgz, CUPA – Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, Bangalore, Pet-Sitters India, or follow Dr. Karen Becker’s page 🙂
Happy parenting, and happy cuddling folks!
With all my love to your pooch,