Know Your Pooch
My pooch doesn’t budge out of AC room
Recently, just before the second wave of COVID struck, a friend’s grown up son brought home a Labrador retriever pup. It was February and the well-formed, eight weeks old pup had a good coat, which made him a cuddly toy of the family. I’ve written earlier too, but is worth repeating-‘Dogs are pack animals.’ Thus, the furry pooch got used to spending time with the family members in their rooms.
Then the weather warmed up and the summers started. This heat is excruciating for humans as well as their pooches. People, who can afford, have air-conditioners in their houses. Those who cannot, have desert coolers to cool their rooms. A pup used to spend time with his human pack, finds the air-conditioned room certainly more comfy than the hot veranda outside. But look at the irony, in India itself there is a large chunk of population that cannot afford either an AC or a cooler. They don’t have even ceiling fans and many of the families do not have even the luxury of electricity. Yet, there is something common between all of them. That is, their love for dogs. It is evident that dogs survive in all kinds of situations.
As the luck would have it, our friend’s Labrador too easily adapted himself to the comforts of the AC and refused budge from there. At times my friend said that though they do not need air-conditioning, yet because of their pooch they have to keep it on. When it became too much, my friend asked me how bad the air-conditioning would be for his pooch? My answer was: ‘It is as bad as sugar is for a diabetic.’
Those readers, who have followed my articles in Tree Take, will recollect that at one stage I had said ‘dogs are creatures of routine.’ Therefore, if you make him used to live in an air-conditioned room, he will certainly prefer that to the heat outside. But if a pup is conditioned to stay in a cool shade, safe from the hot blasts of wind, he will comfortably stay there.
Having reared dogs all my life I found that like us, dogs too suffer from pain in joints or arthritis. Five-six decades ago, when air-conditioners were not in vogue as they are today, we managed to live comfortably during the day, in a room cooled by a curtain made of an aromatic grass ‘khuskhus’. Water was constantly sprinkled on this grass curtain and the evaporation of water ushered in cool, aromatic draft of air, cooling the room in the process. Even those days, my dogs lived outside in an east facing Veranda, which was comfortable, as it was surrounded by a variety of trees and bushes. While the western part of the house would reach almost boiling temperatures the afternoon, the eastern part used to remain comparatively quite comfortable.
All the year round, dogs need a living place that is free from direct drafts of hot or cold air. Prolonged exposure to direct Sun during summers could be fatal. While during winters, they do enjoy basking in the Sun and it is good for their health. Some breeds like Pugs, Pomeranians, Pekingese, and Boxers etc. are prone to heat strokes. Toy breeds are delicate and succumb to extreme heat. Therefore, they must be kept in cool places, though not necessarily air-conditioned. Certain breeds like Himalayan Sheepdog and Saint Bernard being an exception. Since they come from extremely cold regions, even a little heat can be fatal for these breeds.
Summers bring another problem for the dog owners. The Sun, even at 6.15 becomes unbearable and walking a dog is a difficult task. Dogs have a peculiar habit of adapting to their master’s sleeping pattern. If the master gets up late, his dogs too get used to the idea and get up late. But for a better health of your dog, it is better to take him out on a walk before the Sunrise and in the evening much after the Sunset. During day time, if your house is such that it gets heated, then there is no option but to keep your dog in an air-conditioned room. Personally, I still don’t agree to the idea.
In the night, there is no question of keeping a dog in a room. Ideal is a compound or a courtyard, where other animals, including dogs cannot sneak in. Dogs love to sleep under the sky and enjoy the natural cold outside. Some excessive shedders like German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers shed much less if they are kept in natural environment. Dogs reared in air-conditioned rooms only may appear healthy, but after the age of five they start showing the symptoms of arthritis. They start groaning while getting up and find it difficult to climb the stairs or even coming down. Ultimately your Vet’s bills get larger and larger each month.
Problem is how to make your dog live outside your bedroom, after it has become accustomed to sleep there? It needs time patience. On day one, take the dog to the spot or room where you think he will be comfortable. Make yourself comfortable on a chair and let the dog settle down. Once he appears to snooze, quietly sneak out of the room, count up to ten and go back. If he is still sleeping, he will naturally get up to greet you. Reward him well with some treat and sweet words. Repeat the process and count till 20 this time. Per chance if he gets up and begins to whimper, open the door, and look at him sternly and in a sharp tone reprimand him. If he quietens, go to him and reward him with soothing words. Again repeat the process of going out and increase the number of counts. In other words you are trying to teach him to stay for longer duration without you and the AC. In case your dog is already trained to ‘Stay’ on command, it becomes easier to make him stay in the other room.
Such problems do not arise if you teach your dog to stay in his kennel from day one. It is better to place the kennel in the house at such a place which is comfortable for the puppy and he can also hear the sounds of the house. It is not difficult to achieve this and to know more about it please go through the back issues of Tree Take. Once the pup realizes that his kennel is his ‘home’, he never bothers you or about your air-conditioned room. But please be careful. Once you bring him inside the room out of pity, he will never go back to his kennel. As I said it is a test of patience and you are lucky if you win.
Dogs reared in natural environs, protected from direct Sun and direct drafts of hot air, remain free from joint pains. After all, there are thousands of dogs that live without the comfort of air-conditioner and cooler and yet they manage to survive and remain healthy. Therefore, it is best to rear the dog in harmony with nature and ensure his longevity.
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