The Itchy Sniff

It’s that time of year again when your dog’s nose will be frantically twitching from side to side and his mind will be completely scrambled with animal desire. You on the other hand will be yanked around the neighbourhood, like you’re the one on a leash, and have to listen to his constant whining – although far less annoying than a crying baby – as the female dogs around come in to their biannual “heat”. They say that a dog is ready to mate from the age of 6 or 9 months till the end of his life. No matter how sweet and cute and delightful and well behaved your dog is for 11 months of the year, there’s about 4 weeks when he’ll behave like a love sick desperate stroppy teenager. If he were a human guy, we’d take him out at happy hour to a bar full of girls. But here’s how we (ineffectively) deal with the situation with our Abroozi.

Female dogs come in to heat twice a year – June/July and Jan/Feb. It lasts for about 2 to 3 weeks and it’s one hellava rollercoaster ride for the owners of male and female dogs. Humans on the other hand have transformed this natural instinct to mate into a grand circus of dating, drunken nights, meaningless sex and Valentine’s day. We’ve got these extremes – entire corporations that sell the notion of romantic “movie” love I call it, in the form of flowers, cards, teddy bears and chocolates to even larger corporations dedicated to the prevention of unwanted spawn, plundering the Amazon in the manufacture of condoms and contraceptive pills. In comparison, animals really do keep it simple, don’t they.

But I digress… Scour the web for help on what to do with your male dog when a female is in heat, and you’ll get consistently unhelpful information; unhelpful because there’s really not much you can do when animal instinct is at work. The problem is exacerbated when you have a female dog in the house next to yours or if you live in India, where stray dogs abound. And if you have a male and female dog in the same house, you best get the female spayed. When female dogs are in heat, you’ve most likely got a male dog who just wants to break down the front door, jump the gate, and get him some action.   It’s just natural male desire. You can also expect their testicles to go very red as the dog licks them more. Panting and whining are also telltale signs that mating season is on. They say that the instinct to mate does not diminish with age. Depending on the normal temperament of your dog you could either get a wandering love sick animal or a desperate whining trapped dog. Danny, in his hay day was the former and our Abroozi, I think is turning out to be the latter.

For the 2 to 3 weeks of mating season, our Abroozi will not eat. He’ll refuse his favourite biscuit treats, he won’t eat his chapattis and he’ll peck at his rice and beef which he would normally devour in 3 minutes flat. I even tempted him with chocolate the other day and he refused! He is one love sick puppy. But I have to say that this year is an improvement on the first time, (3 mating seasons ago) when Abroozi was beginning to understand what all the fuss was about – “What is that smell?” he would ask quizzically as he buried his nose in a patch of grass where a female had probably peed and left her scent. Those days of innocence are well and truly gone now, especially since our Abroozi did get the ol’ leg up on his shagging weekend with Tequila in our unsuccessful experiment to get puppies, documented here.  The time before that there was a female dog who basically camped out in our garden and along with her came the alpha male, her consort, and taunted Abroozi for about 2 weeks. This was the same male stray who bit Abroozi on the face so he was really showing him who was boss. Abroozi lost around 5 kgs that time as he refused to eat, although he at least did drink some water. He would exhaust himself by pacing from the front door to the back door to the porch. Apparently professional breeders purposely keep their stud dogs (professional breeding males)  a little on the heavy side because they lose so much weight when a female is in heat and at the end of the period come back down to their required weight. No such tactics for us poor mortals, as you will be able to tell from the aforementioned failed mating experiment. Our puppy is clearly no stud.

This year things are much better. In the past week he’s only skipped one of his main meals although he has refused all his favourite treats. And he’s only had one restless day this week where he’s been panting, whining and pacing by the door. He’s still a nightmare on a walk though. The other male dogs in our neighbourhood are having a far more anxious time: Alex, the brute of a Rotweiller is barking constantly and Onyx the one year old Labrador is emitting high pitched squeals. Our Abroozi has barely said a word – isn’t he a little gem.

So here’s what one can do for your male dog when it’s mating season:

– Get your male dog neutered: let’s just get the most invasive technique out the way first. Now, this is a highly controversial topic in my household. Our Abroozi is not aggressive and has never bounded out of the house in search of a female, although I think that’s only because we are so vigilant. My father, being a urologist says that if canines are anything like humans then the loss of the testicles can heighten the risk of prostate cancer. the loss of the testicles can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in humans. This is contrary in line with many of the web articles you will read that say just the opposite – neutering your dog reduces the risk of prostate cancer.  There are a few medical trials conducted with male dogs to test whether this is a myth or not and they’ve all gone against neutering. But in countries like Australia it is against the law to have a male dog that is not neutered. But I trust my father’s medical advice over any internet page, any day. However, my father like my husband are violently against the whole concept of neutering dogs and now I know that this is purely an emotional attachment. Being a woman, I don’t see the issue – to me it’s like losing your handbag. Our vet thinks that neutering is necessary only if there are behavioural problems and since our Abroozi is a gem of a lad, he can keep his jewels intact. We can put up with his moodiness twice a year for two weeks at at time. That’s nothing compared to the teenage strops my parents had to put up with!

So here’s some less invasive things you can do”

– Be on guard: Be very careful when going in and out of the front door because he might just make a break for it. If your dog is anything like ours, he will generally listen when he’s told to “stand back”. What’s wrong with him going out to have a little fun you ask. Well, dogs on the street move in packs and if one of their females is in heat they are bound to be guarding her like the Crown Jewels. If your dog tries to get some action, he’s going to have to fight till the death to get near her. Male dogs will camp outside the house of a female in heat and wait for her to come out. You have to earn your place close to the staging area and new comers are not likely to be welcomed. So best keep your dog indoors where he is safe.

– Always take him out on the leash, even if it’s just to get in and out of the car parked 2 feet away.

– Close the windows: One can close windows because the pheromones emitted by a female in heat can carry on the wind for mile. Literally, “love is in the air”. This really works. I’m not for anything more invasive than this. But some people put Vicks VapoRub on the tip of a male dog’s nose or the female dog’s tail. I think that’s a step too far in messing with nature. Needless to say, he should be kept indoors and not out on the verandah or in the garden. That’ll just drive him crazy.

– Give him his food and water just as usual but don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t eat. It’s likely that he’ll lick his lips and look all eager but he just won’t touch it. Initially I was very distressed by this not eating business but now I know that this time will pass and he’ll be back to his usual self real soon.

– Take him on a much shorter walk just around your house. A long walk is no use as he’ll just pull you from side to side because his itchy nose will have a mind of its own. Incidentally, you will know when mating season is on when your dog starts behaving unusually frantic on his walk and he’s sniffing absolutely every bit of the ground and licking very specific blades of grass or leaves or bushes. That’s where the scent is likely to be. A dog’s incredible sense of smell, which earns them the jobs like bomb sniffing and rescue dogs, is really their Achilles’ heel during mating season.

– He’s bound to have a lot more energy because he’s not been on a long walk and he’s very frustrated, so you must engage him or distract him with some sort of game. The most tried and trusted game we have devised is with a laser pointer. Check out this video of our Abroozi (turn your volume up) – it’s not just cats who need to chase a sunbeam or in this case a laser beam. Ten minutes of this and he’s asleep for the next few hours.

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About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden. www.nonsensegirl.wordpress.com
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3 Responses to The Itchy Sniff

  1. nandini says:

    I saw your post.
    “What happened?”
    I dont have to tell you where that comment is originally from!

  2. gkorula says:

    A retraction duly posted. thanks.

  3. Alka Ganesh says:

    About neutering and the vulnerability to prostate cancer; I checked with the urologist (your father), and, sorry, but you got it wrong! removing the testes reduces the risk of prostate cancer. In fact, the great man opines that one way to “eradicate” prostate cancer in humans,is to neuter every boy before he crosses adolescence. It will have the added benefit of eradicating the human race! Some would say that was pretty drastic. So, I do agree with you that neutering is not on, and the Aussies should rethink their policy, and definitely not extrapolate their canine law to humans.

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