KASHVET - The Jammu and Kashmir Veterinarian

 

Training, feeding and breeding pets

Training pets

 

Dog training is an art and science. It is very important for your dog to be trained at least to the extent of obeying your basic commands. The training must be methodical and must be regularly carried out. An obedient dog is an asset and also required for the owner’s safety. An untrained adult Alsatian or Doberman can be quite lethal to your guests or some times to your own family. Choosing the breed is most important. No breed is the ‘best’ but Alsatians and Boxers are easy to train. Some breeds like the Dalmatian may be stubborn to train initially. Cross breeds may tend to be more difficult to train but they too are definitely trainable. Age of the dog too is an important attribute for training and pups are easier to train than adult dogs. Ideally I prefer the dog to be around 6 months when the training should start. The Indian Army starts training the dogs when they are 9 months of age. An extremely nervous pup is not suited to be trained. The first step in training begins at home and involves socialization with the family i.e. teaching the pup it’s name. The next step is to show the pup it’s immediate family and to make the family interact in a friendly manner with the pup. Remember the first impression often is the last impression. Then comes teaching the pup to walk properly on a lead and to answer its natures calls also on the lead. Just as all children do not learn equally fast there may be a difference in the learning aptitudes of your pup, so patience is of utmost importance. The main policy experts advocate in training is the ‘Reward and Punishment’ system. Punishment must be instant for the dog’s memory span is just 3 – 5 seconds and any punishment after this serves no purpose and only confuses the animal. Reward on the other hand must be profuse and elaborate. Either tit bits or soothing speech or lots of patting all serve the same purpose. It is better that only one member of the family train the pup initially and once the pup has learnt all the commands then other members can follow suit. Split the training into individual units and teach the dog the basics before going in for advanced training. Never insist on making the trainer teach advanced commands like ‘attack’ unless you are confident that the basic command ‘come’ has been perfected. This could lead to disastrous consequences in breeds like the German Shepherds. The training ground must be an open area free of distractions. The dog must associate pleasure with training or else you might have a dog, which refuses to even go for training. Never correct a dog more than it is needed, and remember that the dog cannot understand your language just as you cannot understand theirs. So don’t expect miracles and be patient.

 

Feeding pets

 

Dogs are mono-gastric animals like man and have a single stomach. All members of this particular family were carnivorous i.e. meat eaters. With centuries of domestication dogs have become omnivorous i.e. can survive on either meat or vegetarian food. Dog feeding seems to be more problematic to the owners than to the dog itself !
What amount, type, duration of feeding are the questions pet owners ask most commonly. My stock answer is that there are no hard and fast rules but then certain thumb rules can be laid down. First the feeding schedule for dogs is five meals a day from the age of two months. Then with every increase of age by three months reduce one meal. Therefore at the age of one year the adult dog needs to be fed only once a day. As pups the energy requirement is twice that of the adult. The adult dog must therefore necessarily be given a lesser amount of food or they tend to get obese. However the pregnant bitch in her last term needs to be fed more often with a diet which is low in quantity yet rich in quality. The food you provide your dog can be either fresh home made or dry pet foods. In case you decide to keep your pet on pet food then there are numerous types available at pet shops. These feeds are available in accordance to the age of the dog. These dogs need to be given long bones or chew bones to prevent accumulation of tartar. In case you decide to keep your dog on home made food which is the general practice in most households, then you can include eggs (boiled and never raw ), boiled meat, soyabean nuggets, hard vegetables e.g. carrots, boiled rice, bread, milk, curd, cottage cheese ( paneer ), boiled and mashed potatoes, etc. Pups need to be given multivitamin and calcium supplements till they complete their growth. Pups are better off with liquid or semisolid food. There is no specific amount of food to be given and your pup is the best judge to this. The pup should be slightly hungry at the end of the meal and eagerly accept the next meal. Most owners adjust to their dog's feeding requirements in a few days. One important point is that if the food is too much the pup will just leave it or ignore the next meal. Food provided must be warm and in a clean container. This will stimulate the sense of smell and increase the appetite. Cool potable water must be available at all times. A pup must be fed every four hours. The first meal being as early as possible and the last meal as late as you can so that the pup’s stomach does not remain empty for too long. In summers feed the dog during the cooler parts of the day preferably in the early mornings. The adult dog must be fed at least five hours prior to the household sleeping so that the dog has digested the food and is alert by the time the family is asleep. Dogs tend to eat more in winter and less in summer. There is a difference between in appetence and anorexia. The former indicates that the dog eats less while the latter refers to the dog being totally off-feed. Food must be kept in front of the dog for a maximum of 15 minutes especially in summer to prevent flies from sitting on the food. If the dog is active and alert and shows in appetence then there is no cause of concern. Some breeds are ‘greedy eaters’ by nature. The prime candidate for this title is the Labrador. Others like the Spitz tend to be choosy eaters. There are certain myths involving dog feeding. The first is that no salt or sugar is to be given. These may be given but in moderation. The second is that dogs must be given meat. Quite a few vegetarian families keep their pets on a vegetarian diet and the dogs are equally healthy. These owners can supplement their pet’s diet with some nutritional supplements. The third is that dogs must get milk all their life. This is probably the most common view held by people but most research shows that dogs do not need milk after the age of one year and do better off with yogurt or cottage cheese. There are certain points the owner must keep in mind. Firstly never feed the dog before you eat yourself. This is because dogs are pack animals and in a pack the leader always feeds first. Therefore to maintain your leadership always feed your pet after your meals. There should be no sudden diet changes as dogs prefer routine. Never feed your dogs chocolates as cocoa is toxic to dogs. Chicken bones too must be avoided as these may get stuck in the dog’s throat. Tit-bits and table-scraps are also best not given to them. If your pet is eating mud or stones increase the calcium and also get it de-wormed. If your dog is eating grass, it probably has some irritation in the stomach. It is normal for them to eat grass and vomit it out thereafter enabling them to cleanse their own system. Never let your pet run or jump after a heavy meal especially the larger dogs as this can cause the stomach to twist which may be potentially life threatening. Dogs can be made to take a walk to answer their routine nature calls. Dogs eating clothes etc. indicate a lack of fiber in the diet that needs to be supplemented. Chewing furniture is however a sign of teething and is normal. Careful regulation of your pet’s diet will keep it healthy all it’s life. You and your pet are the best judges to what your pet needs. In case your pet is putting on weight then reduce the diet and increase the exercise. Alternatively your vet would be the best judge to help those pets that are under-weight. A nutritionally balanced diet could then be prescribed keeping the individual pet in view.

 

Breeding pets

 

Perhaps one of the main problems faced by pet owners is in regard to the reproductive behavior of dogs after they attain sexual maturity. Although here as everywhere, individual modes of behavior differ, there are a few general patterns followed by all breeds. The females reach sexual maturity by eight months and the males by one year. Once the dog reaches puberty, they may develop some peculiar behavior patterns. The most common of these are flashing and masturbation. These are perfectly normal and can be controlled by a stern reprimand and a period of isolation. If these are not controlled at an early stage, it can become quite embarrassing once the pup becomes an adult. The females are better not bred in the first cycle, as the reproductive organs would not have developed fully. The males are also better used for stud purposes after the age fifteen months. The female is best bred between the age of eighteen months and seven years and that too not more than once a year. The larger breeds that tend to produce large litters must not be bred until they recover their health. There is a basic difference in the reproductive patterns of the male and the female. While the male is opportunistic and ready to mate all the year around, the females come to heat only twice a year. External factors like weather, health and nutritional status will affect its periodicity. The heat lasts for two weeks. Even during this period they accept the male only during last stage of the heat. There are two types of breeding: In-breeding and Out-breeding. The former is when two close relatives are bred. This is not advised. This happens quite often by accident in those households, where two pups are got from the same litter. Out-breeding refers to the breeding between two unrelated dogs of the same breed. As the parent’s genetic make-up will influence the pups, one has to be careful in selecting the male. The stud dog must have been fully vaccinated, free of ticks and other skin problems. The female must be given a broad -spectrum de-wormer prior to mating. For successful mating to occur, the owner must be careful to observe the first day of heat. The owner should look out for the beginning of bleeding in the bitch. The female must then be bred to the stud on exactly the 9th, 11th, and 13th day after the heat has started. After the 15th day, the female will shun the male. One important point is that it is essential to take the female to the house of the stud dog and not vice-versa. Also those dogs suffering from genetic conditions like hip-dysplasia or epilepsy are better not bred. The period of mating is usually half an hour in dogs from when they form a coital lock and they must be left in an isolated area during this period. In case your pet has got into an unwanted coital act, then also it is advisable to wait for the dogs to dismount voluntarily. Disturbing them at this stage will be cruel as it will cause terrible pain and will also damage their genitalia.

The duration of pregnancy is two months, but it is normal for the pregnancy to last up to sixty-five days. The growth of the fetus is fastest during the last twenty days of pregnancy and therefore the nutritional supplements must be increased during this period. At five weeks of pregnancy external signs could be visible like abdominal enlargement. Generally the breed size determines the litter size. Large breeds may have up to 12 pups, whereas smaller breeds have up to 5 pups.

The bitch will begin to show nesting behavior as it nears its term. This includes activities like digging up the garden, collecting old clothes etc. Just prior to the actual delivery, the bitch is restless and will go into isolation. At this stage, the owner is advised to provide some warm milk and to leave the female totally undisturbed. A gap of two hours between the delivery of each pup is normal. A time gap longer than this may need veterinary intervention. The bitch generally licks the pup clean and severs the umbilical cord itself, but ‘first time’ mothers may need help. 
A common problem owners face is about their pets having unwanted pregnancy. Often, even with all precautions, the bitch may cross with an undesired suitor. This problem can be handled by consulting your vet within the first forty-eight hours of the incident occurring. False-pregnancy is another problem where the bitch shows all signs of pregnancy, but is not actually pregnant. This is a normal physiological process and will settle down with time. This does not need any treatment unless the bitch is troubled with the presence of a lot of milk in the mammary glands.

 

 

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Last Modified: 06-Aug-08                                                    If you have a question/suggestion send it to feedback@kashvet.org