In 2021, in Spain there were already more than nine million dogs, according to the National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers (Anfaac), which was 2.6 million more than in 2019. The number of households that have incorporated a new animal member continues to rise, while their perception of the pet as a fundamental part of the family also increases. That is why it is not surprising that, before the arrival of a new dog, more and more people try to be properly prepared.
“I think people are more aware and adopt with more head, they even become very involved. Now there are many who are beginning to hire trainers, ethologists, they ask you much more, they are interested in giving them a more natural diet. I think the vision has changed”, explains Marta Somolinos García, manager of Petmanía, a pet store that has been open for more than a decade in the Madrid neighborhood of Pacífico. África Emo, a clinical ethologist veterinarian, also notices this change in vision, although it is still not the majority. “I start visiting people before I have a dog that asks you what breed, what it has to do, etc. Luckily, more and more is being done, but obviously it is still a minority, ”she says. Emo, who belongs to Gemca, a group of veterinarians specializing in animal behavior medicine in Spain, believes that whoever takes care of a dog still needs to know the species and its behavior well.
The basic kit to receive the new family member
There are some things that, at a basic level, all dogs need when they arrive at their new home. They are also elements that it is advisable to buy, if possible, before the animal gets home. Somolinos compiles what would be the basic kit to receive the new dog: “A diet appropriate to its age, weight and characteristics. A bed, leash or harness, and appropriate toys. For example, if it is a puppy, it would be ideal to take a toy so that it can chew, since the first months their mouth hurts and they can have some anxiety ”, he details. To this you can add a feeder and drinker, preferably stainless steel, and, in the case of a puppy, soakers, a very useful item until the new member of the family learns to relieve himself outside the home.
“The dog is a social species and what it will want is to be where you are. In reality, we do not have to make big changes in the house, what should be thought is that you have one more member of the family and the dog wants to be with his group, ”says Emo. To this, Somolino adds: “If we have decided that he be there, it is to live with him.” This means looking for spaces, both physical and temporary, for the pet and assuming that an adaptation phase will be needed, both from us to it and from it to us.
For this reason, the ideal is that these elements of the basic kit are refined depending on the character of the animal and the needs that are perceived. Somolino gives an example: “There are many types of bed, there are anti-stress beds, there are cribs, mattresses… There are animals that love to get into a nest, so a crib is better, and there are those who just want to take the bed and take it to the room where you are and for that a light mattress is better; The first and most important thing is to know your animal”.
The same happens with toys, if they are needed more or less indestructible, or with the choice between the collar and the harness. “If he’s not nervous, he doesn’t get scared and walks calmly down the street, he’s indistinct. If you pull, without hesitation, an anti-pull harness (those with the fastening ring on the chest), and if it is a small dog that pulls and you can tell it coughs sometimes, also a harness because they can suffer from trachea ”, sums up Somolino.
Link and environmental enrichment, much more than a walk
Although obviously not all are material needs. “If we take a puppy, it will also need emotional support, a bond that will be created between it and the new guardian,” explains Emo, especially in the case of weaned puppies in periods when they should still be with the mother. “An adult dog is going to have its backpack of experiences, often bad, and it is important to take into account what expectations we have with that animal,” she says. Many times these types of dogs arrive with fears that must be understood in order to know the best way to help them.
Another of the fundamental needs that must be taken into account is the so-called environmental enrichment. These are a series of measures that seek the well-being of the animal by promoting behaviors typical of its species, such as sniffing in search of hidden food. Of course, we must take into account the characteristics of the animal, also depending on the breed and age. For example, a young dog will need more stimulation than an older one, and an active breed will require more enrichment time. “Environmental enrichment is very important and will help in those exploratory needs. It can be incorporated into toys that carry food such as the LickiMat, the Kong or the olfactory mat”, explains Emo. These are the triad of preferred toys as far as environmental enrichment is concerned.
LickiMat is a commercial brand of latex mats on which food is spread and whose design favors the animal licking it out. According to Juan Carlos Castilla, founder of the Noblecan dog training service, this form of environmental enrichment “causes the segregation of calming hormones in the dog. The licking action produces endorphins, hormones that calm your pet and help reduce anxiety on all levels.”
The kong, also a trademark, is a very resistant and hollow rubber toy, which allows food to be introduced inside that the dog takes out while biting and playing. For their part, the olfactory carpets are made with strips of cloth of different lengths between which prizes are hidden, usually food. Searching for them favors calm and concentration and, by using the sense of smell, it is an exercise that mentally tires the dog, much more effective than a long walk full of runs.
Of course, as a summary to do things right, both experts consider it essential to go to professionals to obtain correct information, both before the arrival of the animal and during, and forget about the calls pipican tips (those received from other owners in the park). “It is important that people go to specialists. If they had good information, many of the problems we deal with would not have appeared”, Emo says.