How to choose a pet dog that suits your home and lifestyle

The recent case of a child in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad needing 150 stitches to treat a ferocious bite by a pitbull draws attention to the debate over whether some breeds of dogs tend to be angrier than others. Stay away from a rottweiler or a doberman but don’ t hesitate to pet and pat a labrador or golden retriever—we have often heard myths like these being repeated. But animal behaviourists reject these stereotypes and say that every dog ​​breed has its own distinct characteristics, behaviour and temperament.

“Every breed comes with a certain background because these were made by humans for a specific purpose thousands of years ago. So, if some breeds were created for hunting, others were guard dogs and some meant to be retrievers. Apart from the basic temperament of a breed, other factors, such as training and the environment at home, also make a difference,” says Pooja Sathe Gawande, a Mumbai-based dog behaviourist and trainer, and founder of Crazy K9 Campers, which specialises in agility training and conducts weekend getaways involving pets. Bringing home a pet is a commitment for the next 10 or 12 years at the least. While adopting a pet, be mindful of whether all members of the family want the dog at home. Sometimes, children want a pet to play with, but the dog is neglected once the initial excitement is over. This happened rampantly during the Covid lockdown, with the dogs initially getting a lot of attention but later being neglected or even abandoned once Covid cases dropped and so cialising resumed.

If you do want to keep a dog, a consultation session with an animal behaviourist will help choose a breed that is suitable for your family, home, lifestyle as well as the weather in your city. A classic example is that of the husky, which was bred for cold weather and to pull sleds through the snow. The dog has energy and needs to channelise it in a correct way. If you merely keep such dogs in an air-conditioned room all day with no exercise, they will get bored and start destroying things around them. “In cities, dogs are confined to the house and get a maximum of two walks. Some high-energy breeds need more exercise and then start destructive behaviour out of boredom. The breed or the puppy isn’t wrong ; it just doesn’t have the avenues to expend its energy,” says Gawande.

Here are a few must-dos if keeping a dog at home:

* Training: This is the most important. Every puppy should be trained from a very early age. There’s no need to use force or punishment. A routine needs to be set and the family must follow the same. “No dog breed is meant to be born aggressive . Even guard dogs are to be trained to be watchful and alert, but you don’t want them to be biting the owner. How a dog behaves is dependent on how it has been raised. An image has been built that big bulky dogs are aggressive but that’s not true,” says Gawande.

* Mental stimulation: Just as physical exercise is essential, dogs need mental stimulation too. Toys and games are important to keep the dog mentally occupied and alert.

* Debunk the myths: People think labradors are friendly, but not all may be so. Or not all rotweilers are aggressive. “A rotweiler can be an excellent family pet if trained well,” says Gawande.

* Keep distance: While interacting with a new dog for the first time, it is essential to wait at a distance, ask the pet parents for permission, and then allow the dog to warm up to you or sniff you. “If you touch a dog suddenly, he might get startled or intimidated. Let the dog approach you. Once you get the permission, it is appropriate to approach a dog from the side or on the back. Dogs usually don’t like their heads, ears or tails being touched suddenly by strangers ,” says Gawande.

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