When dog meets dogs

Oct 28 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

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.

One of the best places to observe healthy dog-dog interaction is in villages that are not as crowded and fast paced as cities. Heading off to the hills with our dogs has taught a lot.
When dogs greet each other, it’s not about full frontal hugs and air kisses; that’s a human thing. Dogs are quite averse to it, though many dogs learn to tolerate it from humans over time. Dogs themselves view head-on encounters as confrontational. When dogs meet, often a lot of nonconfrontational signs exchanged between them. They are very subtle and easy to miss. Some are hard for us to understand. Dogs seem most interested in each other’s rear ends.Some dogs flop down and go on their backs. Some dogs just decide that this is not a potential friendship for them and walk away. This is something we need to accept as natural meeting rituals of dogs.
The critical mistake we make at this stage is not to give dogs the calm environment and space they need. Often, in our eagerness to be social with other humans, we pollute the environment with a lot of talk, laughter and artificial camaraderie. We also tend to expect party behaviour in dogs, where a dog enters an environment with several other dogs and greet all cordially, just as we do at parties. But in the canine world, all that is noise and stress. It’s too much for dogs and it can all fall apart at meet-and-greet itself.One-on-one meetings between dogs are better; in fact, completely avoid talking to the dogs when two dogs are meeting. Ideally, dogs should meet on leash, but it’s important to keep the leash slack, so as not to interfere with their communication.
Dog-dog play is not always rambunctious as we see in movies. While it’s fun to watch dogs burst into play, they immensely enjoy just spending time with their doggy friends and doing doggy activities together. Village doggy-friends often go exploring interesting smells or take walks together.Intense play happens in very short bursts, lasting just a few seconds. Play can easily turn into fight if there are too many dogs in too small a space or if dogs are tired. At the first sign of fatigue, break up the play session and allow your dog to rest, even if it seems like the play session was too short.
If the dogs do break into a fight, it’s important not to yell and add to the commotion. Instead, react fast and walk away from the situation, calling your dog in a friendly tone. Your dog is most likely to walk behind you. But breaking up fights in dogs can be very dangerous to people. It’s best to be vigilant when there are multiple dogs around and at the first sign of dogs tensing up or tiring out, separate them and let them rest. The tell-tale signs are stiffening of the muscles, intense staring, excessive yawning, growling or baring teeth.
While dog-socialisation is catching, a common error is crowding. Arrange play sessions between just two dogs and allow them to sniff around and explore a lot or take a walk together, instead of being in each other’s faces. It’s safer and more pleasant for dogs. The best of play sessions are short, sweet and safe.

Detox aftere Diwali for Dogs

Oct 21 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

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.

There are several ways to calm dogs down.
The most fun way for a dog is to be mentally stimulated. So take him on some new walk routes. Keep the walks uber slow. Let the dog sniff as much as his cute little snout can smell. This has a tremendously calming effect. Do not talk to him at such a time. Do not give commands. Just let him smell till he is done and ready to leave. Cut your walk routes shorter to allow loads of sniffing.
Visit interesting places with your dog. It could be a sand pile, a site under construction or a parking lot. Sometimes, if you know you will be driving through a quiet neighbourhood, you can take your dog with you, give him a small walk there and finish up your work and bring him back.
If you have access to any place with a lawn, bring along some of your dog’s favourite treats and scatter them in the lawn. Let him sniff it out. Five to nine minutes of this activity, and your dog will be exhausted.
Another classical way is massage. There are a few different ways to massage your dog. At all times, you have to keep a close eye on him to know that he is indeed enjoying it. If he is not, you have to stop immediately and try at another time and try something else.
How do you know your dog is enjoying what you are doing? He will tell you. If he is relaxed, he may let out a sigh of relief and plop on one side. But if what you are doing is stressing him out, he might start yawning, licking his lips and turning his head away from you. His breath might get quicker too.
So, here are a few massage techniques that I find work very well on dogs. When your dog is sitting, but not sleeping, start with the point right under the neck and with long slow strokes, stroke all the way to the tail. Repeat these several times till he relaxes fully or falls asleep.
Another method is what I call the “Mommy monkey“ method. Here, you make small circular movements with your fingers very close to the skin and gradually move to other parts. My younger dog Tigger prefers this type of massage.
For the more muscular dogs, you could massage them by slightly applying pressure on their muscles. It has to be a very light touch and if the dog shows discomfort at being touched in any place, stop immediately. Nishi, my older dog, loves this type of massage and falls into deep stupor, snoring and all! These massages are not just for calming. These repetitive tactile movements make the body release hormones that make both the person and dog happy and helps them bond. Of course, I speak out of experience: When I convert it into a full spa experience with soothing music and some incense, I too relax, talk about my day and we unwind so well. It’s a great bonding exercise for us.

Dogs hate to reden

By Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Sep 8, 2014, 10.29 PM IST

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.

Summer Treats

Publication: Bangalore Mirror;Date: Apr 15, 2014;Section: City;Page: 4

 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!