Whose fault is it anyway?

Getting a dog home is only half the work done; you have to get to know them better and train them to lead a happy life. Only then will you be able to do justice to the relationship and enjoy your four-legged companion – who is the best friend one can have. Dr. Aradhana Pandey shares important tips for this beautiful relationship.

“It is most embarrassing when my dog paws and whines before guests for food…”, “My dog is very fussy about eating”, “He scratches his body like a street dog”, “What to do! he keeps scratching the walls and eats from the garbage bin”, “I have a dog that barks like hell”, “and mine doesn’t even growl at any sound”.

These are common complaints that I get to hear regularly from my clients about their four-legged members of the house. Much as I understand their predicament, I can’t help but wonder who really is responsible for the problems they are facing. Aren’t they the same parents who brought up their children without so much as a whimper? Then why can’t they understand that pups are very much like small children, who have just entered a new phase of life and who like kids, need to be guided. Believe it or not, there have even been cases where dog owners have abandoned their pups because they could not handle them. How irresponsible can they be!!! After all, they need to ask themselves in all honesty, “Whose fault is it anyways, for which they end up punishing their dogs!!!”

As a responsible dog owner, it’s imperative that they sincerely search their souls to find out what it is that’s causing problems. And believe me, where there’s a will, there’s a way…If you really want to work on your relationship with your sweet-little friend that you’ve got home, you just have to educate yourself about some things about them. After that, you will realise what a blessing it is to have brought these darlings – not just in your house, but also in your life and heart. Honestly speaking, the issues have a direct co-relation to dog behaviour, breed characteristics and management. Once you are even slightly familiar with these, you will not feel lost anymore…

Dog behaviour

A dog by nature is a routine animal. He likes to be fed on time, and it’s just a matter of fixing routines for him and seeing to it that it is followed. The freedom of setting his routine lies totally with you. So go ahead and set it completely. This would help him to know what to expect and when. He would simply look forward to his walks/food/entertainment at scheduled times .

Breed characteristics

For those who are not very familiar with dogs, it comes as a surprise that there are hundreds of dog breeds and each breed possess distinct characteristics. For better understanding, different breeds can be grouped into Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-sporting, Herding and Miscellaneous class, on the basis of their inherited characteristics. Each breed has their own distinct personality trait. Thus, in order to choose your perfect friend, you must ensure your requirement. Once you have taken in a breed that suits your specific needs, there should be no ‘relationship’ problem.


It is the key to keep your dog healthy and build a loving bond. It involves proper nutrition, grooming and training. Nutrition?:?See to it that your dog gets nutrient rich food. The nutrient requirement changes as per the age and life stage of a dog. Unlike us, they require a lot of protein in diet for good health. Apart from this, food should also contain adequate amount of carbohydrate, fats, minerals and vitamins that ensure his healthy growth. Failing to provide a balanced diet could lead to skin problems. Most prominent result of diet is seen on the coat of the dog. Lustrous coat free from skin irritation is a reflection of good nutrition. When you see dogs eating things like mud, concrete etc, it is a sign of mineral and vitamin deficiencies, which they try to fulfill by feeding on those.

Grooming : Massage, brushing and combing is essential for all dogs. However their frequency and intensity may vary according to the type of hair coat your dog has been blessed with. Dogs should not be bathed very frequently, as it may destroy the natural oil that is secreted from the skin glands. This oil is very essential to give shine to the hair and keep skin free from problems. Proper grooming will thus limit the chances of skin ailments. It also leads you to spend quality time with your lil’ darling and most important, it helps you to keep a check on your pet’s well-being.

Training?:?Initial obedience training is very important since he is going to be a part of your family and life. The pup needs to be trained and guided with positive reinforcements towards right behaviour. The basic rule thus is to make the pup aware how he has to behave from day one. Dogs love to please and would do anything to make you happy. The bottom line therefore is that it is eventually you, and not the dog, who is responsible for his behaviour. The worst thing for a dog is to be separated from his owner. Lastly I would like to say that “It is easy to adopt a pup but in bringing up the pup responsibly lies the real challenge”.

(Dr. Aradhana Pandey runs Doggy World- the pet’s paradise catering to all doggy needs under one roof. Doggy World is an exclusive unit with a fully equipped dog clinic, pet shop and pet beauty parlour. A veterinarian with MBA in marketing, she believes in service to the customer at an affordable cost without compromising on quality. She can be contacted at Tel: 9811299059, 011-27942285, 011- 55817851 adhana14@yahoo.com)

Teaming up with your dog

Here’s good news for all those who are looking for fun and excitement with your pet dog as a team. Team up and enter the world of obedience and agility.

Relationship with one’s pet is taking new dimensions and a partnership team is emerging. Working dogs, such as sheepdogs, guide dogs and sniffer dogs have long had this slightly elevated status over the household pooch. But this common household mutt has been striking back in spectacular (and fun!) fashion in the form of obedience and agility trials.

So what do the events consist of? There are two categories of competitor for each event of agility and obedience. The first is for dogs smaller than 50cm (mini) and the second for dogs larger than 50cm (maxi) (measured at the shoulder). Obedience is to test the level of control the handler has over their dog, to see how obedient the dog is. The test consists of 6 or 7 commands. There is no equipment involved. Tests include walking to heel, sitting on command, staying sitting, coming when called by the handler and send away. As its title indicates, obedience requires the dog and owner to be concentrating on each other and for the dog to be obedient and keen to work with his handler.

In the agility event, the dog is timed against a 90 second clock over various obstacles. Both mini and maxi class dogs must complete the course in or below 90 seconds. The mini dog class includes 7 obstacles, the maxi class 11 obstacles. There are things such as the see-saw, weaving poles, pause table and hurdles. One thing for sure is that you cannot succeed at agility unless you also have succeeded with obedience! The time is quite tight and your dog will have to pay a lot of attention to you in order to take the right course and finish in time. There can be some pretty tense moments! From January 2005, the Obedience and Agility Trial Club will be in full swing and its first competition will be held in Gurgaon in February. The Club has been set up by Rajesh Bhatt of Gurgaon’s ‘Kennel 1’ (Dog Boarding and Training Centre) with the vision of happy, healthy, obedient dogs working with their owners.

Rajesh says agility trials are highly enjoyable for dogs and their families. He also emphasises that mixed breeds have all the potential that pure breeds do for this type of event. It’s about seeing what they can do. Their aptitude, the way they work with their owner, the strength of the human/animal bond are what matters. It’s a complete teamwork. The Club’s focus is on fun and inclusion of all types of pets and owners. The only requirement is that the dogs are properly vaccinated. There’s another aim too – to fulfil social obligations, they would like to see younger people getting involved and also promote adopting a dog from a shelter.

Training your dog is very simple. All you need for the obedience part is your living room or a nearby park. For agility, you may well want to seek the advice of a trainer (The club will have a set of trainers). Within the Club, there will be a system in place where you can register yourself and your dog. This will be free of charge and enable you to seek advice from trainers and practice with the agility obstacles set up at the club. This again is all part of the inclusive nature of the Club’s mission. The organisers acknowledge that, unlike in some other countries, dog owners here are unlikely to be able to set up their own agility obstacles at home. So they are making the Club an “open house” for their members to come and practice.

The agility obstacles will also not be as complex as in some countries overseas. The Club is aiming to generate interest and have fun rather than create international level competition. As the Club grows then this could be something for the future… that is not being ruled out, but initially the aim is to get people involved and enjoying a new sport. Besides, there are some cash prizes as well.

The emphasis is on proper training through kindness. This is again in accordance with the Club’s ethics of best health and well-being for the dogs. The organisers are convinced that if the dog is healthy and well trained then there will be no tension between him and his owners. In India often dogs are left untrained and unruly. The critical early months are ignored while the puppy is “cute and mischievous”. But the right training and outlet for your dog’s energy can save problems later on when that 30kg hound knocks you over!

So get your dogs and get ready for a whole new relationship with them! Go out, get fit, get trained and have fun!

Games 4 paws 2 play

Here are some games that paws would love to play! The fun moments spent with your pet would bring the two of you closer and establish a lasting bond.

Find a treat:

Teach your dog to look for his treats. Once he finds them, he sure will love it! You can also do this when you are leaving your pet alone at home, to keep him occupied.

  • Tempt your dog with his favourite treat.
  • Ask your pet to sit /stay at one place, and about 10 feet away from him, hide the treat where he can see you hiding it.
  • Say find and send him to find the treats. When he finds it, praise him well.
  • Repeat it a few times. Now turn your dog and keep the treat at the same place, and then ask him to find it.
  • Once he is comfortable finding it, then proceed to the next stage.
  • Select a second place to hide the treat and repeat the same procedure.
  • Once he can find the treat at both the places, keep the treat at both the places and send him to find them.
  • Then start placing the treat at any one place and encourage your pet to find it. If he doesn’t find it at the first place, encourage him to find it at the second place. Don’t guide him to go to the second place, let him take his own time and use his memory and nose.
  • Similarly, you can add more places to hide the treats.
  • To make it more difficult, take him out of the room, attract him with the treat, go inside, hide it and then send him to find it. Make the whole game very exciting for him, by motivating and encouraging him by the tone of your voice.

Find a toy

Teach your pet to look for his toy. Instead of a treat, use his favorite toy, and rest of the procedure is same as “Finding a treat”.

Retrieving toys

Toss your pet’s toy and teach him to get it back to you. Generally, the dog runs to fetch the toy, but does not give it back. In this case, he knows only half retrieve. This is mainly because of the owner’s mistake and not the dog’s!! Steps to correct retrieve?:

    • Always have more than one toy with you while teaching your dog to play, so that there is no possessiveness for the toy.
    • Sit at one place, start tempting your pet with the toy and then throw it and say fetch. Let him chase the ball, the minute he gets it, praise him with your voice or say “Good Boy” in a very exciting manner. Encourage him to come back to you. If he doesn’t come back, attract him with another toy and start playing on your own. As his attention comes back on you, throw the second toy for him to fetch. He will most probably drop the first one and go for the other. You should never take the toy away from him when he returns to you. The reason behind this is to make him understand that coming back to you is even better.
    • You must praise him with a treat.
    • You should always start and finish

the game.

  • Initially play for only 5-10 minutes, and don’t wait for him to get tired or bored with the game.
  • After the game, you must pick up all the toys and put them out of his reach. This will keep him interested at the next play session.

Retrieve stationary toys:

Keep your dog’s toys stationary and teach him to retrieve the same.

  • In the beginning, you have to teach him to retrieve each toy separately.
  • Take two of his toys, attract him and throw one and say ‘fetch’, for him to retrieve.
  • When he retrieves the first toy, praise him well and immediately throw the second one.
  • Keep practicing till he is comfortably fetching both the toys, one after another add a third toy and repeat the procedure.
  • Show him all the three toys and throw them, one by one at a small distance from each other, and then send him to fetch them.
  • Let him decide which one he wants to fetch first, and praise him when he comes back.
  • Send him again to fetch the second toy. Initially even if he gets one or two toys out of three spontaneously, it is good.
  • Repeat till he is retrieving all three with excitement.
  • Now instead of throwing the toys, ask him to sit/ stay. Go and place the toys at a distance and then send him to fetch them.
  • You may have to motivate him to fetch the toys.

Toy basket:

Teach your pet to fetch his toy and drop it in the basket.

  • First you have to teach him to drop the toys, after retrieving. That means when he returns with the toy, praise him with your voice but don’t touch the toy. If he wants to play more, he will start nudging you with the toy . The minute he drops it, praise him, pick up the toy and throw it again.
  • You have to be patient, and never snatch the toy from him, because this will only make him more possessive.
  • Once he knows the action, slowly start using the word “Drop”.
  • Now get a basket of small height and wide, flat mouth and keep it in front of you while playing.
  • Once he comes back with the toy, encourage him to drop it in the basket.
  • You can use a treat to motivate him. Initially he may not be able to understand what you want, so place your hand on top of the basket and ask him to drop it in your hand.
  • Slowly remove your hand when he drops the toy and praise him.
  • If he drops the toy in the basket, praise him really well and give him a treat.
  • After some repetitions, you only praise him when he drops the toy in the basket, this way he learns quicker.

Fetch the newspaper:

Teach your pet to get your newspaper to you.

  • Roll the paper with a rubberband.
  • Teach him to fetch  it in the same way as any other toy and praise him with treats.
  • At the time of practice, keep the paper at the same place.
  • Once he picks up the paper, don’t ask him to hold initially or let him sit with it because he will start chewing it. Encourage him to come back to you and offer a treat.

Passing  the parcel:

Teach your dog to take a toy from one person to the other.

  • Two people are required to play this game, i.e. person ‘A’ and ‘B’.
  • ‘A’ will hold the dog, and ‘B’ will have his favourite toy and some treats in his hand.
  • ‘B’ will now tempt the dog with the toy and ‘A’ will release him towards B.
  • When he comes close, ‘B’ will drop the toy just in front of him and ask him to fetch .
  • ‘B’ should encourage him to fetch  the toy and praise him with a treat after the dog retrieves the toy to him.
  • Repeat few times with same people, toy and place.
  • Once the dog knows that he is praised only when he picks up the toy and gives it to ‘B’, then ‘B’ must keep the toy on the floor, in the middle and ask him to fetch it.
  • ‘A’ must ask him to hold the toy and go to ‘B’. ‘B’ must praise him, only when he gets the toy.
  • One must keep the people, toy and the direction in which the dog is sent same so as not to confuse him.
  • Repeat every step unless you get it correct, with lot of excitement and praise.

Tug of war:

While playing tug of war most people cannot take the toy out of the dog’s mouth and he almost every time ends up winning the game or learns to growl at the owner if they try to take the toy away from him. To avoid this and to play a proper game, follow this:

    • Before playing this game, tell your pet to sit.
    • You must always start and finish

the game.

  • Start tempting him with a toy and once he catches it, start tugging.
  • This game should never be played with aggressive or extremely possessive dogs.
  • When you want to end the game, stop tugging and distract him with a treat or another toy.
  • Once he leaves the first toy, say ‘Good Boy’ and stop the game.
  • If he doesn’t stops and keeps jumping up for more, ask him to sit for 2 minutes.
  • Once he calms down, start again.
  • After the game is over, keep the toy out of his reach.

Kong toys:

Kong or boredom blaster toys are perfect even to feed your dog his daily diet. When you make him work for his food, he will definitely be happy and occupied at the same time.

Tip?: Before playing any game, you must create the excitement by tempting your pet with his favourite toy. Don’t expect things to happen in the first turn. It takes practice, persistence, patience and lots of rewards in terms of treats and your excitement too. It should be fun for your pet and you. The idea is to spend quality time together.

(Pooja Sathe is trained under Northern Centre For Canine Behaviour and Training, UK. One can learn basic pet dog training and care in 6 weeks from her. The classes start from 5th of February, 2005. She can be contacted at poojasathe11@hotmail.com, Ph-09820596903, 022-24165358-Mumbai)

Sniffing their way to glory

Do you know that with security officials, dogs also play an important role in the overall security of the airports? Dogs & Pups recently visited one such training centre.

Airports are vulnerable places and their security is prime consideration. The security force and custom authority also relies on dogs for sniffing out explosives and narcotics.

Dogs & Pups recently met Dr. (Maj.) T V Narayanan, Deputy Commissioner of Security, Bomb Detection & Disposal Squad (BDDS), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and G R Yadav , Sub Inspector, In-charge of Dog Squad team at the Delhi airport. They gave an insight into the working of these special canines.

Dr. Narayanan informed–“The most important breed for us is the Labrador, though other breeds are also considered. Apart from Labrador, we also take Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel and the German Shepherd. Each pup for the Dog Squad is carefully examined. We adopt the pups from reputable breeders in Delhi. We have a special committee that checks their respective parentage and certifications. We only take dogs who are registered under the Kennel Club of India, Chennai.”

Once the pup is selected, he undergoes tremendous training, which is divided into two parts: the basic obedience training and the special training. The Dog Squad team does not train the pup until he attains 6 months of age. “The pup is a baby at that point of time and needs complete care and love. Excessive training for a pup who is under 6 months of age, can make him dull instead of being active,” said Dr. Narayanan. The duration of obedience training is 3 months (12 weeks), it covers basic commands such as sit, get up, come, go, down, heel, walk etc. “We train our dogs on Hindi commands, some of which include bolo, dhundho, utho, betho etc,” informed Yadav. They are given short names and are trained on short commands so that they do not get confused. Obstacle training is also given at this stage.

Each dog is then given one programme. “There are different types of training given to them according to their capabilities. We analyse their nature. Some sniff at ground site more, so we consider them for explosive, tracking or mine detection. We enhance their skill by training. Some are more capable for guarding, so we train them accordingly,” said Yadav.

After basic training, they are analysed for explosive detection. This specialised training is for 6 months. This training is imparted at different places, weather and situations. “We train them under all situations, so that at the time of duty, the dog remains focused and detects the explosive. They are capable of detecting nanogram level of explosives and can smell 40 times better than humans. This aspect makes them reliable for explosive. In this training, we take them to search aircrafts, vehicles, buildings, stages etc so he becomes confident under all situations. We train them in all areas of the airport so at the time of duty they are used to the ambience, noise and activity level. This enables them to be confident and not scared of any situation,” he added. “After advanced training, we test them. Most of our dogs pass the advanced training test. There may sometimes be 1 or 2 percent who do not pass the test,” he said. As per him, if a dog is trained in detection of 9 pure explosives such as RDX, PETN, CE, TNT, nitro-glycerine, gunpowder, ammonium nitrate etc, he can detect most of the terrorist bombs. They target detection of 3gm of explosive during the training. There are more than 19,000 types of explosives today in the market.

The handlers are also given training, they are educated about the various characteristics of the canines. They are given both theoretical as well as practical training.

“Our major achievement currently has been in reducing the overall training time. Now our basic training takes 10 weeks and our advanced training takes 8 weeks,” told Dr. Narayanan.

The Dog Squad team is very sensitive towards their dogs. They train them with love and care and never use negative methods for training .

Dr. Narayanan further informed that they have a system of testing. The testing is not done by the Dog Squad officers but by the other code of officers. Those dogs and handlers who score less than 90 percent detection rate are not taken for operational purpose. For this, they have a detailed performa, which comes out every 6 months.

“We interview our handlers as against the performa,” he added. The dogs are sent to the airport for random checks everyday for 2 hours. They are always ready to be on duty to trace the explosives, if such a need arises. In case of any bomb threats, we take additional dogs with the bomb squad people along with all the latest equipments.

Once the training is completed, they are not at rest and have a fixed routine. Their day starts in the morning at 5:30 after which they are taken for half an hour of running, then they are given some rest. The 7 to 9 slot is set for training while the 9 to 9.30 slot is set for grooming. The food time is from 9.30 to 10 and they simply look forward to it. They are well fed and are given a well balanced diet.

“We have a medical sanction for the dogs,” told Yadav. After food, they are given some rest. They are kept on alert to check any unidentified object or sniff out particular areas.

They are also sent to other parts of Delhi to trace live bombs at certain occasions, when Delhi Police requests for services of the bomb squad. The Dog Squad team at Delhi airport does not have one dog one-handler system. “We have a multi-handler system so that, from the very beginning, they are used to most handlers. So that if one handler has to go on leave or is taken ill, will respond to the other people present there,” he added.

According to Dr. Narayanan, the detection rate after they train is 95 percent. “We have carried out a research and developed our own programme. We really focus on the dogs and ensure that they prove themselves. We give rigorous practice sessions for detection, which makes them more experienced and confident,” he added. Dr. Narayanan also stated that they are working on a new technique called “Remote Air Sampling Canine Olfaction (RASCO).” The explosive vapours are collected from the areas where dogs cannot go. The sample collection filter papers are then given to them. By this way the bomb hidden in a bigger packet, roof, ceiling etc can be detected. Experiments show that this technique is ideal for conducting anti-sabotage checks for VVIP security, cargo complexes and other sensitive areas.

If you happen to see a ‘detection’ dog at the airport, you will see the zeal, the charm and the confidence yourself. In a way, we owe our safety to these four-legged friends.

(Inputs from Dr. (Maj.) T V Narayanan, Deputy Commissioner of Security, Bomb Detection & Disposal Squad (BDDS), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). He is responsible for formulating technical specifications/standards/testing protocol of security equipments deployed at airports in India. He is also in-charge of training and technical division of Bureau of Civil Aviation Society and in this capacity has widely travelled for conducting training programmes at all airports. He is also a member of International Explosive Technical Commission (IETC) and represents India as member of Adhoc Group of Specialists on diction of explosives, at International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Montreal, Canada. He has a doctorate in Canine response to terrorism and training of dogs in explosive detection from Nasik University.)

Paws to tango

Put on your dancing shoes, match your steps with the paws, twirl for fun, sing to the tune, share the spotlight, wear snazzy outfits and dance along……..dance lil doggy, dance!!!!!! A Dance Party, with a difference. If this doesn’t get your feet tapping think about the venue – the party is in full swing, the sound of music, the dancing lights are flashing, crowds are cheering, a ring to dance in, the spotlight is on and a couple is tapping and twirling. Believe me when I say it, that I was prepared for everything under the sun, except what I saw!!! Right before me, there was a pair twirling around, well in tune with the music, —and Are You Ready— a leg and a paw!!! That’s right. There were pairs of men and women, ready to dance, NOT with each other, BUT with their dogs.

And what was unbelievable was that the dogs were really enjoying it. They were beautifully tangoing with the love of their lives. Once I got over the shock of it, I realized what my dog and I had been missing out on.

My first brush with this sport happened about five years ago. The way the handler and the dog worked together totally enthralled me. Both appeared so happy and confident. This, I thought, was the way I wanted to work with my own dogs. (It is also an indoor sport and the thought of avoiding training outside with my dogs in all weathers does appeal!). Since then, ‘Dog Dancing’ appears to have taken over my life. We have started a club, run workshops and shows and given demonstrations at various events.

Dancing, for us humans, has been one of the most fun-filled indulgences all over the world. People have engaged in dances since time immemorial, because it is not only enjoyable and relaxing but is also a celebration of life. But for our four-legged pets to be a part of this activity, is an exploration of an all-new avenue. Infact, “dog dancing” is now being promoted as a whole new exciting sport for pets and their owners throughout the world.

In Belgium, this remarkable sport is called ‘Dog Dancing’, in other parts of the world it is known by various other names such as’‘Canine Freestyle’, ‘Heelwork to Music’, ‘Obé Rythmée’. But despite variations in the terms, the common thread that runs behind this extraordinary dog sport is to develop a better bonding between dogs and their owners.

This new and exciting dog sport is believed to have started in Canada in the early 90’s. Originally it was based on obedience work performed to music. As the sport spread to the USA and UK, it took on a form of its own, with more innovative and fun freestyle moves. Today the sport is spreading worldwide. The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Sweden and Australia are just a few of the many countries where dogs and owners are putting paws to music!

What is amazing about this sport is that it is open to one and all. Training can be done at the comfort of your home. All you need is some music, a bit of imagination and off you go!

Dog Dancing has choreographed set of moves performed to music by dog and handler, illustrating the training and joyful relationship of a dog and handler team. It is a competitive sport, where the handler and dog compete in different classes at different levels. What is remarkable in this is to see the dog moving to the beat of the music and the bond between the dog and handler. You will see graceful and intricate maneuvers performed with precision and artistry. Every movement is accomplished through the subtle use of verbal cues and body language. The emphasis is always on the dog, with the handler completing the team, creating a harmonious whole.

Clicker training

While the general public feels that this event is primarily that of spontaneity, the truth is, that to achieve a creditable performance in the ring, a certain amount of patient training is needed beforehand, so that your dog and you enjoy your dancing sessions to the fullest. For your dog to be relaxed and happy in the ring, make sure his training at home is easy and positive. By positive I mean, reward him when he does well, but never be harsh on him when he stumbles. The bottom line is, that the dance is meant for his enjoyment.

For those unfamiliar with clicker training, it is based on a method first used with dolphins, (try making a dolphin do a trick by physically forcing it to jump through a hoop!). When we want to encourage certain moves, we reward the pet with a click sound (made from a small metal box like object that is held in the hand) and then follow it by giving him a tasty treat.

When we replace the voice with a simple click, the dog begins to associate the movement with a ‘click–reward’. Believe me, these clever creatures will repeat the movement in order to get the reward again. However, while training him, make sure it is a quiet area with few things to distract him. Remember, train ‘little but often’. Let the dog enjoy what he is doing. Do not expect too much too soon.

Three’s not a crowd !!!

This type of training is fun, and, yes, anyone can do it. I have three dogs of my own, and each dog is very much an individual. Dusty, the rough Collie, aims to please and is easy to train but can be shy in public. Mr. Chips, my little crossbred mongrel, is a dog I found on a roadside when he was five months old. Very quick to learn, he is very sociable and has a habit of leaving me on my own in the ring while he goes to say hello to the audience. Believe me, this can be embarrassing and I don’t recommend it! Chicca is the latest addition. She is a Border Collie and has the tremendous will to work associated with this breed.

Training Chicca is great fun. By using a treat or toy to encourage her into the position I wanted, I taught her basic moves without much stress or fuss. A puppy is like a child; they love attention and are quick to learn. Now at 10 months, Chicca is already working well at heel, can perform twists and jumps, backwards circles and weaves. It’s an amazing feat for someone so tiny. Hopefully at the end of November, we will go to the Netherlands for her very first competition.

Music for the tango

When choosing music for a routine in the ring, you need to choose something fairly short, especially when you are competing for the first time. Two minutes is just fine. You also need to take into account the way your dog naturally moves. There is no point in choosing a fast jazzy number when you are working with a large breed of dog. In that case, disaster awaits you. You will also realise that once in the ring, your dog will often work more slowly than when he is at home in his own familiar environment. You can even take him to practice in the parking of the local supermarket, so that he gets over any kind of nervousness, and gets accustomed to working in strange areas. The local shoppers, of course, will have a good time. Always choose music that gets most people on their toes. Don’t underestimate the power of dressing up right, even if it’s just your dog you are dancing with. Believe me, it makes a difference. Practice your routine time and again, without your dog. You need to know what you are doing. If you forget your routine in the ring, you may well confuse your dog. Actually you will probably confuse yourself as well but that really doesn’t matter! Try and fit moves to your chosen music before you train with your dog. It is not difficult to spot dedicated dog-dance enthusiasts, who are often seen at all places pacing out their routines, walkmans in hand, while their dogs look on approvingly! He will dote on you despite everything, but if you are comfortable with your steps, then he will have more fun with you.

In fact, the very sight can be amusing and inspiring. It can very well lead you to put on your dancing shoes, with your favourite CD playing in the background, and guess what—pulling none other than your adorable four-legged companion to jiggle with you. It might startle him at first, but with the right music, the right training and the right company, believe me, very soon the minute he see you heading towards your music system, he will be already up on his paws, ready to dance on and on and on…….

(Ms. Dawn Hill, an English living in Belgium, is in her mid-fifties and has spent most of her life involved in the equestrian world. A chance encounter with Dog Dancing changed her life and today, it’s her passion. She feels the sport appeals to many and for her has the added benefit of promoting dog- friendly training methods. She however feels that she can only dream of giving that perfect performance since although her dogs are wonderfully talented, she has two left feet. But then, that does not stop her from savouring the pleasure of watching her dogs, dancing away to glory…..)

De-stressing your dog

It may come as a surprise for some of you to know that dogs, just like humans, also get stressed out. They too need to be rejuvenated. A simple T-touch, a Kong or making him yawn, can do wonders to your stressed out dog. Read on to know more about these simple calming techniques. – by Nicole Mackie He seemed totally irritated, and did not respond to my cootchie-cooing, that otherwise gets him all excited and always manages to lift his spirits up. But something was not right. He was not himself. I had to actually sit down and wonder what it was that was really bothering him. After all, I wanted our relationship to have that “zing” back. And then it struck me. He was stressed out. And after much cajoling and sweet talk, I managed to calm him down and we were back to being “the happy twosome”.

In case you are wondering who and what I am talking about, it’s none other than my dog — my very best friend, who needs to be calmed down once in a while. It might come as a surprise but dogs and pups are as easily stirred up and stressed by their environment as we humans are. If we pay attention, we just might be able to identify what it is that really excites and provokes our pets. After that, one will just have to take care to avoid the situations which increases their stress levels.

Sometimes dogs can’t cope too well with places of high activity if they get too stressed. If your dog barks, salivates, holds tail low, cowers, whines or becomes highly active, then it is probably because your dog is under more stress than he can cope with. It is up to us as their owners to help them out in these situations and intervene by taking the dog away from the environment. It would be better still if you could avoid placing your dog in situations where you know he cannot cope.

Interestingly, stress has almost the same reactions on dogs as it does on us. When in extreme anxiety, dogs face similar problems such as loss of weight, fears, phobias and edginess. So when one is aware of the problem, it’s best to follow the policy of ‘‘prevention is better than cure”.

The T-touch

The one novel method of helping your dog cope with stress is the use of T-touch. This Swedish massage of the skin is an excellent form of relaxation for your dog. The massage is not a deep muscle massage but is done by massaging the skin in very slow circular movements from the top of the dog’s head to its tail. If your dog does not lie or sit, then just massage the dog standing, eventually the dog will learn to lie down and enjoy the therapy. This is very calming for your dog. At first you will need to massage your dog for about 20 minutes a day until he gets used to it. Then reduce the time down to 15 minutes, then 10 minutes and then you can eventually bring it down to just 5 minutes a day to do the therapy. You don’t have to take out time especially for this. It can be done even when you yourself are relaxing, such as while watching TV.

The Kong technique

Another calming tool is the Kong. This is a toy, which you can stuff with yummy food treats. These are great pacifiers for your dog. We use fish and cream cheese to stuff in them, as most dogs seem to like these. However you can fill in whatever you want. After all, as owners, you have the best idea of what your dog loves as a special treat. After stuffing the Kong, put it in the freezer. When you give the Kong to your dog, it will be frozen. This frozen Kong will keep your dog amused and mentally stimulated for an hour or two. By the time he is finished with it, he will be so tired that he will sleep tight for a while. This will definitely relax his nerves and rejuvenate him. Most people also use the Kong technique to deal with the problem of having dogs hang around the dinner table, begging for food. With stuffed Kong to occupy all his attention, you can have your meal in peace, and gradually your dog will end up looking forward to his Kong-time whenever he sees you heading towards the dinner table.

One of the most practical uses of the Kong is when you have to leave the house for a couple of hours. You can easily leave your dog with a stuffed Kong to keep him busy while you are out without feeling jittery and tensed about what he might be doing at home while you are away. This also helps in keeping his stress levels low and prevents anxiety.

It also helps when we have visitors. At such times, most people face problems about keeping dogs away from sniffing around or jumping on the guest, which often can be embarrassing for both parties. But more importantly, it can be stressful for both the dog and the owner. And so, keeping a dog busy with the Kong can be of great help. However, make sure the children understand that they must never take the Kong or anything from the dog.

The Kong is also great for pups who like to chew a lot. The frozen Kong helps to num the sore gums of the new teeth pushing through and will also keep your puppy chewing on something he is allowed to chew on. This will keep him happy and amused for many hours of the day. More importantly, it will keep your slippers, shoes and other things safe, which are sure targets of a teething dog.

Yawning factor

One last tip to help your dog to calm down is yawning. You have probably seen how dogs yawn when they are a little stressed, in order to calm themselves. We can also use this simple behaviour to help calm our dogs. If you want your dog to settle down with you, but he is unable to do so, due to the activities around him, then you can help by sitting with him and yawning for a few minutes. This will immediately make him settle and lie down. He may even start yawning to help himself settle. There are many things we can do to help our dogs to calm down and these are just a few tips to help you. When applied, these tips will actually reflect a change in your dog’s behaviour as he becomes more content, more mentally stimulated and more relaxed. And just as we need time to play and time to rest in peace, with these calming tips, you can help your dogs do the same.


(Nicole Mackie has a certificate each in canine psychology and behaviour along with many short courses in clicker training. She is a dog training instructor at the Sheila Harper Canine Education Centre in the Midlands of England. She also takes clicker training seminars in New Zealand and is currently producing a video with Sheila Harper on ‘Understanding your dog’.)

I was four months old when the rains came

I was four months old when the rains came. And with the rain, the sticks. It was a Sunday afternoon. I was making my way back to the building after scavenging from the municipality garbage bin across the road. The watchman on duty shouted at me before I reached the gate, the threatening tone in his voice saying, “Go away, you ugly thing, and don’t come back!” This confused me.
How was I to know that Harichander and his friends had decided that I was no longer a good idea, and that the rainy season would be the best time to get rid of me?

Being small, I evaded the watchman, darted under one of the gates, and tried to make for cover under one of the parked cars. Unfortunately Harichander saw me, and lunged at me with a huge bamboo.

I crouched in fear under the car, but he knelt down, and poked at me hard with the stick, forcing me out. I ran towards the gate, and he ran after me brandishing the stick, while Tiger circled us both barking loudly.

He was quite bewildered, and kept asking Harichander to stop this nonsense, but Harichander just ignored him. I don’t think he even understood him. None of this made any sense to either Tiger or me. Here was the man who still fed me occasionally, now holding up a big stick to beat me.

I ran back out into the rain, wet and miserable, and hung around just outside the building hoping Harichander would change his mind. But he stood there menacingly, while Tiger slunk back under a car. “Don’t take this personally,” he explained to me from the safety of his spot, “but I’m not about to stand up for you and stand in the rain at the same time. Hope you understand”. Of course I did. I’m a dog after all, but I think a human might have felt let down.

I hunched my shoulders, drew my tail in between my legs, and crept away. Every few minutes or so I went stupidly back to’“Brindavan”, and got shooed off again. By now I was so completely wet that I think I completely forgot what it felt like to be dry and accepted being wet all the time as a new state to be. It wasn’t unfamiliar to me. I remembered being wet before, when I lived inside my mom’s tummy.

I limped up and down the street woefully, no longer bothered by the rain, just wanting to be home. To a little puppy that’s been around humans for some time, home tends to be anywhere there’s a human. For a while, I took to following people walking down the street with strange looking curved roofs over their heads, hoping one of them would notice me, pack me up and take me with him. But no one did. Like me they were also keen to get home soon. Once or twice, one of them would reach out a leg and try to kick me away.

Then a strange resolve came over me. I said to myself, “I am going back again to Brindavan, and what’s more, I will insist on staying there. How can they just throw me out? Surely my friend Tiger will protect me. And those Pintos. And Golu. Besides, it’s time I grow up a little and learn to snarl and bark, and do all the things that dogs do to defend themselves. Perhaps I can even venture a good strong bite, straight into Harichander’s juicy calf”.

Now I wonder how those nasty thoughts came into my head. I had never seen a dog bite anyone before – so it must have been pure instinct. What a foolish little pup I was! One must never ever take on humans single handed, and certainly not if you’re a lame little pup that they could easily over come with their size and strength.

This time I was greeted by not just one but two men with sticks, Harichander and the watchman. And this time, they actually beat me. Soundly.

I resolutely stood my ground, giving voice to my first few snarls, while they trashed me repeatedly on my thin back, and my legs, yes even the broken one.

Biting was not as easy as I thought. My teeth and jaws were still too small, and I couldn’t quite get a grip on anything more substantial than the hem of Harichander’s torn khakhi pants.

It was time for lesson number two in dog etiquette, this one I taught myself. When in real trouble, scream for help. Don’t feel shy, just let those lungs loose.

I switched over to yelping and howling out loud with all my might, while still refusing to budge from the spot near the gate where I was crouching, more from terror than courage.

Right enough, the Pinto girl heard me, opened her window, looked down at all the commotion, and shouted out to Harichander to stop the beating at once.

“Why are you pushing him out?” she asked him.

“We don’t want to keep this dog” he replied. “So we are sending him away, while he is still small and not so used to us”.

“But why are you doing it in the rain? Where will he go? He will catch cold, as it is he is so weak”.

“Oh, he’s just a dog, he will look after himself. They all do”, scoffed the watchman, and started beating me again.

“You just stop beating him at once”, she shouted.

“If you don’t, I’ll come down and beat you myself with a stick and show you how it feels”. After that warning they did stop. But by then so had the rain, and I was too frightened to hang around there any more, so I crept out of the gate, and sat under the tree, licking myself where the blows had struck.

Tiger came out to meet me, and sniffed me carefully all over, reassuring himself that I was still alive.

“Listen, buddy”, he said kindly, “You’re going to have to learn to take care of yourself now. It’s a rough would, but you’re already four months old and I’m sure you’ll manage. I’m around if you need any advice, and if you want to have a good time, but basically when it comes to eating and surviving; you’re on your own. You’re an animal, not a human like Golu, just remember that. Animals are supposed to take care of themselves”.

Then he casually went off for a pee, and later strolled back into the building. I knew he genuinely cared for me but he never ever fussed over me. Now I realized it was for my own good.

I think I must have dozed off in exhaustion, because the next thing I was aware off was nightfall, and a new watchman on duty, with a calm stillness all around. I checked to see that I was unobserved, and quietly slipped back into the building, under a car, and went off to sleep. My last wakeful thought was that I must be up before dawn broke when that hateful Harichander made those gargly sounds that scared all the birds away every morning.

This became the pattern of my life, for the next few days. Up in the morning, forage for food in the dustbin, sleep under the tree across the road during the day, back under the car at night.

The Pinto girl started getting me a saucer of milk twice a day at the tree, but made no more attempts to convince Harichander to let me back into the building. May be she had talked to the building Secretary, and he had refused to let me stay, which wasn’t surprising because she wasn’t at all popular with the building folks, who all thought she acted too proud and uppity with them.

It rained now and then, mostly just drizzles and light showers, and I realized that I quite liked the feel of the drops on my back when they were cool and gentle. So I often scampered up and down the street, exploring the neighbourhood a bit, and sometimes got into minor arguments with the other dogs in the area, who ran behind me and covered up my pee with their own.

Tiger was usually around to defend me if the arguments got too loud, and it was in his shadow that I got the courage to explore some of the other neighbouring streets and buildings and make new friends. Being a puppy, I was no threat to anyone really, and most of the female dogs in the area were quite nice to me, especially since they were all really pally with Tiger.

I had now become a “stray” dog. A dog that lives in the streets and feeds off the garbage bins, slinks around by day and howls annoyingly at night, (not that I personally did any of those things), owned by no one, nuisance to all – at least that is what most people feel.

I never did meet any of my littermates or my mom again though, or may be if I did perhaps we just didn’t recognize each other. I know now that had my relations seen me, they would surely have left me alone because of my broken hip. As Tiger had taught me, out on the streets and in the wild, we animals believe only in the survival of the fittest.

Well, this part of my story is not unique to me. Many stray dogs start out as pets, but are later thrown out and abandoned when their owners realize that looking after a dog is not a piece of cake, unless one is really committed to the concept and willing to accept the little creature for good or for bad.

(To be continued in the next issue…)

A date with Dog Squad team

Dogs are not only man’s best friend but they also very good detectives. Many of the dogs are used in police to detect explosives, find a culprit or even to find narcotics. There are 53 dogs at work with the Delhi Police alone. The newly established Metro Rail in Delhi is also guarded by two dogs named Tanuja and Shobha. These two dogs travel in the Metro every morning and evening, searching for any kind of explosives, thus making it safe for the commuters and protecting the Metro Rail as well. Such dogs are trained at Border Security Force Training Schools. ‘Dogs & Pups’ editor Ms Shweta Khurana attended one such training at Model Town Police Station. Excerpts.

It was a great day, a day to learn a lot and to share a lot. I joined Dr. Vaishali who is a practicing vet in Chanakyapuri, and a doctor who is on the panel for the Delhi Police Dog Squad team. Having already taken inputs and permission from Mr. GS Awana, ACP, Delhi Police, Crime Branch (R Cell), we headed for Model Town Police Station to meet Mr. Digvijay Singh and the team of handlers who are directly involved in handling the Delhi Police- Dog Squad Team. What we saw there was lot of hardwork, dedication and focus by man’s best friend.

We first met the team and asked them various questions and then we saw the dogs themselves in action. Whatever we had heard and thought we were prepared for, left us completely speechless when we saw the Dogs in action. The dogs were just brilliant, and secretly we thought they knew it too!! Their gait, supreme authority and confidence just said it all.

We found out that the Dog Squad at Delhi Police, Crime Branch, had three categories of dogs, trained for a specific purpose :

  • Explosive dogs
  • Tracking dogs
  • Narcotics dogs

Explosive dogs are trained for sniffing out any kind of explosives. Before a VIP reaches a particular function, these dogs sniff out the venue for any explosives. The VIP only reaches a venue when a report is generated which declares the venue safe by the Dog Squad team. These dogs are also sent to areas where a bomb is suspected. Tracking dogs help in detection of culprits who are involved in crimes related to theft and murder. And as the name suggests, the narcotics dogs help in identifying drugs.

The breeds used for the above are Labrador, Doberman Pinscher and German Shepard because these breeds have very high power scent sense. Mr. Digvijay Singh informed, “The smelling power of dogs is 36,000 times more than humans, which helps in easy detection. The dogs are thus trained to identify and recognise a particular smell. For example, an explosive dog would be able to detect the various kinds of explosives he/she has been trained to find and would not be able to look for narcotics and vice versa. A tracking dog will only be able to identify humans. A dog is given training for a particular category only”.  On a humorous note, Mr. Digvijay tells us that all the dogs are named after famous personalities, with a soft corner towards all the film actresses.

Mr. Digvijay further informed us that the training for dogs is given at the Border Security Force Training Schools. “The specialised training starts at the age of 6 months after the pup has been given basic training. The training duration for explosives and narcotics is 6 months each while training for tracking is for 9 months,” he added. These dogs are then sent to the various police stations in Delhi, which have Dog Squads. Some of them include police stations at Mandir Marg, Model Town, Chanakyapuri, RK Puram, Peetampura, Shahadra, etc.
At the Dog Squads, the dogs are then assigned to the various handlers and have a busy schedule with them, starting early in the morning. The schedule includes training, grooming, and taking care of the dogs. From 7 am to 8.30 am, they undergo a morning parade and training for their various specializations. The dogs are groomed everyday from 8.30 am to 9 am. The handlers take pride in taking care of their dogs and ensure they are properly maintained. The Dogs look forward to the clock striking 9.30 as that is their food time –the excitement at that time holds no bounds. Each dog is given its own dish and is fed on full cream, porridge, eggs, rice etc. After 10 am, while the dogs rest – the handlers are given training on how to work with canine friends under various circumstances, how to take care of dog etc. From 3 pm- 4pm the dogs are taken for a walk, followed by daily parade from 4 pm- 5 pm which includes running, jumping and training. And this is not all, they are then taken for a walk in the evening and finally, dinner and rest. The dogs can be called for duty calls any time. As soon as they get a call to clear a venue, to find an explosive or drug, or to catch a person who has committed a crime, then they are totally focused in finding what they have been trained for and are completely at work.

We were also given a live demo of the various skills that these dogs were trained for. What we saw after the talk was just amazing. The dogs- Don, Dolly and Tun Tun waltzed through an agility setup which included a circular loop, hurdles of various sizes. The dog alongwith the handler stood at the starting point and when commanded by his handler, he/she would sprint and make the whole exercise look so easy, leaving us in a complete awe. lucky patcher ios The next exercise was tracking. Anu, a Doberman on duty, was made to wear a green belt by which she realized it is work time now. She was made to sniff our hands and then we were supposed to touch a handkerchief. This handkerchief was then mixed with other kerchiefs and kept in a row. Anu, on getting her command, went straight for the kerchiefs and proudly picked the ones that we had touched and gave it to her handler.

She thrived on positive reinforcement by the handler.
This was followed by two more exercises, one for explosives and the other for narcotics. In both the cases, the dogs were first made to wear a green belt. After which they were given their commands. They knew respectively that they had to look for explosives and drugs. With the objective clear in their mind, they sniffed out the objects. On finding the object, they sat and barked, signalling to the handler they had found the object. The dogs were then fed in front of us and we could hear excited barks as food was eagerly awaited.

The handlers informed us that a lot of hard work is done by the dogs and them. They also informed us of an escapade in Noida where a bank was robbed of 81 lakhs and the thieves had left an article. The dogs were made to sniff that and when the Noida police caught various suspects, the dogs were able to identify by smell the person to whom the article belonged. Another interesting case was of Naina, the Labrador, who was able to locate 21 kgs of gelatin sticks at the New Delhi Railway Station.

We were amazed to see a complete synergy between man and the canine friend. A complete team effort!!! Thanking the Dog Squad for enabling us to cover this article, we left satisfied and well informed.
(Inputs from Mr. GS Awana, ACP, Delhi Police, Crime Branch (R Cell); Mr. Digvijay Singh from Dog Squad, Model Town, Police Station and the team members.)