Last year when I took a break from work, it seemed like the right time to add a dog to the family. It was something we had been contemplating for a while but our lifestyle didn’t allow it. Puppies are a lot of work and since there were 2-3 months between jobs, adopting an adult dog who could be trained to stay home on his/her own seemed like the best option. With so many dogs up for adoption, what could go wrong?
I spoke to boarding house owners, animal rights activists, dog trainers, vets, friends with dogs and families giving up their dogs. At the end of it all, I came away with a certain amount of disgust at how this unregulated industry operates.
- None of the stakeholders get along with the others and everyone has a strong point of view. But they are opposing views and no scope for a middle path. So, dog trainers insist on a temperament test and trial period before bringing a dog home permanently. Animal activists think these are ways for a trainer to earn money because all dogs are awesome.
A boarding house owner where a labrador was abandoned insisted that I get a trainer she recommends. While there was no issue doing that, the lady who hadn’t bothered to meet me was making such demands and it sounded fishy. The adoption fell through and even 2 months later, the dog hadn’t been adopted. What kind of an animal lover would do that?
Every abandoned dog had a tragic story and the animal activist would try to guilt me into bringing the labrador home. On one occasion, I travelled all the way to Kharghar. The door of the flat was opened by a fat, shirtless man who was probably the househelp. The parent of the dog wasn’t home and hadn’t even informed me about his absence. The huge labrador had a hole on his chest. Another labrador had been abandoned outside the Cox and Kings office at Fort. The employees are animal lovers and they took him in. He was kept on leash near the reception, fed at regular intervals and taken out for walks. The security guard took care of him on the weekends.
Fosters and activists wanted to get the dogs adopted as soon as possible since they live in tiny apartments with one dog already. They don’t get paid to take care of these dogs. So, they wouldn’t give you the complete picture about any behavior issues, opposed temperament test and trial period. You could meet the dog once and just take him home. Even a house check of the prospective adoptee may not be done.
There are 3 important things to consider about a dog:
1) The breed: Every breed has a certain characteristic and they have to match your requirements. Like, beagles are hyperactive, pugs overheat very soon and can’t be taken out for long walks, golden retrievers love spending time with their families, indies are low maintenance.
2) Temperament : This is the nature of the dog, irrespective of the breed. So, male and female dogs have a difference in temperament. The dogs are born with a certain temperament but it can be acquired as well. Example, aggression as a trait can be genetic or acquired. A dog trainer can help identify the temperament and help you work towards avoiding future behavior problems. Like, we are working with the trainer to avoid food aggression at a later stage.
3) Health : Indies are very resilient and evolved to live in Indian conditions but most breeds are prone to health issues.
Pros and cons of adopting a dog :
- An abandoned dog gets a loving home
They are usually house trained and you can find a dog who matches your lifestyle. You can either bring a dog who loves outdoor activities or one who loves being a sloth.
Adult dogs can be trained to stay on their own when you go to work. They can hold their bladder for many hours and need to be outdoors only 2-3 times a day.
If you are lucky, you will find a fully trained dog and the transition will be smooth.
- Most of these dogs have had fucked up owners. They were bought from puppy shops with backyard breeders. And the owners didn’t socialize or train them. When the behavior problems were magnified, they were abandoned. Or the family shifted cities/countries and didn’t take them along. Most of them have behavior problems and it takes a dog 3 weeks in a new home to open up. The activists and fosters will never tell you about the behavior problems and these lead to failed adoptions when they are returned again.
Such dogs need an experienced family. Those who understand a dog and can work with a trainer on those issues. First time dog parents will be unprepared for the responsibility.
Their medical history and health issues will not be available. Neither will the activists let you get them checked from a vet so you are sure you are bringing home a healthy dog. Unless you are taking the dog from the actual parents, this is a matter of luck.
We brought home a 1 year old beagle from his parents for a trial period. They had bought him from a breeder without any research because they are small dogs. He had not been socialized or trained and the family was unwilling to put in effort. The 4 days that he was with us were extremely tough. The beagle couldn’t walk on a leash without pulling. His trainer tried to push the most expensive trainer onto me but I put my foot down. On her recommendation, I hired a trainer within my budget but he didn’t turn up and stopped answering my phone after 2 days. We made him run for 2 hours everyday and he was still hyperactive. He couldn’t sleep on his own, hated being leashed, wasn’t housetrained, barked at kids and made our life miserable. Finally, I begged the trainer I had spoken to a few times and he made an impromptu visit. He suggested sending the dog back because a beagle doesn’t fit our requirements and an untrained beagle is always going to be hard work.
The break was over and a new job beckoned. But this time we decided to get a golden retriever puppy from an ethical breeder. We decided we would learn along with the puppy. I searched online and found one of the most well known breeders based in Guwahati. The difference between a backyard breeder and an ethical breeder is that the former don’t care about the dogs. It is a business for them and they don’t care about the quality of their dogs. A female is mated many, many times with a male dog irrespective of their health and temperament. The dogs are kept in terrible conditions and their responsibility ends once they sell the dogs. When the dogs cannot mate anymore or a puppy has some issue, they are put down.
On the other hand, an ethical breeder ensures dogs with the best health and temperament are mated. They retire the dogs after a few mating seasons, maintain hygiene and good living conditions, give the puppies to the best families and keep in touch with the families. Incase, someone wants to give up the dog, they find a good family for them. I spoke to this lady few times on the phone in 6 months, followed her on social media and met her 2-3 times. I met the parents of the litter she had and brought Barfi home once she was 10 weeks old. In the meantime, I contacted Shirin Merchant (most well known trainer in the country) for the recommendation of a good trainer in Kolkata. Even before finding a house in Kolkata, I had spoken to the trainer.
Even though it has been a week, we are very, very happy with Barfi and how awesome she is. She started her training one week after she came home. Because dog training is exactly like disciplining your kids. And nobody should be subjected to undisciplined kids or untrained dogs.
Everyone should adopt but only if you can take the responsibility. Else, buy a puppy from an ethical breeder. But please never buy puppies from a backyard breeder or a pets shop.