Know Your Pooch
The writer is former director, GSI, and an avid animal lover. His understanding of man's best friend comes from over six decades of dedicated association with it
I have often said dog is a pack animal and normally cannot remain alone for more than two hours at a time. Those who rear a dog realize the significance of this statement because when a couple returns from its workplace, it finds that the house has been ransacked by the pooch. And one fine morning, the husband, wife bring home another puppy as a companion for their dog. Read on what happens then.
This piece is specially meant for those dog lovers, who intend to bring another dog home. Let us find out why people bring home an additional puppy. Often people do it to provide company to their existing dog. Sometimes, people feel that bringing home a mate for their dog will help improving his psyche or help him release his pent up frustration. Some people do it to activate their lazy dog, presuming that a perky dog would activate the older one.
Well, all the logics are fine. To add another pooch in the house, one doesn’t need to give a justification, at least in India. But before adding another pup, one must understand some facts. Firstly, dogs are highly territorial. They resent any form of encroachment in their territory. A dog, when he comes to your house as a pup, immediately begins to mark his territory with his indelible ‘stamp’-his pee. Soon he identifies a leader amongst the family members and treats the rest as pack members. The owner may or may not have that strong bond with the pup, but the pup develops unbreakable bonds. He cannot imagine anyone- a pup, a baby or any other pet- can come between him and his family. A majority of the owners either remain ignorant of this fact or ignore it.
Once the new pup comes home, the senior dog shows his resentment through different signals depending upon the type of the dog he is. A shy dog may hide under the bed and bare his fangs, growl menacingly and, at the height of his displeasure, he raises his heckles (hair at the shoulders). These are all warning signs, before an attack. Such is the height of mistrust that often most even-tempered dogs lose their balance and attack the pup. At times the hatred is so much that a well-trained dog may restrain himself, but he will express his displeasure by urinating at all the places visited or used by the pup. Over a period of time the problem gets compounded.
If you have a dog and you bring home a dog pup or if you have a bitch and you bring home a bitch, they will surely fight, unless you take proper steps in the very beginning. In case the old and the new one is of opposite sexes, they will rarely fight, but it may be difficult to stop them from mating. The experts, however, know how to manage the two and go for planned mating.
The new pup should be introduced to the older dog in a neutral territory. That can be outside the house, in a park or someplace where the two can meet undisturbed. One should keep an eye on the older dog, as he may get offended by the pranks of the pup. But after two-three meetings, the older one will start accepting the new pup. Once the pup is accepted in the neutral territory, one can venture to bring the pup home and let them meet in some common area-like the drive-in or the foyer. Watch the reactions of the senior dog before proceeding further. If the two meet without any sign of aggression from the older dog, more than half the battle has been won. Always remember, at no stage you should try to show affection towards the new one by cuddling or stroking him. And also, never try to shout or show your anger at the menacing gestures of the senior dog. Just play cool and use only soft tones to control any situation-as per the need.
It is a time taking and patience testing period. But if these steps are taken, be assured that for the remainder of the period the two strangers will remain best playmates. There are, however, pitfalls even then. The new pup may be of dominant nature and may try to boss over the older dog. Soon after he gains enough strength, he may start attacking the senior dog. All the problems need to be tackled with due care and patience.
I made the mistake of bringing home a Miniature Pincher bitch pup, when my Chihuahua was around five years old. They became sworn enemies. Thanks to my earlier experience and the arrangement I had at home, I could afford to keep them separated throughout their lives. I must mention that outside the house the two were the best friends. And also, when the two bitches were in season they never fought. These apart they left no opportunity to grab each other’s throats. The Minpin kept on peeing till she died at all the spots where the Chihuahua used to lurk when she was around!
Apart from studying the temperament of your dog and his behaviour with other dogs outside the house, you must also keep in mind the breed of the dog you wish to add. If you have a Labrador, one of the calmest breeds, you may add another Labrador pup. However, if your Labrador is too lazy, which often they are, then you may bring home a perky breed like a Chihuahua or a Minpin. But do not expect a Pug to catalyse your Labrador, because they themselves are lazy lumps.
Do add a pup, but please be careful and try to understand the psyche of the senior dog and also the mind of the pup. Despite all precautions, accidents can happen. Therefore, follow the full protocol of introducing a new pup to your home and never be in a hurry. Dogs have their own way of judging each other, let them have that space and time.