The words we use to describe dog behaviour are often loaded with assumptions. One such term is “social“. Dogs are indeed hyper social animals. They like the company of their own species and ours and we love them for it. However, we need to understand how dogs interact with their own species and with us; and what socialisation, play and fight mean to dogs.
It’s the festive season. Everyone deserves a fun time. So do our dogs, which are perhaps far less eager than us when it comes to fire crackers. But there are a few things we can pamper them with, after the noise subsides.
Moving houses can be intimidating for anyone. Have you ever thought of how it would be for a dog? Moving a home, a fundamental place of warmth and comfort, is a very disconcerting thing for anyone who has gotten used to a way of life. But it gets harder with dependents. If the dependent is a child or an adult, a reasonable dialogue may ensue. If your dependent is your dog, then you are dealing with an individual who does not get the concept of ‘moving’. Dogs make a den and unless they perceive a threat they don’t see the need to re-den. Given the unlikelihood of your dog having perceived any threat in your current living arrangement, convincing the dog that a move is even on that cards is a tall ask.
We are moving house. In our case, we knew what we were in for. So we wanted to spare our dogs the stress of watching movers and packers in action. Don’t get me wrong. Watching their clockwork like precision is quite fascinating. But for a dog, who is at this point basically taken completely off guard, to have someone come in take all their belongings, box it, take all their humans’ belongings, box it and take it all away is utter madness! Some dogs may even get aggressive in an attempt to stop the sudden depletion of resources. So in our case, while one of us oversaw the packing and moving, the other was with the dogs — away from all of this.
We moved by 5 pm, or at least moved enough to call it a day and relax with a calming beverage of choice. Unfortunately for our dogs, the adventure had just begun. After spending a day at a friend’s place, they were brought into a home that is not theirs, that smells strange with a hint of aromas of their things and big boxes towering everywhere.
They came in, inspected everything and then were quite done. They had pleading expressions on their faces, “Please take us home now. We are done here. We would like to go home and relax with a drink of water in our bowls, in our home.” It was heart wrenching to watch their faces. They barely ate. Most of the night they kept checking on us to see if we would make plans to leave and go ‘home’!
To add to this, they need to be freshly toilet trained.
Most pet parents discount this. Habits have to be rebuilt. Most habits can wait. But toilet training has to happen soon. Lack of certainty in use of toilets adds immensely to stress in dogs. But intense stress makes bowel movements irregular, making toilet habits irregular and harder to train. The first few days are hard.
A stressed dog poses many risks. In a moment of complete oblivion, our cook left the main door open. After watching the open door for a while, the dogs decided they could take this no more and had to head out. They went out, found a spot of lawn to relieve themselves and headed back. But not all dogs and people get as lucky. These are follies of stress. Hence the extra emphasis on settling things down soon after a move. The sooner we get there, the sooner we will be closer to having a normal life. So wish the Tiggy-Nishi household some luck in achieving this and write to me if you are in a similar situation.
I feel like I am melting this summer and refuse to wear anything other than cotton at this time of the year. Think of the fur coats that our canine companions have to keep on at all times — breaks your heart, doesn’t it? Of course, our native breeds fare a bit better. They have nice long snouts that help them regulate body temperature, thanks to a cavity they have in their snout to serve this purpose. Their coat length is just perfect. Not too long, and yet long enough to capture a film of air to keep the skin temperature regulated. They are also lean. But all other breeds, particularly the dogs with shorter snouts, longer fur, and more fat, really bear the brunt of the summer heat. So here are some tips to ease their discomfort.
First, a note of caution — DO NOT shave them bald. The fur is necessary to trap air and keep them cool. So go for a light trim. Moreover, shaved off fur does not always grow back.
Second, an alert — Do not feed them anything from the freezer. Dogs are not the best at regulating body temperature. So the extremes in temperature can be quite damaging. ACs are also not the best of solutions, particularly for dogs with short snouts as it can dehydrate their mucous membrane, making it harder to breathe. Imagine the brain freeze you have when you swallow crushed ice. An exaggerated version of that is what the dog feels. So no ice, no shaving.
Your mantra this summer should be hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Give your dog as much room temperature water as he wants. Some dogs prefer drinking directly from the tap. Do grant him that luxury. After all he has the burden of his fur to bear. Some dogs will romp around in the water bowl and then lie in the water they have managed to spill. I’d suggest you help them and add to the water on the floor by mopping the floor, leaving it wet and putting a fan near it. The cool tiles will bring them some relief.
While it’s not great to feed ice, adding some ice to their meal is not a bad idea. It will cool down the entire meal and make it easier to eat. Try feeding diluted curd or buttermilk, if your dog is not lactose-intolerant. Don’t expect your dog to be too enthusiastic about food in general. Appetite and energy levels drop. There can be excessive shedding too. The dogs can be irritable, less interested in hugs and cuddles, and generally aloof. Think of the fur jacket and let the poor dog be.
There are a few cooling mats and jackets available in the market. But I am always nervous trying them out as I fear the consequences of the dog chewing through them in frustration. I prefer putting out damp old towels. Or wiping down the dog with a damp cloth a few times a day. However, if you have a dog with several folds in the skin, like a boxer or a pug, take care not to leave the folds moist. Those must be dry at all times.
And now for a fun recipe — Chilled Yogurt. All you need is a fruit — watermelon, banana, mango, apple, pear, and papaya are safe bets. Get rid of the seeds. Dice or grate the fruit. Add the fruit, two cups of curd, honey for taste, some cinnamon powder, and two tablespoons of unsalted peanut butter into a blender and run it. Pour the mixture into small cups that you get with takeaway food. Put them in the fridge (but not in the freezer). When it’s time to feed, leave the cup out for a few minutes, then serve it in the parking lot or garden because it can get messy. But there is nothing cuter than watching a dog grasp the cup between his paws and go at the treat.
Enjoy your summer and be kind to your dogs. Remember the fur coat? They have it hard this time of the year, so cut them some slack!