The meteoric rise of dogs in China – especially poodles – is a welcome phenomenon in Guangzhou and Shenzhen that is helping to replace dog eating with dog owning. Expats are also importing their love of canines into the Middle Kingdom and making the wise choice to expand the family unit with a new, loyal member. Nevertheless, there are many things to consider when keeping the barkiest member of the crew healthy and happy. Here are some top tips.
Living arrangements - China is rich in apartments but not so in backyards. For all breeds, it’s important that they have their own designated space in the home that’s shaded. Exercise, of course, is absolutely crucial. Taking the dog out at least twice a day is a must – and not just for a pee and a poo. Apartment dogs have little room to roam; they need to be walked and socialize with other dogs via the wondrous canine art of butt-sniffing. Remember to feed the dog after exercise, not before, so as to more precisely mirror nature’s way – hunt, eat, chill.
Breeds - Toy breeds are best-suited for apartments, including poodles, which don’t shed. Shih Tzu's are also a good choice for families with children, as they have a sweet temperament and a super-cute under-bite. The calmer varieties of larger dogs such as greyhounds are also solid, but it’s best to avoid working dogs because they get frisky and may vent their frustrations by destroying stuff, doing a dump behind the couch or occasioning other unwelcome behaviors.
Keeping your dog clean- This is a must and fortunately, China has spawned a thriving pet shop industry that empowers lazy owners to get their dogs showered cheaply. Less known is the importance of keeping canine chompers clean. Although dogs (other than Pekinese) are not known for their vanity, plaque builds up, nails get long, and coats become matted and sometimes graced with other dogs’ turds because dogs roll in poo to mask their scent. Teeth cleaning, nail clipping, bathing and coat brushing should form a regular part of canine grooming. Most decent pet shops will either sell the required implements or offer grooming services to keep them free of ticks and such like. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessary to shave longhaired dogs to mitigate the effects of China’s brutal summers. According to Nis Lorentzen from the British-run vet clinic Doctors Beck and Stone, “Dogs don’t keep cool through skin perspiration like humans. They cool down by panting.” However, he adds, “It is very important to keep dogs from cooler climates cool and hydrated during summer. Outdoor exercise in the sun should be limited in duration, and the dog should have access to fresh water and air-conditioning at all times.”
Health matters - Vaccinations that are taken for granted in the West are not available for dogs in China, but generally multivaccinations that include distemper and Parvo virus and rabies shots are available – a rabies shot is in fact a legal requirement. In the PRD, it’s also important to protect dogs against heartworm with medication. Veterinary practice and boarding services are still at a lower standard than in the West. Family holidays that sadly don’t or can’t include the dog require that he or she is housed in a safe and clean environment, walked at least twice daily, fed well and vaccinated against kennel cough. Unfortunately, some Chinese pet shops and clinics have been known to mistreat or neglect animals, so homework needs to be done, research conducted and anecdotal recommendations sought if owners are unable to find a Western-run clinic.
Registration - It is also a legal requirement that dogs are registered with the local police each year. To ensure pets are not confiscated or worse, Lorentzen warns, ”Make sure your dog is registered and up to date with vaccinations. Carry copies of these documents with the receipts when you take your dog out for a walk.” Additionally, most complaints regarding dogs concern barking, so early attention to training out this behavior will avoid problems with the neighbors and apartment admin. Dognapping is an ever- present threat plaguing every country, including China – preferably keep dogs on a leash when walking them, drop some dog bling with a name tag and contact number and deploy ID chipping if possible. Note the PRD’s caveat emptor about dog volume:
Guangzhou has enacted a law restricting dog ownership to one; Shenzhen law bans “aggressive dogs” (which in fact should mean inept owners), and states in passionate legalese: “Keeping two or more dogs
shall be allowed only if it is in accordance with the related bylaws of a community or a residential quarter where the dog owner lives; the certificate of approval from a resident committee or a proprietor committee shall be presented for registration of such dog keeping.” Finally, dogs should preferably be neutered. Though not a legal requirement, it does reduce spraying and aggression in male dogs, lowers incidents of leg-lovin’, and can increase longevity by reducing the chance of some dog cancers. Above all, remember there’s no such thing as a bad dog, only a bad owner. We say “woof” to that!