If it moves, it dies.
By ALMA BUELVA
NOT everyone deserves a dog, especially those who are clueless about dogs. But, if they insist on having one, the book called Dog-Life Balance by Onayd Lumbao offers a quick guide to dog ownership written in the Philippine context.
Lumbao, a certified dog trainer and behaviorist for over two decades, wrote Dog-Life Balance: Finding the equilibrium between pet ownership and other details of life, to educate Filipinos on how they should work around a dog's primal physical, mental and emotional needs so they could both co-exist peacefully, if not happily.
The book tackles the starting points in dog ownership from choosing a name and introducing a dog to members of the family and other pets, to some disturbing conditions such as excessive barking, humping and eating stool, among others. In addition, the book tries to lift the veil on the wrong forms of dog training that were once considered effective, and suggests more positive methods of disciplining and training.
Dog-Life Balance is only 93-pages long, easy enough to finish in one sitting. Although brief, it is not short of eye-opening takeaways that dog lovers could use. Here are some of them:
A dog owner's personality affects the behavior of his or her own dog. Lumbao said behaviors are made, not born. Most of the time, humans are responsible for creating them.
A well socialized pet is better than a well-schooled dog. Dogs are highly social animals and we are doing them a disservice by limiting their chances for interactions. Lumbao said some people invest more on training dogs in confinement, but spend minimal time taking them outdoors. He said dog owners should give their dogs time to satisfy their social and physical needs. A 20-minute daily walk is fair, he added.
Dogs can bark. Owners shouldn't shout. Barking is a normal canine behavior and is only a problem from the human's perspective, wrote Lumbao. Barking is one of the top reasons dogs get yelled at, but the author said he doesn't recommend yelling or shouting “as many dogs become used to human words in varying degrees.”
Want to keep them dogs calmer? Let them hear classical music! The book cites a study wherein dogs barked aggressively to rock music but settled down when they heard classical pieces.
Make adjustments, employ creative tools. Howling, biting, digging, chewing and other things that get dogs into trouble could be abated with the help of positive training and tools. The book appreciates that puppies see the world as one big playground and that dogs, young or old, have a tendency to bite as part of their nature to survive.
Providing dogs with the right objects to chew such as large pig bones, coconut husks, sugar cane and cow hooves can distract them away from being destructive. A noise-maker can also do the trick of breaking up a fight and other mischiefs dogs do, especially when they are bored.
Be the dog's best friend. Often called man's best friend, dogs can also use a friend who could mold their behavior without lording it over them. When training or disciplining dogs, the book recommends “obey and be rewarded” over “disobey and be punished”. Speaking of positive reinforcement, the book made me chuckle when Lumbao wrote: “Do not use prongs or chokers, these are painful. Try putting one around your neck if you don't believe me.”
Love beyond words, after all, dogs don't talk. It's easy to fall for puppies, but the book also emphasized the need to take care of senior dogs. Senile dogs need more patience and the older the dog, the more they need to be introduced to new things, Lumbao said.
When not everyone in the family loves a dog, Lumbao suggested that it is the dog owner's task to keep them from hating the animal. Like it is also his responsibility to practice pet population control whatever the dog's breed may be.
Appreciate the reliable Bantay. Dog-Life Balance is a rare book in the sense that it has pages that talked about the Philippine native dog, commonly called Aspin (Asong Pinoy) and widely kept as Bantay (Guard), hence their popular household name. One would be hard put to find another book that mentions and even hails the strong character and spirit of aspins.
Now, for the bad part:
Where the book mightily failed, however, was in the editing and proofreading. It has one too many instances of repetitive texts on top of grammar and spelling slips that could turn off some readers.
Throughout the book, names were dropped to highlight their contributions or experiences leading, directly or indirectly, to better dog ownership. Some don't need introduction like French philosopher Rene Descartes and management guru Peter Drucker. But the rest of the names mentioned (we came across 30 names or so), with the exception of one or two, were not properly identified so it would be up to the reader to Google who they are. Such is far from the norm. It particularly becomes bad when the person cited doesn't even have a last name! “Jerry, a sporty guy in his 20s” in page 87, simply doesn't cut it. A non-fiction work requires full names for veracity.
The book wants every dog owner to appreciate the huge responsibility of keeping a dog.
“If we fall short, we not only rob dogs of their right to live to the fullest but we also contribute to the development of many behavioral problems like aggression,” he wrote.
Lumbao believes that a balanced dog owner has peace and compassion and, preferably, has no breed bias.
“Whatever the size, shape, color and character of the dog sitting next to you now, appreciate him; he is, after all, smart enough to take you as his best friend,” he added.
Dog-Life Balance: Finding the equilibrium between pet ownership and other details of life, is available in local bookstores. -- MetroPets
* Pet Emotion Machine calms sensitive dogs