Sun, 14 Jan 2001

What to do to keep your four-legged friend happy

By Maria Endah Hulupi

JAKARTA (JP): Do you know that your dogs, just like humans, have emotions? Dogs express their feelings with their tails and faces. For example they will wiggle their tails when they see you arrive at the front door or hide their tails between their legs when they feel intimidated.

Through their faces, they express their loneliness, sadness, anger and boredom.

What should the dog owners do to make their pets happy?

General manager of the city-owned Jakarta Veterinary Hospital (Rumah Sakit Hewan Jakarta), Wiwiek Bagdja said domestic dogs and cats need companions and are always longing for the presence of humans and other pets to play with.

Loneliness could distress dogs and that is why the veterinarian advised families whose members are often away to have more than one dog to ensure that their pet has friends when none of their masters are around.

"The presence of people who love and care for them or other dogs to play with, would prevent your pets from feeling lonely and bored," Wiwiek, who is also secretary general of the Indonesian Veterinarians Association (PDHI), said.

"Dogs are sensitive and they can sense who love, hate or are afraid of them," she said, adding that these animals would certainly miss the affection of their owners.

However, if the whole family have to leave for a weekend or a long holiday and had delegated the care of their pets to someone else, the care-taker is advised to call the dogs by their names and pat their heads once in a while.

"This treatment will help the pets forget that their beloved owners are away," Wiwiek said.

Having more than one dog is good for the pets during play time. However, dogs may perceive the presence of the other pets as rivals when it comes to food and their owners' love and attention.

"Dogs do have jealousy, especially when they think that their owners favor one of them," she said.

She suggested the owners respect this and try to avoid making the favorite dog in the house became hostile to the others for not being fed first, for example.

"The most important thing is that all dogs are well taken care of and receive equal attention and treatment," she said.

The veterinarian, however, said it is better to take care of pets from when they are very young to enable owners get to know their personalities.

Puppies need training not only to make them obey simple instructions, but also to do routine activities, such as urinate or defecate at a specific spot.

"Give them a special location to play and train them to litter on newspapers or a sandy area to make cleaning easier. And once they get accustomed to these instructions they would not do it in other places," Wiwiek said.

Puppies, just like children, love to play with anything that attracts their attention. Pet owners are also advised to give them edible chewy bones, made of skins, to munch on as it would help them remove their snout from furniture or other objects lying around on the floor and soothe their itchy gums.

Regular daily exercise and a periodic visit to the veterinarian to keep them in good shape are necessary and dogs also need special food to fulfill their nutritional intake.

"Dogs have specially made food. It's okay to throw them food from the dining table every now and then. But pet owners need to understand that human food contains some ingredients, which might affect the animal's organs and would later fatten them," Wiwiek added.

Many pet owners only love to cuddle and play with their dogs but when it came to treating their sick dogs, they will immediately delegate it to their domestic helpers, who might not really like the animals, let alone know how to treat them properly.

"It's not fair for the pets, because once you have decided to have a pet, you are responsible to take good care of them," Wiwiek added.