Before becoming a pet parent

3/3: Breed in, Breed out.

Pressure Kukur’s unsolicited advice: Look beyond the breed tag — read, research, ask and discuss before you decide on the dog.

A common mistake that people make while deciding on a dog is focusing entirely on the dog’s breed. The truth is, dogs, like people, have different personalities, even within the same breed. Trainers use a test called Campbell’s test to assess the future behavioural traits of a puppy. Puppies of the same breed fare differently and therefore require customised training based on their results.

A bit about training:
Whether you get the Campbell’s test or not, whether you get a puppy or an adult dog, at the end of the day, it all boils down to training, both yours as well as your dog’s. Training is a great way to set expectations, correct behaviours and build trust with your dog. You can choose to do this yourself or hire a trainer. Either way, please make sure you keep an allowance for training your dog. It will lead to a smoother experience for you as a pet parent.

Coming back to breed-based traits:
Just focusing on attributes like size might be misleading. For example, Beagles as pets are becoming increasingly common in India, as are exasperated Beagle parents. These are usually brought home by first-time pet parents who, while looking for small dogs for their apartments, overlook the fact that Beagles were bred for hunting hares. Therefore, despite their compact size, Beagles pack quite a punch when it comes to activity and exercise requirements.

If you decide to buy a purebred dog or adopt a mixed breed or an Indie that has clear markings of a breed, the first thing to do is research. You need to read up on everything — common behavioural traits, common ailments, dietary restrictions, exercise requirements, etc — before going for a dog based on breed. Thanks to the efforts of lots of knowledgeable people, all of this information is conveniently available online. If you know a good vet, they’ll be able to guide you on breed-specific health issues to keep an eye out for as well. Try not to get an exotic breed from some random corner of the world. Chances are that your local conditions won’t suit the dog, and the vets/groomers in your area might not be 100% confident in taking care of it. Don’t base your decision on looks or exclusivity alone, and never get a dog home to own as a trophy.

Getting a dog home is a wonderful thing but doing so without thinking it through can go sideways very quickly. So if you evaluate everything and conclude that getting a dog home is not for you, don’t worry! There are a few things you can do (apart from writing a dog blog because your spouse won’t agree to adopt a third dog) to still have dogs around in your life:

  1. Volunteer
    There’s a good chance that your local shelter is overwhelmed because they have too many dogs to care for and not enough people to help. By volunteering at your local shelter, you get to be around dogs while making a difference in both your life and theirs. Volunteering is not always long term and can be as simple as driving a dog over to the new family or taking a rescue to the hospital.
  2. Feed
    If you are confident about interacting with your community dogs, find out if there’s a local group that does feeding rounds and get involved with them. You can help prepare meals or volunteer your time and effort towards feeding rounds. Only a few things match the kind of love you see in a well-fed community dog’s eyes!
    You can easily find details of a local shelter or feeding group online. I will be creating a list of shelters and feeding groups by city on the blog. You’re welcome to come back and refer to that in the future.
  3. Adopt Passively
    I mentioned in an earlier post that some shelter dogs stay there forever. This might be due to age, health constraints, or any other issue due to which the shelter decides to keep them permanently. Find out if you can adopt one of these dogs passively. Sometimes, other dogs at the shelter might be up for passive adoption too. Usually, you donate a monthly amount that goes towards the care of that dog. If that dog gets adopted, you can choose to transfer to another dog or discontinue. Depending upon the dogs’ health and nature, you might also get to meet them if you want to!
  4. Donate
    Donating is probably the easiest thing to do, provided you have money to spare. You can be sitting on your couch and making a difference in the lives of several shelter animals far away. Several organisations offer tax benefits on your donations too. If that is something you are particular about, please confirm this with the respective organisation first.
  5. Foster
    All of what goes into deciding for or against getting a dog home needs to be considered before fostering. So this might not be a solution for everyone. However, if having a dog home for a short period is a possibility for you, you can register as a foster with your local shelter. Be frank about the period which you can foster the dog for, and whether or not you can handle medical trips and care, and your shelter will send you fosters accordingly. If it works for you, it will help ease the pressure on your local animal shelter and possibly open up space for a dog that needs it more.

So after this exhausting 3-part read of a non-exhaustive list of things to consider, are you getting a dog home or not? If no, don’t lose heart; you have so many options above! If yes, congratulations! I’ll see you on my next post, where we’ll get ready to welcome your dog home with open arms (and lots of pee pads)!