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Living with a dog in the Philippines

2013-12-22A lot of expat friends and colleagues ask me about my overall experience in raising dogs in the Philippines. To this question, I reply that raising dogs is always fun and fulfilling, if you know how to adapt to your own surroundings.

Growing up, we had a very large enclosed yard that made it easy to live with a dozen dogs including German Shepherds and short-haired pointers.  When I lived in a cramped apartment, I had to make do with visiting my dog, a medium-sized mixed breed named Rambo, at my parents’ place on weekends. In fact, I must admit that Rambo was the reason why I was in such a rush to finally get a house with a yard outside the city (while everyone else wanted a studio right in the business district). When we finally moved in with Rambo, I was beside myself with joy and relief.

Much as we would like to enjoy our dog’s companionship on our own terms, the truth is that our environment pretty much influences our activities with our dog.  For instance, living in a congested city with your dog means there’s a big chance you don’t have access to lots of open space, making it a bit difficult to give your dog his exercise needs. This means that you need to find a way to exercise your dog, by finding those routes where you can run together safely and regularly.

Here are other concerns or issues of dog owners in the Philippines, and how you can make the most of the situation if it gets in the way of your enjoyment.

Space is limited. If you live in a condo, you probably know it’s not practical to have a large dog. This is probably the main reason why shih tzus and other small breeds reign as the most popular dogs in Metro Manila. To meet your dog’s exercise requirements, consider taking him out for regular walks. You can also go for out-of-town trips on weekends or during your free time so that he can have a taste of the outdoors. If this is not an option, get your dog to exercise with activities around the house. You can also buy toys that he can play with at home. Balls and boxes go a long way in entertaining dogs, even those who live in cramped places. You can also get your pet to run up and down the stairs. (P.S. If you’re a condo owner, read this article on What You Should Know About Keeping Your Furry Pals in Your Condo)

Ignorant, irresponsible dog walkers. Let me be brutally honest. I don’t feel safe walking my dogs in many places in the Philippines. That’s because there are so many dog walkers who do not know a thing about dog behavior, and think it is perfectly okay to let their dog meet head-on with my dog, without even looking if any of the pooches are anxious or angry. Obviously, they are not aware that a dog fight can happen in a blink of an eye. Worse, many of these are large dogs who have obviously not received any form of obedience training.  You see these people everywhere, such as in dog-friendly places like BGC and UP Town Center, your vet’s office, and your very own neighborhood. When taking out your dog, make sure to pay complete attention to what your dog is doing, and no matter how good natured your dog is, don’t let it go straight for another dog (the same way you shouldn’t let your dog head straight for a small child).

Dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs. Why does this matter to you? That’s because a lot of diseases are transmitted through germs in fecal material. The parvo virus, for instance, can survive for six months even in sunlight. In other words, the bad habits of irresponsible dog owners pose a threat to you and your dog. For this reason, be very careful and selective when choosing routes to walk your dog.

Few pet-friendly establishments (but more are coming up). Some good news here. There is a growing number of pet-friendly establishments, and with pet ownership increasing, there is surely bound to be more. Unfortunately, these are mostly confined to larger malls in Metro Manila, but it’s a good enough start. BGC, Estancia, Eastwood, UP Town Center, Robinsons Magnolia are among those that allow dogs indoors. I particularly love how I can sit inside Coffee Bean with my dog beside me.  There are some restrictions on larger dogs, though. Some malls, such as SM, require dogs to wear diapers or belly bands, or for owners to have strollers. In any case, always have your dogs’ vaccination card handy.

Limited (but growing) services and products. I guess it’s quite frustrating not to have all the nice pet stuff available, but the good thing is that there are more products and services for pets now compared to ten years ago. Today, there are more pet food choices, toys, leads, and dog grooming accessories available. Pet Express and Bow and Wow carry a wide range of products, while veterinarians also have a growing arsenal of medications now available. Online shopping has also made it much easier to get pet stuff.

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