7 dog owners share their experiences and insights in raising their pet

All kids want a puppy but they don't understand that it's a 20-year commitment, and that they won't be kids forever.

Dogs are wonderful but they do take a lot of looking after. Basic how-to guides talk about the three-times-a-day walks, the vet bills, the twice-daily meals, plus the grooming and perhaps the barking. However, there is a lot of other information that doesn’t get out there that easily.

So, we asked seven Malaysian dog lovers to share tips that they think new dog owners won’t have come across.

When your children get a puppy, you will inherit the dog!

“When my son was a teen, he bought Kiera from a breeder. She’s an Alaskan Malamute and taking care of her was too much for him. As I work from home, the dog bonded with me.

“A few years later, my daughter who was studying abroad adopted Mikko, a Shiba Inu. She brought him back when she came home – but she’s working now, and I’m at home, so guess who has an extra dog?

“All kids want a puppy but they don’t understand that it’s a 20-year commitment – and that they won’t be kids forever. So, if yours want a pet, just know that there’s a very good chance you end up walking it, feeding it – and loving it.

– Reggie Lee, cartoonist, guardian to Kiara, an Alaskan Malamute; Millo, a Shiba Inu; and dad to the newly adopted stray mix, Jamie

You’ll probably underestimate homing time

“Rescue dogs have been abandoned and neglected, so they have lots of emotions to work through. They will be nervous, not trusting that they have a forever home, so they need a lot of comforting before they understand that they are truly home and welcome.

“When Huggie came to live with us 18 months ago, my little daughter was there constantly saying, ‘This is your home, this is your bowl, you have a bed here, we love you.’ He needed it because he had to learn to be unafraid. So, reckon on a minimum of two weeks to get the pet settled – and likely more.”

– Bobby Keng Hsing Ong, shipping company consultant in Puchong, Selangor, and dad of Huggie, a rescue dog adopted in 2017

Dogs need to know that you love them.

Attention is key to bonding

“When your pet wants to talk to you, pay attention, even if you’re busy. Pick them up, hug them and talk to them. If they are small enough for you to carry them about, do so.

“Dogs need to know that you love them. They crave that reassurance, and contact is the way you signal that to them. If you don’t hug them, they are disappointed. It’s so sad. It hurts their feelings. So, be mindful of your pets. Hug and show them your love.”

– Khoo Kong Soo, pet rescuer, who shuttles between Kampar, Perak and Kuala Lumpur

Even when you think you know dogs, adding one to your tribe may be difficult

“Jade came to us as a pup, and we had two older dogs, so she was the baby. Later, when we brought in Duchess, Jade was already three years old. She wasn’t used to being a mum/aunt-type figure. Jade was too big, played too rough, and she frightened Duchess.

“As our new pup was so small, we kept her away from Jade for a year. With hindsight, that may not have been the best approach. Today, they’re still not really friends. Jade spends a lot of time in the garden and Duchess tends to stick to being indoors, and we use a divider when they’re in the same space.

“I think that when you introduce a new dog, you have to do a bit of reading up, and be prepared to deal with size and character differences.”

– Katelyn Pereira, student in Subang Jaya, and mum to Jade, a German Shepherd, and Duchess, a Poodle

Tiny puppies don’t drink regular milk

“Most puppies can’t tolerate cow’s milk as they are lactose intolerant. You can tell as they throw up or have diarrhoea. So, people go for formula puppy milk (universal replacement milk) but the amazing thing is that most dogs don’t like it very much.

“That’s when you end up buying goat’s milk, which is expensive. A small bottle is RM5 and it lasts one or two feedings. Powered goat milk is much cheaper and lasts a few weeks. Happily, when puppies get to crawling, you can start adding in real food, like minced meat and egg yolk.

– Siew Yenn, rescuer in Petaling Jaya, and mum to six dogs, including the seven-month-old mixed puppy, Pixel, who enjoyed goat’s milk

As your life changes, you may not be a good dog parent

“If you and your partner get a pup, you may think of it as a fur-baby. You work at raising the pup and how to fit work and play around a young dog. However, it’s your own life changes that are an issue.

“At the moment, relationship issues are the No.1 reason for dogs being dumped. Maybe the new apartment won’t allow dogs, or perhaps there isn’t enough money to pay for food and vet bills. We even hear of stories of dogs being given up when the new partner doesn’t want the dog from the old relationship!

“Marriage is another ‘killer’, especially if you want kids. There are many in-laws who will tell you to get rid of your dog – that it’s dangerous, dirty, and so on. They go on and on and on about this. It can be hard to resist them.

“Then there’s your career. What happens if you get a new job and have to move to a new town? Getting a room or a flat is easy – but getting a condo that accepts dogs is not.

“I have four dogs at the moment because people didn’t think about planning ahead. So, when you get a pup, please ask yourself: Will I be in this relationship and home in 15 years’ time? And if the answer is no, then don’t do it.”

– Shayne Lee, business development manager from Kuala Lumpur, and mum to four rescue dogs, Ice (Poodle), Neil and Gabriel (both Maltese), and Bobby (mixed breed).

Some dogs are really very hard to train.

Some dogs are not trainable so be prepared for chaos

“When I saw Benjy Boy on Facebook, he looked so lost that I felt sorry for him. I really thought it over before I contacted the rescuer because I already had two dogs. We went about it carefully, with me sending over money to have him cleaned up and neutered, so he was healthy and tick-free.

“When I finally got him, about a month later, he was much taller than I expected – my two are short compared to him. Also, he was a real rascal. He jumped all over Danny Boy and Daisy Belle, terrifying them. He tore up his bedding – and my cushions. And he peed everywhere!

“Then there was the noise. I cook lunch and dinner for the dogs, and from the second Benjy smelled the food, he’d be screaming and yelling and jumping and barking. After a month, I was a wreck and my house was practically destroyed.

“I actually called the rescuer to say I couldn’t cope. But as soon as I said it, I felt so bad that I changed my mind. I mean, it’s only a house. It can be washed, cleaned and tidied. And Benjy had already been rejected by several homes because people couldn’t cope with him.

“In short, I renovated the house and spent some money building him his own run. And I work to keep him separate from the other two. Three years later, Benjy is still wild. Training did absolutely nothing. He destroys his bedding, eats my cushions and he’s super noisy. But he also jumps on my lap for a cuddle and he’s very loving always.”

– Royce Rachel Thevarakam, secondary school teacher in Rawang, and mum of Danny Boy and Daisy Belle (both Lab-Beagle mixes), and Benjy the Destroyer

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