Thursday, May 25, 2006

Responsible Dog Ownership

Most times decision to bring in a pet dog is taken on the spur of the moment. You meet a friend who has a litter and offers a pup free. Or your kid has been pleading with you to get him or her a pup. And you just pick up whatever is available that doesn't cost much or because you read somewhere that a particular breed is very friendly etc.. For a lifetime's happiness of owning a dog, the first and perhaps the most important decision is to carefully select a breed or mix of dog that is most likely to fit into the family temperament and lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many breeds to choose from, and there is at least one to fit every situation. There are breeds that are predisposed to retrieve, to guard, to pull sleds or carts, to snuggle, and to lie by the hearth. There are active breeds and calm breeds. There are breeds to satisfy the desire to comb long strands of silky hair and breeds that require only an occasional rubdown to keep coats healthy. There are breeds that can withstand cold climates and breeds that can cope with hot, muggy temperatures. There are breeds that love children and can put up with a toddler's teasing, poking, and pulling and a 10-year-old's rough-housing. Do not make your decision basing on popular beliefs that small dogs need little attention or can fit into an apartment and big dogs need lot of excercise. There are variety of small dog breeds that are hyper active and need lot of excercise and play and there are huge dog breeds that simply want to rest 24x7. Keep in mind that big dogs need lot of food and prepare yourself for a hefty monthly budget.

Before you make a decision on the breed you would want, check out the breed origin, for knowing where and why a breed was developed helps to understand its character and physical attributes.

Once the breed is selected, the buyer should look for a breeder who produces puppies that fit the breed's physical and attitude description. Choosing a puppy that has the name of the breed but not the appearance and character negates the vast amount of work to get to this point. Why bother reading and studying about breeds just to buy a puppy that is a Labrador Retriever in name only?
To find a breeder, contact a local veterinarian, groomer, or kennel or obedience club for a referral, check ads in the Kennel Gazettes or surf the Internet for a breed club website. Do not buy from the puppy mills that seem to be sprouting everywhere. The breeders of puppy mills have only one thing in mind- making a fast buck. The dams are reared in inhuman conditions and bred indiscriminately. Puppies are not socialized causing psychological and behavioural problems as they grow.
Once the puppy comes home, there are many other decisions to be made, but they can all be approached with common sense and made to fit your personal biases, budget, and life circumstances. Take the pup without delay to the vet for vaccinations. Maintain a file recording the vaccinated dates and treatments to other ailments.
Do not pamper the pup as it grows to an extent where the pet dog becomes the master of the house. Obdience training is a must which can start as early as 3 months. You should be a responsible dog owner and an obedient dog is a pleasure to have. Dogs that jump on people, chase cars, or bite strangers are not only a nuisance but dangerous too. There are hundreds of books and material available to learn the basics of obedience training. After all you are not attempting to make your dog a movie star. Basic obedience training will do.
(If you are in or in the vicinity of Australia, you can go to Alpha Dog Training Institute headed by Greg Fontana. His Canine Lifestyle Communication system, the methodology of training dogs is unique and very effective. You can send the dog to Alpha Boarding kennels at 8 Kiernan Road, Macclesfield, Victoria 3782 Ph. no- 59688101 for boarding as well as training. Or best, you can take a short term course ( 1 week) in dog training and you will be amazed at the results. Just a few minutes drive from his kennels and training center are beautiful cukkatoo cottages that are rented out. )

As the dog matures the decision to spay or neuter is often at the top of the list. Sterilization surgery is often cited as the demarcation between “responsible” and “irresponsible” dog ownership, but that is a political and moral judgment, not a practical one. However,sterilization has many advantages: spayed bitches never drop estrus fluids on the carpet or unwanted litters in the closet, don't develop reproductive cancers or uterine infections, and don't require management skills to separate them from male dogs, and castrated male dogs don't get testicular cancer, macho attitudes, or stud dog wanderlust. However, if a family wants to keep a dog intact, exercises common sense precautions to prevent unwanted litters, and understands the risks of infection and cancer, they should not be considered “irresponsible.”

Close on the heels of the decision to spay or neuter is the decision to breed. This one requires at least as much care as the selection of a breed, for the determination to bring more puppies into the world should be based on more than wanting the kids to see the miracle of birth or aiming to make a few dollars for the vacation fund. Puppies are not cars or toasters; they should be thoughtfully produced, thoughtfully raised, and thoughtfully sold.

Responsible Breeders often study their breed for years before producing a litter. Dog breeding is animal husbandry every bit as much as the breeding of race horses . In dogs, the aim is to package the genes into a healthy animal that is representative of its breed, not merely to produce more Labradors or Rottweilers or Jack Russell Terriers to sell for a fast buck. The original developers of these breeds knew what characteristics they wanted and carefully mated dogs to get them; breeding today should be approached with the same care.

Breeding a healthy litter is expensive. Sire and dam in all medium-to-giant breeds and mixes should be checked for hip dysplasia even if they show no signs of problems, and they should be screened for other genetic diseases that are prevalent in their breeds and for which tests exist. Toy breeds should at least be checked for slipping patellas (kneecaps). These precautions do not eliminate the potential for inherited disease or abnormality, but they do improve the odds for a healthy litter.
Finally, the decision to breed a litter should include consideration of the puppies' need for socialization and careful screening of potential buyers. Since the puppies will be pets, they should be accustomed to living with people and their noises, smells, and activities from the beginning. Gentle handling is recommended from birth onward, handling that can be done during the three-times-daily cleaning of the whelping area. When puppies begin to move around freely, they should be given toys to play with and spend some time outside the whelping area each day. At five weeks, they can spend time outdoors every day, weather permitting.

Potential buyers can visit the puppies from six weeks on, but no puppy should go to a new home before seven weeks and preferably not before eight weeks. Breeders of toy dogs often keep the litter together for 10-12 weeks or more.
No dam should be bred before 18 months age and for large breeds >2 years. There should be a gap of 2 years between litters and not more than 3 litters in its life span.
Life span of a dog varies from 8 to 14 years depending on breed, the care taken and several other factors. When in old age, dogs develop joint problems, reduced vision, sores, tooth loss. This is the period when people simply drive the dog away from home for it to die on the streets. This is the most inhuman act. If the dog is suffering, consult your vet for mercy killing rather than drive away the dog that has given you happiness for years.
Be a responsible dog owner.

No comments: