Adopting a female dog
by RAJASHREE KHALAP (WSD)
I was quite surprised to hear from Malleka recently about the gender bias in the dog world. That's because for the past few years we have not had this particular problem in our adoption programme in Mumbai. At WSD last month four females got very good homes (two adults and two pups). In fact one of the people had specifically asked for a female pup and was very pleased with our little black Chintoo. The other owners were open to adopting either a male or a female. Nine other females also got very good homes in the recent past and their owners are very happy with them.
The main reason for the reluctance to take females is of course the mess and nuisance of the dog coming on heat. There is also a perception that females do not make good watchdogs.
The first problem can easily be prevented. The second is a myth.
Here are the actual facts about adopting females:
• The mess and nuisance of the heat can be completely prevented by spaying. "Spay" is another word for ovariohysterectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus). It is performed under general anaesthesia and should only be carried out by a qualified and experienced veterinary surgeon. in any good veterinary clinic or NGO, high levels of hygiene are maintained for surgery and for post-operative care. At WSD we have completed over 31,000 sterilizations, of which at least 60% were spays. When correct procedures are followed and the dog is healthy, it is a low risk operation. In fact there is a lot of risk in NOT spaying a female dog: unspayed females frequently get a uterine disease called pyometra, which can be fatal.
• Unwanted litters are of course also prevented by spaying.
• Spaying does not reduce territorial instinct or change the dog's temperament in any way.
• There is a common belief that dogs of both sexes become overweight and sluggish if neutered. If dogs are neutered between the age of 1 and 2 years, and are not overfed, they will not become fat or sluggish. Check out my Lalee on the home page (and every other page!) of the WSD website, http://www.wsdindia.org/ She had been spayed a couple of years before these photos were taken. Even today at the age of 6 and a half, she doesn't look too different and she certainly isn't sluggish.
• There is NO difference between a male and female dog when it comes to intelligence, courage, loyalty and ability to guard the house. In my immediate family we have mostly kept females, and I secretly suspect that they are smarter than males! I'm mentioning just a few excellent female watchdogs – Elsa, our Pariah-mix dog when I was a child, my mother's Poppy who actually prevented a theft, our building dog Rani, Dolly, a dog living in the compound of Corinthian building (Mumbai) – she cornered a thief against the building wall and didn't allow him to move or run away! The following members of the Indian Pariah Dog Club - Kalpana Talpade's Sweetie, Daisy Sidhwa's Bini, Rekha Sabnis's Masti, my Lalee - are all superb watchdogs, and all of them are more alert and suspicious of strangers than the male dogs in the house.
The brave and loyal character of female dogs was obviously well-known even in the long-ago days of vedic Hinduism. The dog belonging to the God Indra was not a male but a female! Her name was Sarama. A famous story in the Rig Veda relates how she tracked and helped the gods recover a herd of stolen cattle.
So now we're in the 21st century, can we forget about the gender bias please!
Manager-Projects, The Welfare of Stray Dogs
Manager, WSD Indian Pariah Dog Club