It has been three months since I started parenting a pup. And raising her, in this short span of time, has already led me on a journey of contemplation and self-realisation. But, most importantly, it has led to the discovery of multiple support systems for pets, which often do not get the recognition they deserve.
As we settle into a life with a pup, I have been through multiple meltdowns, doubting myself on my abilities to parent one—there has been guilt about feeling this, urges to run away from these adult responsibilities as I have been forced to wake up at impossible hours, and more.
Along the way, however, I have also discovered communities of individuals and support groups that help cope with the realities of parenting dogs. The relevance of Instagram as a community-creating social medium has become even more apparent, as it has connected multiple individuals, from pet parents to experts with greater experience in handling dogs.
For instance, the Bengaluru-based doodle artist Mounica Tata was among one of the first I reached out to—Tata runs a page for her two Golden Retrievers, Leo and Ollie, with nearly 2,500 followers. While they adopted their first dog, Leo, as a timid one-year-old, Ollie came into their lives as a high-energy, months-old pup.
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“Raising Leo was a cakewalk but with Ollie, the challenge was doubled as Leo took time to warm up to her. I would cry myself to sleep as I felt I had wronged Leo. Ollie, being a pup, also demanded a lot of our time and energy—leading to plenty of sleepless nights,” says Tata. “Raising puppies requires a lot of patience and hard work, but eventually things settle into a rhythm as they grow.”
Tata is not alone. As I posted about my experience from the first month of dog parenting on 10 July, nearly 100 friends and acquaintances opened up about the often harsh realities of bringing up dogs. Kolkata-based corporate professional Titas Basu underlined the realities of bringing up her Labrador pup, highlighting how she handled meltdowns, a habit of sustained biting and chewing with her pup Bella, and the near-destructive months of her growing up.
A big part of the unspoken challenges comes from moments known technically as “frenetic random activity periods” (Fraps), or, colloquially, “zoomies”.
Retrievers, among the most energetic pups, frequently go through such periods. According to Priyanka Tiwari, a Noida, Uttar Pradesh-based dog behaviourist and trainer, this is compounded by a dog’s natural instinct to look for food, which led my pup—among others—to erratic periods of loud and incessant barking. Most such pups also chew on every piece of hanging cloth, cushions on the sofa, stray pieces of paper, bags in the kitchen—in short, pretty much everything.
Beyond all the happy-pup moments, such instances can be utterly exhausting and overwhelming. The puppy blues eventually end up feeling close to what new mothers go through in post-partum depression, as numerous pet parents, like Basu, Gurugram, Haryana-based resident and media professional Priyanka Chakrabarti and others attest to.
Help, however, is at hand. Startups such as the Gurugram-based Sploot, Bengaluru-headquartered ThePack and Delhi-based K9 School offer dog behaviour modification programmes, obedience training and other such activities—while also offering boarding facilities in organised kennelling layouts. Individuals, too, offer services that make dog training accessible. These include Tiwari and Bengaluru-based management professional Ayushi Gupta.
The importance of such support systems has grown exponentially amid an alarming rise in the number of dogs that are abandoned.
Gupta, who also works with the Bengaluru-based dog rehabilitation non-profit Second Chance Sanctuary, explains: “The pandemic was a direct cause of dogs being abandoned or put up for adoption. As people could not go out, pets were seen as an easy substitute for socialisation. They were adopted without thinking of the lifetime of commitment. Once offices opened, there was a surge of pedigreed dogs, aged two years and above, being found abandoned on roads, tied to poles. Only a lucky few were handed over to our NGO to be rehomed.”
A big reason for this is a lack of understanding of dog behaviour. “Most people approach trainers once their dog has developed an aggressive behaviour that needs correction, instead of enrolling them as puppies for obedience and discipline programmes. It’s also important that pet parents do their due diligence and look for certified trainers who can customise programmes for their dogs, after assessment. There is no government body that certifies them but one must look for a trainer who has trained under internationally renowned trainers, like Adnan Khan of K9 School, or Shirin Merchant’s Institute for Dog Training and Behaviour, to name a few,” adds Tiwari.
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Eventually, every vested party in dog parenting agrees on the need for greater conversations with relation to the realities of raising dogs. While the fun, attention-drawing pup videos on social media work as a great marketing medium, there is a greater need to reduce the brazen marketing of pups and speak of the realities to ensure that first-time dog parents are better prepared.
Vernika Awal is a journalist and food writer.