Home For your puppy

Ask any dog lover about the happiest moment of his life, his reply would be, ‘The day my adorable pooch arrived my home’ and the twinkle in his eyes would tell much than his words.

The day the new puppy, that too the first one is brought home is a day of jubilation and happiness. There is excitement in the air. Children don’t want to go to school that day and even dad thinks in terms of taking the day off. Often the family drives to the breeder’s home, selects the healthiest ball of fur and after a hurried discourse by the breeder about feeding the pup, rushes back home.

Alas, the happiest day in the life of a dog loving family is not so happy for the poor pooch. He feels sad leaving his pack members and dam, he misses all the smells and aromas around and the sounds and above all he misses the touch and licks of his dam and littermates. But poor chap has a destiny which takes him to a ‘new pack’, barely within eight weeks of his birth. It is his capacity to adjust and adapt to the human pack that endears him to his new maters.

The first car ride without his own pack in a strange company is a bewildering experience for the puppy. Thanks to modern ‘silent’ cars the whine of the engine though almost inaudible to us must be sounding quite high to the sensitive ears of the pup! The pup apparently appears calm in the lap of the new owner. His nose works overtime trying to sniff analyse and record all kinds of scents en-route. This comes to him instinctively-his dam didn’t teach him.

Like humans the personalities of dogs too vary. Each puppy has his own personality. Therefore for some this first car ride is not so traumatic, but for nervous or shy puppies it becomes a nightmare. The owner does not even realise what happened to puppy during the ride and the breeder always remains blissfully unaware of the fright of the puppy.

Thankfully the ride is usually not a very long one and the puppy lands in his new home, which going to be ‘his home’ for the life. The puppy can not cry out and shout ‘I miss my mom’, he has to fend for himself and settle down. The instinct tells him that his ‘people’ are not around; therefore he immediately starts exploring the place, often ‘marking’ his territory too. Instinct tells him to find out who is the leader of this new ‘pack’.

In the meanwhile the human masters/family/pack members on the other hand suddenly start talking amongst themselves and also with the pup in a manner which just irritates him-we feel he is not able to hear us, where as he wants to cry aloud and say ‘shut up, please leave me alone!’ From the nine year old grand child at whose behest the pup has come to the great grand mother all want to hold the pup, cuddle him kiss him and touch him. The pup enjoys the fuss around but hates the shrill, loud noise. Poor chap, he can do nothing about the noise-we are like loudspeakers to him!

Finally he is placed in a box which is open at the top. The soft cushion inside the box does feel comfortable to the pup for a moment, but he gets scared of all the eyes peering at him from top. For his wide angle vision, the family eyes must be looking quite monstrous. Plus he is so scared of the fast moving legs (like moving tree trunks for us) that he cringes with fear. Till he left his place he was living in a confined space with his dam and littermates. In case of any risk a bark from the dam would reassure all of them that all is well. But in this strange place in strange company the idea of open box does not appeal him at all.

Puppies requirement are not many. He does not want air-conditioned room and he is not brand conscious. He will be happy with whatever kind of bed you give him to sleep but yes his only condition is that he should feel safe and the place should be free from draughts of hot or cold air.

Once you decide to bring home a puppy it is better to make ready all that would be required. First and foremost is a place for the pup. Choose a spot in the house which is going to be his for the life. All American and British books on dogs recommend kitchen as the best place. However, that place is no good for dogs in India. In our houses kitchen is the hottest place because of the climate. Secondly our food habits are different. The fumes of the kitchen are just obnoxious for the pup. Thirdly the hot climate makes dogs shed more in India and certainly you won’t like dog’s hair in your soups and curries! In my personal opinion your bedroom is also not a place for your dog to spend his life. You must remember that dogs are strongly territorial animals. In fact we all are, but being humans we rarely express our territorial instincts in animal ways. Dogs are possessive of their territories and once your pet begins to share your bedroom it is partly his territory too. He will never welcome a new born or a guest to share the room with him.

Therefore, the ideal place for a dog to stay is a corner of a house from where he can see and hear all the activities of the house. Allotting a space is easy, but to make the pup stay there is tough. But there are ways which make this job easy. I have purposefully recommended a corner. It is very easy to install a puppy play pen in a corner. Many of you may be wondering what it is! A play pen is nothing but an enclosure where pup is confined without realizing that he has been confined. The enclosure could be of any material. I prefer an L shaped enclosure made of welded wire or aluminum mesh. This particular shape corresponds to the remaining two sides of the wall in the corner and makes the job of creating an enclosure easy. The height of the enclosure should be such that the puppy can not jump/scale it. A hinge makes it easy for you to open one part like a door and go in for cleaning etc. A hinged partition is also useful to fold and stash away once the pup grows up. The size of the enclosure will depend upon the breed of the pup and space available at your place. To begin with a minimum 4’X4’ space is a must, though for a large breed like Great Dane this space is not enough even for a puppy.

The floor of the playpen for a puppy should be covered with rice husk, city dwellers can always buy paper cutting from a printing press and spread a thick wad over a layer of old newspapers at the base. Every morning the soiled papers can be removed and the place wipe cleaned.

Inside the play pen the box-the living room of the pup) should be placed. The box should be of a size in which the pup can comfortably stand up and has just enough space to turn around. Some readers might think this as being cruel, but it is not, I will explain the reasons of thereof some where else. The floor of the box can be lined with old newspapers over which a ‘mattress’ of cotton with a cover of some tough fabric can be put. Dogs have a habit of digging their beds. Thus a weak fabric will be torn apart by the pup’s claws. To strengthen it further I anchor it on to the floor of the box with hemp twine. One can devise his own ways of anchoring the mattress. Choice of a box depends upon your purse. Fiberglass boxes are available, also one can get wooden boxes made or use cardboard cartons. Whatever you may use, it should have a roof and should open front wards. The pup should be able to come out of his box at will and roam around in the play pen.

Remember all this preparation should be done much ahead of bringing the pup home. If you do it after his arrival, then chances are that he will reject the space as alien. Reason being that on arrival he sniffs around the space where he is kept and selects the ‘safest’ spot-which has some resemblance with his original ‘lair’. Intuitively he selects the spot and then prefers to remain there. But if you have already made a ‘lair’ for him where he can hide from the prying eyes of his imaginary predators and yet see everything around he mentally Okays the place at once.

Having set his play pen and the box, now you need some toys to keep the pup busy and also a feeding bowl suitable for the breed you are acquiring. For example a narrow mouth bowl is used for breeds with pendulous ears like a Cocker Spaniel or a Basset Hound. The same bowl may be useless for a French bulldog or a Mastiff. If you are buying a bowl from a Pet shop then I recommend one with an adjustable stand. Most puppies spoil there shoulders because of wrongly positioned feeding bowls. The bowl should be raised so that the pup does not have to stoop low to eat. The floor on which he stands to eat food should always be covered with a mat/carpet/’duree’. This saves his hind legs from slipping. While gulping his food on slippery floors the pup goes on spreading his hind legs wider to avoid slipping. This spoils the muscles and ruins the legs. In addition to his feeding bowl always provide him a bowl for drinking water. This should be just large enough for a pup to drink and anchored to avid tripping. During summers the puppies love to wallop in their drinking water bowl and cool their bodies. Its not harmful, but wet skin harbors bacteria and allergens-leading to skin ailments.

Like our children a puppy needs many toys. These days a variety and a large range of toys are available in the pet shops. Earlier we had to devise our own toys. For example I found thoroughly washed and almost sterilized old tires of a scooter an ideal toy for puppies. They used to roll it, sit inside the space and also gnaw it as they began to cut teeth. The gums of a pup are always itching during teething period. So he must get plenty of chew bones. The pup gets bored of one bone continuously. As soon as he begins to ignore the bone, remove it and dip it in meat soup and let it dry. By the time he rejects the next bone, the first one which was re-conditioned is very much accepted by him. I find a football as an ideal toy. Not that the puppies are great fan of the World Cup, but if you just stick a tiny piece of chocolate in the grove of the ball and leave it on the play pen he will go on rolling it in the hope of a lick.

The advantages of a play pen are that apart from giving the pup a private place of his own, it saves him from accidental trampling, other dogs and above all it saves all your costly carpets from his puddles. Some people say that it is cruel to keep him penned. But a pup plays for some time and then sleeps for two hours, thus if you take him out every two hours for his ‘jobs’ and play and or feed and keep him back, you won’t be cruel on him I suppose. Moreover thrashing a pup for soiling your carpet or chewing off your costly shoes is certainly cruel than let him have his own place. In addition a play pen makes house training a pup much easier, as you will read in future blogs.

Having fixed up everything, it is time to bring the new pup home. It is ideal to visit the breeder two-three times before also, especially at feed times (if he permits!) and watch your pup being fed. This helps you to generate similar conditions for the new pup at your place. The best time to bring a pup home is morning, after his first meal on a holiday. This gives you and the pup plenty of time to settle down and get to know each other.

Before I discuss how to communicate with your pup, it is important that you know what and how to feed your pup. That will be the topic of the next blog.

More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Your comments are most welcome Dharmendra.

17-Jun-2010 10:52 AM

Comment Very useful article with the information of dog's adoptibility and possessive nature of the very beginning stage. Thanks Sir.

17-Jun-2010 08:23 AM

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