New Puppy Comes Home

Peter, my first puppy when I brought him home in July 1946 my happiness was boundless. I believe every dog loving child feels the same. The excitement can not be described in words. Like me most of the families are not geared up to receive the pup.

Peter’s arrival was so sudden that I did not have even a proper bowl for him to have food. Those days’ designer bowls for dogs were not available at least in the Indian market. Puppies were either offered food on ceramic tea saucers which were left because their counterpart, cups were broken or people bought enamel coated plates with a shallow depression, commonly used by the servicemen and easily available in Cantonment Bazaars. On day one Peter had to make do with the tea saucer. Next day evening my father brought the enamel coated shining white plate with a blue painted rim.

Beyond a feeding bowl neither I nor my parents could imagine anything that could have been required for the pup. My mom gave me an old towel which was folded and placed near my bed as his bedding. Peter, however, preferred a siesta under my bed with his fore and hind legs stretched in opposite directions and belly pressed against the cool cemented floor.

On day one itself Peter began to explore the house, he would go places, sniff at things and finally return under my bed. I tried umpteen numbers of times to place him on the towel bed, but he sneaked back under my bed in no time.
I was too young and inexperienced to ask why Peter was doing this. But now with all these years of association with dogs I can explain you all why Peter was trying to sneak under my bed and what preparations one should make before bringing home a puppy-specially the first time.

All of us know dogs as man’s best friend, most faithful animal and a pet who understands every word we speak of. But very few of us know that dogs are pack animals and live in lairs. They are instinctively clean, hence even as puppies come out of the lair to defecate. Since their natural home is a lair, they feel more comfortable and more assured if a roof is above their head. Our rooms are too large for puppies to gauge the height of the roof. They want a roof much nearer. That is why Peter preferred to live under my bed, than sleep in the corner near my bed on the towel because for him virtually there was no roof above.

Dogs are extremely territorial. In fact we all are territorial and we mark our home territories with boundary walls and fences and even have rooms allotted to individuals in the house-like ‘my bed room’, my parents’ bed room’ etc. There is a difference between our arrangement of recognizing territories and dogs’. We identify our territories by walls they mark theirs with their odor and urine. Sounds dirty, but can’t help it, because in dog’s world odors and urine plays an important role. More about it some other time-here the main thrust is on deciding a place for the new pup to live in.

From the above it is clear that a dog wants primarily two things-a lair like house with his odor. If you do not provide him a lair, he will locate one for himself and make it his home. For example, when Peter went under my bed he got the feeling of a lair-it was dark inside and had a roof as well! Thus if you provide a box of a size large enough for the pup to stand and turn around it will suffice as a home. Only condition is that the box should open frontward and should have a cover (roof) at the top. The box may be a cardboard carton/wooden box/fiberglass dog box.

Next problem you will face is about where to place the box! Well if you place it in your bedroom then that room becomes your dog territory too for the life. Since majority of dogs accept human masters as pack leaders, he enjoys sharing your territory with his. But mind you if there is a guest or you have an addition in the family in the form of an infant, then your dog will be the first one to resent the ‘intrusion’. Since dogs are usually low to the ground, they are prone to infections and their hair can cause allergies to infants and sometimes even adults, it is better that your pup’s box is placed at a place other than your bedroom.

Ideally you should make a minimum 4’X4’ enclosure about 3’ high. This enclosure should have an arrangement of a gate through which you can easily enter for cleaning etc. Put the pup’s box inside this enclosure. You might say ‘if I have to keep the pup away then what is the fun of rearing a pup?’ Well you are partially correct. But try to visualise from the pup’s point of view. He has a space which he can call his own. He has his lair (the box) and an arena outside where he can romp and play if getting bored. Moreover a pup sleeps for two hours, gets up pees and wants food and a bit of play and then again pee and sleep. This cycle continues till about eight weeks. Thereafter the duration of play increases. Therefore from day one if you keep the pup in his ‘Pen’, provide him lots of chew toys to play with, take him out every two hours for his ‘jobs’, again feed him in the pen and take him out if he is fidgety and finally put him back and he will sleep cozily.

The play pen should be placed in the house at such a place from where he can see and hear the routine activities of the house. Being pack animals a pup does not want to be left alone for long (never more than two hours at a stretch). In case he hears and sees people around he feels confidante and does not whimper. The stay in the pen should be a pleasure and never a punishment. Since his box is open he can come out easily and since his favorite toys are there, he finds it a comfortable and safe home.

In short you have to create a dog’s home within your home. This comes handy for training him too, especially in house training. Since puppies never soil their lairs, they avoid soiling the box and after a few days even the pen. The pup soon becomes possessive of his pen-this adds another dimension to his personality; because later in life he has to understand that your house is his lair and his territory. Dogs guard their territory zealously. By teaching your pup to live in a pen you indirectly teach him to be territorial and possessive and it has a life long connection and utility.

In case like me you are also a bitch lover, pen training comes handy to manage a bitch in season. She does not get a chance to mark your polished floor with her color and it is also a lot easier to save her from other dogs in the house or even from neighbor’s dogs.

In a nutshell if you are planning to get a pup, you must have a place where you can put the pen. The dimensions of the pen have to increase with age. For example a 4’X4’ pen might prove to be too small for a 3 months old GSD. Therefore select a spot where you can enlarge the pen as per the need. In addition you need a box, plenty of toys and a dog bowl. One needs bowls as per the breed. For example if you offer food to a cocker spaniel pup in a flat bowl in no time his pendulous ears will get soaked in his food and get infected. On the other hand a Borzoi may find the narrow mouth bowl of a Cocker rather inconvenient to lick food from. It is better to buy a bowl with an adjustable stand. You have to raise the food bowl from the ground as per the height of the pup-so that he does not have to lower his neck to gulp his food. A wrong posture spoils the shoulders of a pup. The surface on which the pup stands while having food should be non-slippery. On a slippery surface dogs tend to spread their hind legs to avoid slipping. Again this leads to a wrong posture which spoils the hind action (gait) of the dog.

More about toys and other equipment for the pup in the next blog. Till then finalise the place where you are going to keep the play pen.

More By  :  V. K. Joshi (Bijji)

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Welcome Amrita. Yes I know initially most of us are not geared up to receive a dog. That is why I started from Peter, my first dog. Since you have been minutely observing your first dog Jumbo, you already know where you went wrong. I can understand the problems in acquiring a pup now because of the new responsibilities you have taken up. I can only comment 'earlier the better'. As time passes responsibilities go on increasing. However, a pup in the house now will be an adult by the time you add more responsibilities! Am very sure of your doing much better with a dog now with all the experience you have behind you. Keep reading and encouraging me-I will keep posting something new each time. best wishes.

29-May-2010 03:03 AM

Comment  Vijay Ji,

Thank you for sharing your story.. It is wonderful to know about Peter. Reminded me of our first - Jumbo. We were lucky kids to have a puppy in our lives that early. And I am reminded how unprepared we were to receive him in our lives. We made some mistakes, learnt from them, moved on. Thankfully I can say that he lived well and had a big life.. filled ours with love and energy for 14 years. 

As I have moved on to newer chapters in life, I am hoping to adopt a new puppy sometime soon. We talk about it almost everyday now... so maybe it will be sooner than I think... and this time I am sure to do better. We are already talking about sharing responsibilities. It will be fun to relive those memories again !

Keep writing and I'll follow the blog. Best wishes....

29-May-2010 02:45 AM

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