Paw Matters

Pooch Talk

Embark together with Best care animal hospital and the Maharagama Medical Officer of health are working with schools in the Maharagama DS Division to educate primary and secondary school children on how to prevent the spread of rabies, avoid dog bites and to responsibly look after their pets.

We have already worked with over 20000 children in various schools in the Maharagama area and we have also witnessed them bringing in their pets for the vaccination camps we have held, assuring us that they have taken the first step of being responsible for their own dog and to be a role model for others who follow to help save a life..

The team will be working with several other schools and students in the coming months, and also hope to return to the same schools later on in the project to re-cap, and measure the impact of the programme itself.

If you enjoy writing or drawing; send us a short story, illustration, poem or song, along with a picture of you and your pooch! You can write about how you met your dog, an interesting experience you shared with them, a funny habit they have or just the special reasons as to why you love your dog so much!

Send it to us by post or e-mail! We would love to hear from you all!


Your dog’s brain is a thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. Mental stimulation keeps your dog’s mind active, thereby improving brain function and protecting against cognitive decline. Activities that challenge and focus the brain, help build “Brain Reserve”, a quality related to the brain’s ability to reorganise itself and build new connections. In order to be well trained and happy pets, dogs need both mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis.

Keeping the mind active – Activities and Training
Is your dog bored? Mental stimulation is as important to your pets as the opportunity to run and play. Many of the problems reported to dog trainers such as stealing items, jumping up, inappropriate chewing, digging etc,can be the result of under-stimulated or bored dogs.

Whether you’re stuck for time, rained in during the monsoon season, or your dog can’t exercise normally, think of fun games and short training exercises that will help your dog stay sharp all year round. Ensuring your pet gets lots of mental exercise is never difficult!

Look for something you both enjoy, whether that means performing tricks, scavenger hunts around the house, playtime with toys, or when the weather permits – walks around your neighbourhood. And always remember, short sessions are best, intermingled with play or rest sessions!




Keeping the mind active – Environmental Enrichment
Termed “Behavioural Enrichment or Environmental Enrichment”, several zoos around the world regularly provide animals with challenging and novel activities in order to keep them mentally active and healthy. Your dog can also benefit from similar exercises too! Think of puzzles, interactive toys, novel treats, and things your dog can safely investigate by sniffing, tasting and exploring, then introduce your dog to his new surroundings and leave some of these lying around for your dog to enjoy.

Activities to Consider
Treat Hunt: Showing and then scattering some of your dog’s treats across the garden will have your dog rooting out his favourite treats and exercising his sense of smell!

Hide and Seek: Similar to the treat hunt, but with your dog’s favourite toy. Show your dog his favourite toy before you hide it somewhere he can reach, then watch as he really puts his nose to work! Keep changing your hiding spot for hours of fun.




Doggie Buddies: Find a friend who has a friendly dog, and arrange for regular play dates. Meeting new dogs and people is another way to keep your dog’s mind active!

Go Walkies: Take your dog out for a walk so that he can explore the world with all his senses.

Sondermann, Christina. Playtime for Your Dog: Keep Him Busy Throughout the Day. Cadmos Books, 2008. Print.
Giroux, Lisa. “Mental Entertainment for Dogs.” Practical Solutions to Everyday Pet
Problems.N.p..Web. 25 Jun 2013.
Miscellaneous Lectures, TuridRugaas.

Buster….the unexpected surprise…

That wonderful experience I have had with my dog prompted me to write this article with an underline message for all dog lovers. Never adopt a dog unless you are prepared to commit yourself one hundred percent looking after the dog, especially training and welfare of the dog. Writing, thinking about my dog and re-living those precious moments give me joy and a sense of satisfaction. I feel that we have done a good deed by helping to give that little soul a second lease of life. If it was not for my daughter’s intervention, my dog Buster would have been dead two and a half years ago.

When I first heard that my daughter was going to bring a 13 years or so old dog to our house, I thought she was joking. My first response, when it was revealed that she was serious, was my flat refusal. My horrendous experience with a rabid dog when I was about 6 years old and the fact that I had no experience whatsoever in looking after a mature dog, let alone a puppy, coupled with the fear of facing hefty bills that we may struggle to pay, would have contributed to my initial reaction.

Later when I learnt the reasoning behind the move, I decided to give it a try amidst many other obstacles. I was very apprehensive about the whole affair, but the utter determination of my daughter’s desire to give a new lease of life to an innocent and timid looking dog overpowered my reluctance in supporting the move.

On a Sunday afternoon in February 2008, a very agitated and reckless old dog by the name of Buster was brought in by my daughter. On that evening I found I was in uncharted waters and was clueless as to what and what not to expect and how to handle this unexpected visitor to our house. Originally my initial fear of dogs kept me at an arms length. At that point in time however little did I realize that I was going to get so close to this wonderful soul.

A dog who has been discarded by everybody including the people who took him for adoption as a puppy had finally found a place which he can call his home I guess. So unfortunate was he that not only rejected by many but also been abused when he was a puppy. He used to be very depressed, not interested in anything and did not seem to enjoy his food either. However he showed a gradual but remarkable come back and within two weeks or so, he started eating well. A Bull Mastiff weighing about 40 kg started looking for food all the time. If a door opens to the patio/back yard, he thinks someone is bringing food for him!

He is a devil when he gets on his daily walk. Normally he walks me as he has never been trained properly! At the very beginning it was very tough walking him, as he suddenly changes direction in a zig-zag path or taking an about turn. How many times I was thrown out of balance due to his pulling power and sudden change of pace and direction. As I was getting closed to him day by day, gradually it became a pleasure for me to tend to him. As he got older and weaker he seemed to have lost his pace but still all out to go for his walk.

During the last few months it was real heart break to see him struggle to stand up with his back legs being not so steady. Often I had to lift him up for him to stagger a bit before starts walking. Last few weeks of his life had been a nightmare for me and my family. He would lie down on his belly not being able to stand up. His gradual loss of appetite was hard for us to take. He could not even open his mouth for his favourite crispy “Sakata” biscuits or a piece of cheese.

Then I knew that the end is near. I am so happy and relieved that we have done what we could to make the last 2 years and 3 months of his life happier, comfortable and more meaningful.

Feeding time around 4.30 to 5.00pm is the most difficult time that I feel to pass by. If not served by 4.45pm for some reason, he would come near the study room where I used to be working and have a peep through the grilled door and start whining to catch my attention. At times I used to pretend that I did not see him. Then he would keep staring at me as if asking “where is my dinner – why is it late today?”

Since his demise few weeks ago, my usual morning walk has now become a nightmare. Three kilo meter stretch is full of land marks that I remember. Each little bush, letter box, street lamp post etc along the route has great significance and carry vivid memories. Buster used to either have a sniff at, paused for a while or to have his job done at these places. Now when I do my shopping I try to avoid isle 12 of the supermarket where dog food are stored. Life has become boring without Buster. I decided to hold on to two souvenirs left behind, his lead and the neck strap with his ID tag.

From my perspective the message is loud and clear. Never own a dog or any pet for that matter if you are not prepared to do your duties for the entire life span of the animal.


Canine Stress and how to cope with it.
Stress is nature’s survival mechanism, the body’s response to events that upset our personal balance. In the moment that something happens, our body starts to prepare for a reaction. This in turn leads to increased heart rate, muscles tensing up and accelerated breathing, putting our system on red alert. Several different situations can create stress in dogs, but not all of it is bad! While a little stress is normal and necessary, dogs need time to rest and recuperate so that they can avoid the detrimental effects of long-term stress.

Sources of stress
Stress is a by-product of mental activity, and pets naturally generate stress and experience its side-effects. Even if stress can be caused by a variety of different reasons, the effects of stress can vary from dog to dog, with different dogs dealing with stressful situations differently.

Some causes of short term stress:

  • Intense physical or mental exercise
  • Exposure to new dogs
  • Exposure to new people
  • Lack of Space
  • Death of a loved one in the family
  • Lack of rest
  • Prolonged caging or leashing
  • Seperation from owners
  • Change of Location
  • Thunderstorms/Firecrackers and other loud noises


Short-term Stress
Stress generated as a result of trying to achieve positive, short term goals creates a healthy and happy environment for you and your pet. For example, your dog seeking a treat during training will show increased mental activity. His stress levels will increase temporarily, heightening his senses and pushing him to complete the task and get the treat! As soon as he gets the treat, the process is complete and your dog’s stress levels go down. Remember to always let your dog have adequate rest after any stressful activity.

Some indicators of short term stress:

  • Excessive shedding
  • Excessive whining or other vocalization
  • Slow or tense movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness, pacing, digging
  • Inattentiveness to owner
  • Sweating from paws
  • Acute dandruff
  • Mounting
  • Biting the leash


Long-term stress
If your dog does not get enough rest between each time he experiences something stressful, the levels of stress accumulate, and can lead to long-term stress. This can hasten the aging process, delay wound healing, contribute to depression or anxiety, decrease cognitive function, and increase the risk of illness from bacteria or viruses.

Some indicators of longer term or chronic stress:

  • Aggression
  • Avoiding social contact
  • Timidness and excessively submissive behaviour
  • Extreme and regular fear responses
  • Reduced appetite
  • Poor learning capacity
  • Susceptible to allergies, skin infections and other diseases
  • Weight loss

Coping with Stress
If your dog displays symptoms of chronic stress, the first step is to find out what stresses him. Is he getting sufficient companionship and love? Is he getting enough rest? For a chronically stressed dog, it can take 9 to 10 months for stress levels to normalise. During this time, ensure that your dog gets lots and lots of rest.
Recovery from stress happens during rest and sleep, and a healthy dog needs between 14 and 18 hours of rest each day.
Even a dog that is chronically stressed needs to use his brain in small amounts to build up his capacity. However, try to avoid competitive situations. Ensure your dog eats without any disturbance so they don’t need to defend their food. The same also applies to beds, chew bones, toys etc.
Good nutrition is another important factor in helping your dog recover from stress. Make sure your dog is getting a healthy and wholesome diet.
Try to avoid new places and reduce training and socialisation to a bare minimum while your dog recovers.
Do simple things together with your dog that he can handle. Incorporate small easy tasks and exercises for your dog that stimulate the mind. Also build in lots of treats and strive to give your dog a sense of achievement!

Rugaas, T. (2005).On talking terms with dogs.Dogwise Publishing.
Scholtz, M. & Reinhardt, Cvon. (2007). Stress in dogs. Dogwise Publishing.
Wingstedt, Helen. “Positive Pet Stress.” Stress Spot. N.p. Web. 20 Jun 2013.