This is a submission from Mrs. Sheila A. Sood.
My talk is mainly directed towards the “first-time” owner, be it a puppy or a fully-grown dog that you are contemplating buying.
Now, why do you want to keep a dog?
There are several good reasons for becoming a dog-owner, and there are some that are not so good.
The first reason may be because you JUST LOVE DOGS. That in itself is complete. It does not need any further explanations.
The second reason may be that you had a dog when you were a child and you would like to have one now. Well, that’s reasonable enough, but you must remember that when you were a child, presumably, the dog was not your responsibility, but that of your parents. Now that you are an adult, are you really prepared for that responsibility yourself?
The third reason may be because you need company. If the other members of the household are away all the day, and there is nobody in the house, or even if your neighbors are also away all day, then a dog is the ideal company for you. A dog is loving, faithful, seems to understand when you are a bit “down”, and uncannily knows when somebody is ill, and needs cheering up.
The fourth reason is security. It is less likely that your house will be burgled, if the thieves know that there is a dog in the house. After all, thieves do not rob houses at random. They watch the house, notice when the occupants go out, talk to the servants etc, so they will come to know whether there is a dog in the house. Even if the dog is a small one, it will have a loud enough bark to make any thief think again before breaking in.
The fifth reason is definitely a “no-no”, although for some people, unfortunately, it is enough to buy a dog. The reason? STATUS SYMBOL. Especially if the dog is one of the less common breeds, or if it is imported.
Another reason for buying a dog or a puppy is that the children would love one. That in itself is a good enough reason, BUT, no matter how often the children say, “Oh yes, don’t worry, we will look after it “, it is almost virtually impossible for a school-going child, or a college student to take time from their studies and look after a dog properly.
For the same reasons, gifting a dog or puppy as a”Christmas present” or “birthday present” is inadvisable, as the recipient’s commitment to the pet may be lacking.
One should always ask the question, “Does every member of the household – servants included – like dogs?” This should be considered very carefully especially since some people are allergic to dogs. Also, if your household is one where the owners will be out for long period of time, and the dog will be left with the servant, make sure that the servant likes dogs.
Another point to consider is that will there be somebody at home all day, or at least for part of the day? If dogs are left alone for long periods, they can get bored, and can be very destructive, chewing the cushions, scratching the paint work etc. Not only this, after the owners leave, the dog can howl and bark miserably for hours, and that doesn’t go for good neighborly relations.
One person in the family should be primarily responsible for its puppy training, but for grooming, preparing the food, taking it for walks, taking it to the vet etc can all be shared by various members of the family.
You should find out a good vet in the neighborhood. Notice people with dogs, and ask them where is the nearest vet, and pet food shop. Don’t worry, dog owners are very friendly people, and as a rule are always ready for “dog talk” so you can easily come by some useful hints on dog care etc by just being friendly.
It is most important that you get to know your friendly neighborhood vet as early as possible, for who knows when you may need his/her services in an emergency?
Don’t forget, your dog will in all probability be a member of your family for the next ten years or so. He should be treated like a family member. Also take into consideration that holidays will have to be arranged more carefully –
- Can you take your dog with you?
- Can you travel with your dog?
- Will your hotel or the place where you will be staying, accommodate a dog?
If the answer to any of these three questions is “NO”, then you will have to make arrangements to keep your dog in a boarding kennel, which unfortunately in India, are very few and far between.
Consider where you live, whether in a bungalow, a large flat, a small flat, on the ground floor, or on an upper floor. It is not fair to a big dog to be kept in a small flat with no garden or park near by. If you live in an upper-floor flat, you should also consider the possibility of lifts not working and then the dog may have to be carried up or down the stairs three or four times a day. Also take into consideration that as the dog gets older it may develop stiffness of its joints, making it difficult and painful to climb several flights of stairs.
If you live in a large block of flats, make sure that your society members have no objection to dogs. Some societies do not allow pets in the lifts.
All dogs need at least some outdoor exercise every day, which should include running around in a park. Just walking on the lead is not enough.
Will you choose a long-haired or a short-haired dog? A long-haired dog looks very beautiful when it is properly cared for, but that takes a lot of time. Also consider that all dogs (except the Poodle) shed their coats, so you will be likely to have dog’s hairs on the carpets and sofas.
Now that you have your dog at home, one of your first responsibilities is to ask your vet to make a house visit, to give a check up and to give advice about vaccinations. It is most important that you should take your puppy for walk, as this will be part of the all-important aspect of “socialization”. This subject will be covered in depth later by another speaker.
Ask the breeder or previous owner about feeding habits, also whether the dog is a vegetarian or a non vegetarian. It is not necessary to stick to the old diet if it is faulty, but a change should be gradual.
Do not take a puppy before it is 5 or 6 weeks old. By that time it will have got immunity from its mother, also it will have been weaned nicely, so that by the time you have the puppy, it will be able to eat solids from its own dish.
If you are taking an older dog, ask the owners why they are giving it to you. An adult dog will take a little time to settle down, but with lots of love and attention it shouldn’t be too difficult.
There are plenty of books available on the market, so you can be a little informed about “doggy-ways” before you actually bring it home. Keeping yourself informed about dogs is very much your responsibility, as there is always so much to know and learn. Books, seminars (like this one) require an investment in time and money.
If you are choosing “pick of the litter”, and do not know how to go about it, take another knowledgeable person with you . Some unscrupulous breeder may try to pass on a weakling, if you are not fully aware of puppy behavior.
Do not be in haste about buying a puppy, as a suitable puppy or dog is not necessarily available on demand. If you are looking for a pure-bred puppy or dog, insist on being given the original Registration Certificate of the puppy itself, with the breeder’s signature in the appropriate place to confirm that the pup has been given to you. Do not be bluffed into accepting Xerox copies or accept being shown the original certificates of the puppy’s parents. If in doubt, phone and ask the INKC office about the litter you are considering.
After exercising due diligence, remember that a live puppy is not like a branded product with a guarantee. Nobody can predict exactly how a puppy will turn out when grown, which will also depend a lot on you, as the owner. Also, an apparently healthy puppy may contract some disease, or even die. This happens occasionally in spite of the best intentions and sincerity of the breeder as well as the purchaser.
Now, the responsibilities of the BREEDER.
Do not breed from your bitch if you are not in a position to sell the puppies directly to worthy owners. A breeder who sells to the market dealer or to middle-men is not a true breeder, but is merely running a puppy-mill.
Have the entire litter registered with the Indian National Kennel Club, so that you can hand over the original certificate of each puppy to its purchaser.
Encourage the would-be owner to come and see the whole litter, when the pups are about a month old. The puppy need not be chosen then, but it will give the new owner a chance to see them all together and see whether there is a weakling among them.
Advise the prospective purchaser honestly about the puppies’ parentage / pedigree. Do not give yarns about their brilliant ancestry if you cannot even produce the Kennel Club’s original Registration Certificates for the puppies. If you have the puppies’ Registration Certificates, make sure that the new owner gets one along with his puppy. This is the Breeder’s duty, and it is unethical to charge anything extra for the Registration Certificate. If the puppy is not registered, say so openly, and do not make false promises about “getting them made.” Do not make tall claims, like saying that this puppy is a sure Champion or a certain Best-in-Show winner. All such impressive proclamations are essentially lies, but a prospective owner may get carried away with it.
Give advice about necessary vaccinations, diet and general care of the dog or puppy. If the purchaser is a novice, guide him correctly about the desirable points of the puppy’s breed, and help him to make a good selection. Tell the new owner explicitly if the dog is unwell – worms etc. Try not to give possession of the puppy until he is in good health. In case of any genetic defects, reveal them instead of palming off a defective puppy.
Give the new owner the benefit of your valuable experience, instead of using your better knowledge just to get the better of him. It is perfectly ethical to demand and receive a fair price for the quality you are offering. But do not rip off a gullible and impulsive customer with an exorbitant price for one puppy, and then sell the others at a distress rate to others. Build a reputation, and retain it. In the long run, this is what counts.
I do hope that these few lines will be of some use to you, and that you will enjoy the ownership of your puppy.
Mrs Sheila A, Sood is an experienced breeder of Lhasa Apso, though now retired. She is also an INKC Breeds Judge.