Before becoming a pet parent
Pressure Kukur’s unsolicited advice: always adopt!
But if you’re inclined to shop, read this:
In India, we have virtually no ethical breeders and the few that exist are unicorns that you’ll have to seek out with tremendous effort. The puppies these ethical breeders sell will be purebred, but the dynamic will be very different. Instead of you — the buyer, choosing a puppy, the breeder will choose a pet parent that will guarantee that the puppy’s bloodline remains undiluted. Therefore, you’ll go through a thorough process, including background checks that will ensure your ethical breeder has the best buyer.
Unfortunately, most to-be pet parents do not want to go through this hassle. For many who buy, the process should be as simple as buying a packet of chips — go to the shop, take your pick and pay the money. Then why would anyone jump through hoops to get a puppy from an ethical breeder?
A simplified answer is that the ethical breeders know enough about the mating dogs’ bloodlines to ensure the puppies are genetically healthy. Of course, they take responsibility for the health and living conditions of the mating dogs and invest significantly in them (I’ll discuss breeding vs ethical breeding in-depth in future posts). This investment is something most backyard breeders/ puppy mills do not make as, for them, a puppy is just a bag of money waiting to come home. Once a puppy sells, these breeders do not care about its quality of life and offer little to no support if issues arise later. As a result, we see several young dogs with problems arising from genetic issues being given up for adoption or abandoned by their ‘families.’
But what about Kennel Club puppies?
It is embarrassing how easy it is to get a fake Kennel Club certificate, so, unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee anything. I had a dog-show-award-winning, Kennel Club certified dog that lived with a visible genetic deformity. Therefore, I can confidently say that Kennel club certificates are often worthless because they’re often fake. Please don’t interpret this as an attack on the Kennel Club of India or any other regulating authority — they are trying to do the best they can. This situation exists because of exploitative people, the lack of strict laws, and overeager and lazy customers.
Long story short: if getting a puppy is easy, you’re not getting it from the right person.
FYI: home litters are a form of backyard breeding, and just because you get a puppy for free from a family friend doesn’t mean you’ve adopted one.
What’s the deal with adoption?
If you are on any form of social media, you must have come across the tremendous work of our animal welfare community. These are people who, among other things, feed, rescue, treat and re-home dogs. Many of these people or organisations run animal shelters — sanctuaries for rescued animals, including dogs. While some of the dogs at a shelter are there for life, several can go home to a suitable family.
You may adopt by responding to an adoption request or after visiting the shelter directly (please make sure you schedule an appointment). In either case, you will go through a counselling session with one of the adoption coordinators. They will also visit you at home to assess the suitability of your living space for the dog being adopted. I will discuss shelters and adoption in detail in a future post. For now, I’ll simply speak from experience and tell you that adopting a dog is one of the most fulfilling decisions I have taken in life. Of course, this is also because I have had wonderful adoption coordinators who understood my needs and what I could offer and paired me with a suitable dog.
It’s easy to go to a shelter with some preconceived notions. However, if you allow yourself to look beyond those and fall in love with a shelter dog while being realistic about your capabilities as a pet parent, the result will be a magical (dare I say, better than transactional) beginning to a lifelong relationship.
Once you have decided what to do (I’m hoping you’re adopting), the question of breed always comes up. This point is where most pet parents falter because they give into preconceived notions about a dog’s breed instead of doing their research. In the next and final post of this series, we’ll look at how we let ourselves be fooled by the breed checklist, and how we can look beyond the breed to choose the best dog for ourselves.