After we discussed the different types of dog breeds and their possible matchup with their human friends, a question was raised by a reader (and fellow Animal Scene columnist) Stef Dela Cruz: “What would you advise someone to look for when matching a dog with other pets?”
Interesting question! When doing so, one has to simply remember the dog’s origin being rooted in wolves. The wolf is a predatory animal, so anything it can fit in its mouth is fair game, if you go by instinct. Enough good temperament has been bred in most domesticated dog breeds that oftentimes we forget that they automatically react based on instinct, especially in a non-controlled environment.
Consider this: if you as a pet owner, spend at least fifteen minutes with your dogs per day, you can teach your pet dogs to live with most domesticated animals such as cats and other medium sized pets. Rabbits and guinea pigs, which are both wolves’ prey in the wild, may come to an intimate relationship with most pet dogs given the proper introduction and management when all your pets are around.
Jealousy occurs depending on our own actions towards both our pet dog and other pets. It largely depends on if we, as pet owners, are willing to serve as the alpha male or head of the pack for our dogs and other pets. That being said, you have to invest your time once you choose other types of pets to have around you and your dog. Obviously when you are at work or away, the wisest thing to do is separate your pets in that they have separate enclosures within the home.
If you are considering reptiles as your other pets, look at the nature and build of these reptiles. Large tortoises are not only hardy and big enough to defend themselves, the nature of these cold blooded reptiles who are not accustomed to go on offensive in the wild will simply drive your pet dogs away through sheer boredom.
However, if you choose to have pythons and other constrictors as your other pets…you know full well never to leave your pet dogs and your large dogs together in your absence, no matter if you are only going to the kitchen to get a glass of water which will take you less than five minutes. The nature of pythons and boas as predatory reptiles whose senses are triggered by warm blooded prey is enough to warm you not to leave them together for even the shortest time.
I have had people arguing that their pet constrictors, when just fully fed, are harmless and will just sleep away the time. Not in full sunlight and exposed to warm environments. No matter how heavy they feel, instinct will trigger them to strike pet dogs, even if they won’t constrict and swallow their prey because they are full.
The answer, Stef, lies mainly in the amount of time and effort you can spend supervising dogs and other pets together, in addition to the time you can spend everyday playing and bonding with various pets everyday. If your family members share the same passion with you, then you have enough time spent to insure that pets do not fight and quarrel while you’re around. They will be aware that you, as the alpha male, will not stand for any trouble and squabbles.
Your other question regarding traits your dogs should have when you have a multi-pet household is much simpler. Buying dogs when they are around eight weeks old and training them young increases your chances of avoiding major disasters at home. Most puppies weaned at eight weeks will not show aggressive behavior unless harmed or hurt—instincts that will drive them to bite. These are your fear biters. For fear of getting hurt, dogs will resort to aggressive and instinctive defensive behavior such as barking and ultimately, biting. Thus, your responsibility is never to allow these situations to occur between your other pets and your dogs. Once the dogs associate pain with any other pets, it will take a long therapy period for them to unlearn their behavioral instincts.
You as the master of the household have both the responsibility of insuring the welfare of your pets as well as the ability to manage critical situations which may arise due to the behavioral instincts of your different pets. The best way to achieve this is still to read up on each one of them as much as possible. Learn as much as you can even before you bring them home. Remember, there is the one relationship your pet dog has with you as master; the second dimension is your other pets’ relationship with your dog. In both cases, you have to think through various circumstances and situations. In the end, you will find it meaningful and exciting trying to get everyone to be friends with one another.
PET DOG BONDING EXPERIENCES
Reader Charles Fernando wants to know what he can do so that his pet dog can enjoy and savor their every moment together. Let’s try to find out about bonding experiences which should be mutually beneficial for both you and your dog.
Dogs are intelligent enough to feel that if you’re happy, whatever it is you want to happen and how they behave are the things they almost always do. Consider the fact that you see dogs trained to walk on two legs, ride bicycles, surf, ride skateboards, etc. People have the mistaken notion that it’s treats or rewards motivating them. In the beginning, yes. But as time goes by, that hug from you, your smile, and the “vibrations” they feel from your warm heart are pretty much the end to which they perform and respond.
As the smarter of the pair, we humans will always have the responsibility to never expose dogs to harmful environments. Tricks are good, but they should not have a high risk of harming the dogs physically.
Instinctively, dogs are very good swimmers. Seeing you swim side by side with them overwhelms and excites them no end. You just have to draw distinctions between a controlled environment such as a home or community swimming pool versus when you are in the open sea or an unfamiliar body of water like a river or a stream.
In climbing mountains or hiking for long distances, naturally, the large breed dogs have an advantage over the pet and short legged dogs. People living in condos and small homes will prefer smaller breeds because of the area limitation. Some prefer them because of the minimal amount of time you have to spend with them daily. Physical exercise and arduously long distances demand much more attention from you in taking care of the needs of your dogs.
I have seen people forcefully pulling their dogs on leashes when obviously their pets are already in excruciating agony.
Bonding experiences are great with dogs over six months. If they are younger, they are not supposed to be exposed too much to the outdoors, especially when their vaccination requirements have not yet been completed. Likewise, dogs get to set their bone structure between 14 to 18 months of age. Making them carry heavy weights, playing with them for extended hours, or even mating them when their bones are still forming is largely discouraged.
Heat stroke gets to a dog whether they have short hair or long coats. More importantly, darker colored dogs will easily succumb to heat stroke because as their colors darken, the heat absorption rate rises. Be ready to lug large amounts of water for your rehydration as well as that of your pet dog. It would be wise to gradually increase the distance over time rather than to immediately subject your dog to very long distances.
As always, you are the master of your pets. Read up and understand your dogs with research; books and the internet are a good source, as are dog breed clubs. Some find it fulfilling to join rescue groups or communities of humans and dogs volunteering for search and rescue work. This is a form of bonding in itself whose fulfillment goes beyond normal and takes both dog and owner to a higher calling.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s September 2017 issue.