Our previous blog talked about the many challenges owners face when moving with their dogs to a "pet-friendly" country. As we assured you there, it gets better. So much better that it almost seems worth it—the many bureaucratic hoops to jump over, the waiting, the anxiety, the much distressed bank account. It's now time to relax and enjoy the freedom such a move brings with it.
For most Indians, being able to go with your furry companions anywhere—to restaurants, in public transport, parks, house-parties, music concerts is a liberating experience. A far cry from the stifling need to hole your dog in a cramped apartment where walks practically mean a trudge to the dump yard so Fido can relieve himself. Now, it's almost as if Fido is a person! (Caution: He is not. And both you and he need to get that straight.)
A well-adjusted, socialised dog will adapt to new rules, surroundings and commands anywhere between two to 12 hours! The definitions of "well-adjusted" and "socialised" are key, though.
The thing with freedom is, as was famously said, that it doesn't come free (as the much diminished figure in your bank account will keep reminding you for some time to come). Besides, it comes with a few rules of its own
The good news first: dogs are the most popular pets precisely because not only are they adaptable, they are genetically suited to adjust to human-made conditions. In other words, Fido is likely to adjust to his new home and surroundings sooner than you imagine. How soon? According to dog behaviourists, a well-adjusted, socialised dog will adapt to new rules, surroundings and commands anywhere between two to 12 hours! The definitions of "well-adjusted" and "socialised" are key, though.
The bad news: you need to put in an effort well before time to make this seamless settling happen.
1. Do your homework
Work on yourself. The key is this: the dog is your responsibility. It is easy to forget that coming from a country where help is at hand for everything from walking Fido to washing him—all for a pittance.
If you haven't started yet, begin the bonding process NOW. Start walking him twice a day. Yourself. As indeed you will need to when you get to your new home. Get him to recognise your voice (Trust us. It has come up!) Wash and dry him yourself. And don't forget to rinse.
What you need to get: To Fido, you are his world.
Strip this of all the aww-inducing thoughts you just had and focus on basic biology: dogs part evolved from wolves but they were largely systematically bred over generations to adapt to humans. Everything from the dog's diet (there are very few omnivorous wolves in the wild) to his physical features, to his temperament is engineered by nature and human intervention to put pleasing his pack leader (you) above everything else. The last bit is vital to remember because...
2. Let him know who the boss is
Not all well-worn clichés are useless. Thanks to Cesar Milan, we all know that a dog needs discipline, leadership and affection—in that order—to be well-adjusted. In the Indian context, unfortunately, it only serves to highlight another cliché: "God save us from people who mean well."
The cruelest thing you can do to the dog is pity him and give in to his whining...
Meaning well is often about putting the whole discipline-leadership-affection order upside down. To put it more simply, the cruelest thing you can do to the dog is pity him and give in to his whining or just allow him on the couch/let him strain at the leash/allow him to hump your foot (really, really trust us on this one. This has come up too!) just for the sake of peace or to let the barking stop!
Now, remember what we just mentioned above: a dog has a need to submit, to be led and above all, to please his master. Not for him all the drivel about rights.
What you need to get (again): Fido is not people.
What this means: talk down to him (literally). Look him straight in the eye and ensure he averts his gaze first. Eat your own food before you feed him. When taking him out, be the first out of the door. When you ask him to stop doing something that annoys you, ensure he follows and then reward him. Heed his whining and barking (he may be wanting to go or he could be warning you of something) but don't give in to it unless it is to answer nature's call. But above it all...
3. Show him his place (literally)
This is the bit hardest to swallow for most dog owners. Most baulk at confining the dog to a crate (especially because—and rightly so—chaining a dog is considered cruel and a mark of irresponsible ownership. Not only that, it may earn you a visit from the cops), often forgetting that having a restricted space to retire to often quells Fido's anxiety by providing him what a dog most needs—predictability, security and belongingness.
No wonder that crate-training is the most critical pillar in the relocation routine that all professional relocators insist on. Your dog could be anxious, frightened, restless. The best way of calming him down is to send him to his crate for a nap. The good part is, there's a small chance that he (and you!) would have escaped "crate training" as it is called in those circles if you engaged professional help while moving
Have you noticed what a stray dog does when scared, confused, anxious, even bored? He looks for a confined place to retire to. Your dog may be the most gregarious, boldest creature you know. But the needs for predictability, consistency, belongingness and security trump every other instinct
What you need to get: Fido needs to be in his place
4. Let Fido get used to being away from you (and get bored)
We often get asked if the dog will be "okay" in his crate over anywhere between 8 to 18 hours. The answer very simply lies in if he knows his place (look above). Make no mistake—being confined to a small crate for 18 whole hours is uncomfortable for sure. But, trust us, it is a whole lot less uncomfortable than it is for you to be enduring Titanic reruns sandwiched between two strangers for the same duration.
The only thing to care about when you are with your dog is how he is feeling right there and right then.
This is vital to understand even when you get him abroad, where, chances are, he will be a lot lonelier for the majority of the day than he is used to being. And perhaps a lot more bored.
Well, have you noticed how excited he gets when you are home—whether you have been away for 10 hours or 10 months? There lies your answer.
What you need to get: Fido lives in the moment.
Again, this may read like something that should accompany a screenshot of some natural scenery totally unrelated to the topic. But this is again more scientific fact than inspirational quote. The only thing to care about when you are with your dog is how he is feeling right there and right then. Your dog doesn't mull over the past and doesn't worry about the future
Remember the above rules and enjoy the new phase of your lives!