Let me say this at the onset, I love Khal Dogo, my Dogo Argentino, and wouldn’t replace him for the world. Yet, the more I interact with dog activists, shelter homes, pet parents, breeders and community dogs; I can’t help but think that I should have adopted a dog instead of buying one from a breeder.
Let me break down the reasons, big and small, and personal and social.
You need a dog, they need a home
There are reportedly 35 million street dogs in the country, and after the Covid-19 lockdown, many pedigree dogs were abandoned by their owners. There are so many furry babies out there in a desperate need of a forever home. It then just feels wrong to buy a dog.
Love > money
When you go to a breeder, you have to pay anywhere between Rs.10,000 to upwards of Rs.3 lakh, depending on the breed and the pedigree of the dog. Whereas, dogs up for adoption, mostly the adorable, loving and smart Indies can fill your heart with joy for free. The amount you spend on buying a dog can be utilised in raising an Indie and giving it the best life possible, instead.
Breeders and their games
Dog breeding in India is a largely unregulated business. Breeders often exploit dogs and owners. They not only resort to the harmful practice of getting the female dog carry several litters a year; they also take away her pups from her way before three months. Many experts believe that a newborn must spend at least 90 days with her mother to grow into a healthy adult, learn how to navigate the world and other acceptable and unacceptable dog behaviour, such as not to bite too hard while playing with other dogs, etc. Pups that are separated from their mothers before time could develop serious health and behavioural issues.
Also, remember, breeders are in this for profit. I know of many pet parents who have been cheated by the breeders. They have gotten pups with serious health issues or infections despite paying a hefty sum.
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Moreover, if you plan to get a large, active breed like a Dogo Argentino, it’s also important that, both the mother and father of the pups are of a good temperament. A detail that most breeders don't bother with. In fact, the rarer the breed, the more the chances of a rogue parent, given the limited options the breeder can lay his hands on at an affordable price. A background check on the temperament of the dog up for breeding, it’s medical history is hardly ever thoroughly done.
This causes a lot of heartache for pet parents. Aggressive dogs are hard to handle and many parents have to reluctantly give them up, making it worse for that dog as well. As I also bought my dog, I too am guilty of promoting the exploitative practice of dog breeding in India, and feel terrible about it.
Our Indies are strong, sturdy dogs, used to the Indian climate, whether its heavy monsoons, harsh winters or summers, depending on which part of the country they are in. Many exotic dogs, especially the ones with a very thick fur coat are miserable in the summers as the heat for them is unbearable. Some of them also die because of heat stroke. To make them feel comfortable, pet parents have to often resort to using de-humidifiers or air conditioned all-round the year. That’s a massive expense and consumes a lot of energy.
Parents also find it hard to maintain these dogs in dusty, polluted neighbourhoods, where their coat tends to get rough, itchy and dirty. Cleaning such dogs and drying them in Indian monsoons is also a huge task. There are other related skin issues as well, such as heat boils in the summers, fungal infections in the monsoons. It’s a proven fact that pedigree dogs are more susceptible to these than the native Indies.
Most Indies are adaptive dogs. While most pedigree dogs need a specific diet, preferably non-vegetarian, Indies are known to do just fine on a complete vegetarian diet as well. It’s a huge money saver.
A companion for life
As Indies are sturdier dogs who do not fall ill as frequently as pedigree dogs, they also tend to live longer, healthier lives. While most pedigree dogs’ average life span is 10 to 15 years, especially of the bigger breeds, Indies have known to live for 20+ years as well.
Dog activists and shelter home staff are doing phenomenal work in ensuring that the right dog ends up in the right house. They will interview the prospective adoptive parents, seeking information about their lifestyle, their home and neighbourhood, their family, and will give them a suitable dog with the right temperament, also making sure that the dog finds a happy home. For instance, if the parents already have another dog at home and if he or she is an alpha dog, they will recommend a second dog that is more docile, so that the dogs don’t fight amongst themselves. If there are kids at home, the activists will suggest a people-friendly and a tolerant dog.
These experts also willingly prepare you for raising the dog, give you all the information and help you might need to get them vaccinated if they are not, what to feed them, how to toilet train them, too. With an adopted dog also comes a support system, which is a blessing.
Having learned all of this, I know that the next time I bring home a dog, I will adopt one. Especially now that I am an experienced dog parent, I am confident that we might be able to raise an abandoned dog with behavioural issues as well.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, Kathak student, and first-time pet parent