21. (My experiences with) Dogs
21. (My experiences with) Dogs
By Alena Lien,
17 April 2021
Hey! How're you going? This is Alena and welcome to the Along Came English podcast.
If you're new here, this is an English learning podcast where I talk about a variety of different topics, share some stories from my life and explain some English stuff along the way.
Well, for this episode, I thought I would talk about my experiences with dogs.
Apparently pet ownership surged during the pandemic. In fact, friends of mine actually adopted a puppy during lockdown last year.
Now I'm not a pet owner. I don't have any pets and I haven't in my adult life. My family had some dogs when I was a child but that was a long time ago. I've lived with 2 cats in a previous share house but they weren't mine even though we lived in the same house together.
Now since my friends have adopted this puppy however, I've been spending quite a bit of time with her. I've been dogsitting while they were away on vacation, and a few days here and there now that they're getting back to work and such.
So yea, I guess... I guess it makes sense to talk about dogs.
I have spent a bit of time researching dogs over the past year. Well, because they're cute but also because I'd like to eventually adopt one in the not-so-distant future. So you'll also hear me talk about different breeds throughout.
So I'll explain some dog vocabulary, what dog breeds are, my childhood memories of dogs, pandemic puppies, my experience looking after my friends' puppy, dogs that bark and dog allergies.
Now there are transcripts on the website - alongcameenglish.com. Or you can read along if you're watching the video on YouTube.
And if you find this interesting or helpful, please like, subscribe or follow. Also please consider supporting Along Came English on Patreon - the link should be in the description.
A dog is also known as a "canine." Although the word, "canine" is often used to refer to dogs or relating to dogs. More specifically it refers to mammals that are dog-like, which include... includes wolves, coyotes, foxes and dogs, etc.
A "dog" is actually a domesticated form of a wolf. "Dog," in conversational English, will always refer to the domesticated form - whether a pet or a stray.
"Domesticated" is an adjective that, when referred to animals or plants, means "brought under human control." Domesticated animals include horses, camels, pigs, cats and dogs.
There're actually different types of categories for dogs depending on whether they have owners or not and how freely they can roam around. This also has some relevance to culture, how family units live together in different countries and their attitudes towards dogs as pets.
So in Australia, it's fairly common for dogs to be owned by a family or a person. They're usually restricted within the owner's property and not typically free to roam on their own without a leash. They're usually indoor dogs and are often trained or sent to puppy school.
Now these dogs are usually referred to as "family dogs" and become part of the family. Sometimes you'll see owners of pets referred to as "pawrents" online - which is a combination of "paw" and "parents."
You might sometimes hear the term, "socialise," when talking about training puppies. This means to train them to be well-behaved around other animals and humans.
Dogs can develop fears and aggressions, so owners have to help their dogs build confidence, and overcome fears. And well, you want to make sure they don't behave badly, bark non-stop, attack people, and just pee and poo everywhere.
Socialisation can include taking dogs to new places, going for walks, playing with other puppies and dogs, and going to puppy school, etc.
I have friends who grew up in "compounds," which is a property with multiple houses where different groups of families live together - often they're related to each other. And they had dogs that were kept outdoors but were cared for by the families.
I guess these dogs could be considered "family dogs," although I doubt these dogs were trained even though they had a lot of contact with humans.
There're also what you would call a "village dog" or a "free-ranging dog," which is a free-roaming dog looked after by the people living in the area that they roam. It's interesting because they're not confined, but they kind of belong to the community.
A "stray," when used to refer to dogs and cats just means they're homeless but live in human environments. These are dogs that don't have much contact with humans and have no owners, and usually get their food from garbage or even other dog's foods.
It's quite rare to see strays in Melbourne. If a dog is roaming around without a collar or an owner in sight, then we would call that a stray even if it's possible it ran away. In these situations, it's best to contact a local animal shelter.
In Brunei or South East Asia, it's fairly common to see stray dogs on the streets and on roads. In general, the ones I've seen are usually mongrels and don't look like any purebred species that I've seen.
Even though they're mongrels, the ones that I grew up with still had a particular appearance. They're typically medium-sized dogs, with short fur and pointy ears. They come in a variety of colours, but they're usually tan or a light brown.
I remember I encountered a few stray dogs in Malaysia with short legs, which is unusual to me. Usually short legs are associated with purebred species like Corgis, Bulldogs...? So it's almost like a purebred got loose in the wild and had stray mongrel puppies or something. They were very cute though.
There are also "wild" or "feral" dogs. A "wild dog" refers to a dog that has historically been independent of humans - like "dingoes" in Australia, but this is debated. A "feral dog" is an animal that was domesticated but returned to a wild state.
Now I don't think I've ever seen a dingo before. Their habitat covers most of Australia except the Southeast and Tasmania, so that's probably why. They're recognised as a native animal in Australia.
There was a very high profile case back in 1980 where a baby was killed by a dingo while the family was on a camping trip to Uluru in the Northern territory. At first the parents were tried for murder, and then... but then they found a piece of the baby's clothing in a dingo lair that led to their eventual release.
Yea, another threatening animal to add to the already long list of dangerous Australian animals. To be honest though, dingo attacks are rare as with most other animal attacks here in Australia.
A "dog breed" is a particular dog type that was purposefully bred by humans to perform specific tasks, such as herding, hunting, guarding, and unfortunately, fighting. I think there're over 300 recognised dog breeds around the world.
Common breeds include Labrador, Poodle, Beagle, Corgi, etc.
So you'll find that a breed will have a very specific set of traits that were developed over decades of selective breeding, which includes the body size, skull shape, temperament, fur type etc. There're also a list of health issues associated with each breed because of the selective breeding.
So for example, Labrador or "Labrador Retriever" is a medium to large dog, ranging from 25 to 36kg. Their fur is short and dense and they come in black, yellow or chocolate.
They're good working dogs and are often used for disabled-assistance, therapy work, hunting, tracking and detection. They're also considered excellent family dogs. Unfortunately they are at risk of joint problems, knee and eye problems. And life expectancy is about 12 years.
Another example, the "Beagle" is a small dog with long floppy ears that weigh from 9 to 11kg. They also have short fur but come in a combination of three colours of white, tan and black. And their life expectancy is about 12 to 15 years.
Now they were developed for hunting hare. They have a great sense of smell and are often used as detection dogs - so the dogs at airports that sniff out prohibited foodstuffs are usually beagles. Unfortunately they're prone to epilepsy and hypothyroidism.
So yea, different breeds have a list of very specific traits.
A dog from a specific breed that has not been crossbred or mixed is called a "purebred."
Now it's fairly common for people to use "purebred" and "pedigree" interchangeably, but they're actually different. "Pedigree," in Australia, refers to a birth certificate that shows 3 generations of the dog's family tree proving the dog is a purebred.
So basically it's a way of registering your dog as a purebred, but a purebred is not always registered.
Apparently in Australia, there are councils and boards to maintain standards for purebred dogs. There're even different councils for specific breeds.
It's very impressive but also slightly confusing for me. I always thought that if you wanted a dog, you just get a dog. Just get it registered and microchipped and vaccinated and you're good to go. But it's an entire industry.
There're also "mixed-breeds" or "mongrels," which is a dog with no definable breed or was not intentionally bred. "Mutt" is a synonym, but this also means a stupid or incompetent person. So be careful of how you use that.
Dogs that are intentionally bred from different breeds are called "crossbreeds" or "designer dogs." The resulting crossbreed is then a portmanteau of the breed names of the purebred parents. So a Corgi crossed with a Husky results in a Horgi - which is very cute by the way.
So yea, although mongrels and crossbreeds are mixed, the mongrel's ancestry is unknown, and the crossbreed is known. And also, crossbreeds can sometimes be more expensive than their purebred parents and definitely more expensive than mongrels.
Now "portmanteau" is a word that blends the sounds and combines the meanings of two other words. So examples include: "brunch," which is a combination of breakfast and lunch; "spork" is a combination of spoon and fork.
I saw a YouTube video recently where they had a Westminster dog judge as a guest and each participant ranked their top 5 favourite dogs.
Westminster is short for the "Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show," which is held in New York. This is a dog show where dogs are exhibited and has been running since 1877.
I know nothing about the Westminster dog show but I quite enjoyed the video because the judge was able to give snippets of information of the different dog breeds that came up in the video. It was really sweet and you can tell he was a genuine dog lover.
My childhood memories of dogs
As I mentioned earlier, we had dogs when I was a child - actually I was quite young. This was before we moved to Singapore for a few years, so I was probably 3 or 4 maybe? I don't remember their names and I don't really have any memories of interacting with them.
But I remember we had two Collies, and I believe, a Scottish terrier. I think we have a picture with my siblings posing with the dogs, so that's probably why I remember what type of dogs we had.
Now if you google "Collie," the "Border Collie" will come up. This is typically a black and white herding dog with long fur. Quite often you'll see this in movies or shows about farms. The movie "Babe" has Border Collies in it.
The ones we had were actually "Rough Collie," which is also a herding dog with long fur. This breed is brown and white and slightly larger than Border Collies. You might have heard of "Lassie," which is a fictional female Rough Collie dog that was featured in a novel that eventually become a film and TV series.
The "Scottish terrier," or some kind of terrier, was much smaller than the Collies. It had dark grey fur. I believe this breed was originally bred to hunt vermin and badgers...? If you play Monopoly, you'll recognise one of the playing pieces as a Scottish terrier.
When I was growing up, dogs were typically kept outdoors in the garden or yard. The idea of an indoor dog or a "family dog" was quite foreign to me growing up.
Looking back now, the Collies and Scottish terrier originated from cold countries, so I'm not sure how they handled the heat in Brunei.
After that, we had a few dogs come and go but I really don't remember what happened to them.
I've also had a few scary interactions with dogs. I guess as a child, I thought all dogs were cute or fun or something.
I remember tagging along when my mother visited a friend of hers who had a dog. And it was fairly clear that the dog didn't like me because it kept growling at me, but I kept wanting to be its friend. It finally barked really loudly at me and it just scared me so much that I burst out crying from the shock. My mother and her friend had to calm me down.
So yea, dogs.
I guess such experiences could be a turn-off or made me afraid of dogs, but thankfully the experience actually hasn't affected me.
I'm not sure if you know, but Melbourne was in lockdown for most of 2020. In comparison to the other states, we had some pretty serious spikes in Covid cases. Very grateful that things are kind of returning to normal now.
Now I've heard and read that there was a surge in people getting pets during this time. I've heard more about this in America but I couldn't really find any stats in Victoria.
Actually, I was looking into getting guinea pigs last year but decided not to in the end.
I heard there were scammers who took advantage of the surge in demand for puppies. Apparently puppy scams cost Australians more than $1.6m last year, which is a crazy number.
However, my friends got a puppy during lockdown.
They are dog lovers and have been considering getting one for a while, and finally got one. So she's a Japanese Spitz and is just a ball of fluff - sometimes compared to a cloud or a marshmallow.
Unfortunately, due to the lockdown, I missed out on her tiny phase. You know, when you can still hold them in the palm of your hands. Yea, she's the size of a toddler now.
So a "Japanese spitz" is a white, small to medium dog from Japan. They can live up to 16 years, making them one of the longest-lived dog breeds. They're actually companion dogs, which is quite different to the herding or hunting dogs I've mentioned so far.
Looking after a dog
I started to spend more time with her this year because my friends are back at work and I've spent some time dog-sitting her.
It's funny noticing how I behave around her. I talk to her even though she can't reply. I refer to myself in the third person and call myself "auntie." I also speak in a higher pitch for some reason when I'm talking to her.
As somebody with very little experience looking after dogs, looking after her isn't hard. I only walk her for about half an hour once a day. I pick up her poo and dispose it responsibly. I feed her when it's meal time and make sure she has enough water in her bowl. Throw some toys around for her to run after.
Over here, it's common courtesy for pet owners to pick up their dog's poo if they've done a poo in public. I know that some countries don't quite have the same etiquette. But if you have a family dog that's done a poo on a walk, please... please pick up your dog's poo. It's just courtesy, you know. Keep your neighbourhood clean. You can throw it in a public bin on the way home.
Interestingly I have noticed how people are much friendlier if you have a cute dog on a leash. People ask if they can pet her, give compliments or they smile if they make eye contact.
The one thing I'm glad I don't have to do is bath her. I have witnessed this once. So in order to keep her relatively still, they had a plate smeared with peanut butter to distract her. They had to brush her coat first to get any knots out - and the amount of fur that flew away was impressive. They then bathed her and then had to dry her.
Now it doesn't sound like a lot of work, but when you have a wriggling animal trying to get free, it takes more effort than it should.
I've seen her do zoomies a few times. So a "zoomie" is a sudden burst of energy where a dog or a cat runs to and fro or around in circles. This is normal behaviour for dogs and only lasts for a few minutes. It is kind of funny watching her running around the coffee table and jumping onto the couch.
There is a subreddit on Reddit, called Zoomies, where people upload videos clips of their pets doing zoomies.
She also sheds a lot, so I would vacuum at least once a day when I'm looking after her. Again, not... not difficult for me. Vacuuming is actually one of my favourite chores to do and the place is not big. The one chore I actually hate doing is mopping.
I was in another share house a few years ago that had 2 cats. They shedded a lot as well. We also had a blue couch and the fur was really obvious on that so I would also vacuum the couch along with the weekly vacuum.
Now there is also the financial side of things which I'm obviously not involved in. However, I can imagine that it's fairly significant.
The cost of a purebred puppy over here starts from $2,000 and can go up to $10,000 if you get the more expensive breeds. Apparently the prices were inflated during lockdown as well, in addition to puppy scams unfortunately.
Then after the initial investment, there's the cost of microchipping, vaccinations, de-sexing and council registrations. There're also the vet expenses, pet insurance, and food. And then there's puppy school, pet essentials or accessories like their bed, crate, collar, bowl, etc.
Estimated out of pocket cost for the first year is $3,000 to $6,000 and then about $1,600 per year after that for a dog.
To clarify, a "microchip" is a permanent method of electronic identification that's roughly the size of a grain of rice implanted at the back of the pet's neck, just under the skin. It's a way for vets or animal shelters to contact you should your dog become lost.
So my friends' dog sometimes barks when she gets spooked but in general, we try to distract her so that she doesn't bark so much.
When I've seen dogs barking in public, I tend to associate that with bad behaviour. Now I'm not saying this of course as a pet owner or anything. I think... you know... Getting barked at can be scary. Continuous barking can be annoying. And I can't help judging the owner for not training its dog properly because I know you can train your dogs to stop barking so much, or not bark excessively.
Many years ago, I used to walk to my workplace - I don't work there anymore. There was this Great Dane that came loose and followed me while barking at me. I wasn't intimidated for some reason. And I just kept walking and it followed me for a short while before it finally gave up.
Now the "Great Dane" is one of the largest breeds in the world. Beautiful dogs though. They weigh from 50 to 82kg and live up to 10 years. They're often referred to as a "gentle giant."
So yea, it's a bit strange to have a Great Dane barking at me but I wasn't scared.
And actually it happened a second time. Someone who was driving by actually pulled over and asked if I was okay. And when he tried to approach the dog, the dog got spooked and ran across a busy road. Not sure what happened after that but it never happened again.
Allergies & hypoallergenic dogs
One thing I'm grateful for is that I'm not allergic to dogs or cats.
An "allergy" is when the body has an abnormal response to substances that are harmless to most people, like a particular food, pollen, or dust. Symptoms include runny nose, watery eyes, skin rash, sneezing and wheezing after petting or playing with a pet.
Now dog allergy symptoms are generally not deadly but it is possible for people to have a severe allergic reaction to dogs known as "anaphylactic shock." What happens is that there is a sudden drop in blood pressure that blocks the airways and prevents them from breathing. And this can happen within minutes and needs to be treated immediately. However, this is... this is rare.
Now the source of pet allergies is a protein in the saliva and urine, and this protein sticks to the dead, dried flakes from your pet's skin. Yea, it sounds a little gross.
What I find funny is that I've met people who are allergic but still had pets anyway. So I guess the love of animals trumps any allergy-related inconveniences.
Pet allergies can be managed with some medications and treatments like antihistamines, nasal sprays. There're allergy shots now to help reduce symptoms for more severe cases. Otherwise, lifestyle changes such as setting up dog-free zones, bathing... bathing the dog more often or using purifiers.
There are so-called hypoallergenic dogs but according to the Mayo Clinic this is untrue. "Hypoallergenic" means relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.
Funny thing is though, when you google "hypoallergenic dogs," you still get results listing supposedly hypoallergenic dogs. I guess it's still not common knowledge that there's no such thing.
Alright. Well, I'll finish the episode here. This has been a fun topic to talk about.
If you'd like to hear more about dogs, please leave a comment about other dog-related topics you'd like me to talk about. We can also talk about other... other pets and animals right?
Don't forget to like, subscribe or follow if you found this interesting or helpful. Please check out the website, alongcameenglish.com, and consider supporting Along Came English on Patreon. The link is in the description below or on the website.
Well, thank you so much for listening. Stay safe. Have a good day and I'll catch you later. Bye.