John Abraham

A calendar with pictures of celebrities and their tailwaggers! Wow! What a lovely way to start a new year!!!

The 2014 calendar of World For All features 12 celebrity pet parents with their stunning tailwaggers. John Abraham is the

John Abraham

John Abraham

cover of the calendar, endorsing the adoption of stray animals in Mumbai. The eight-week-old sisters – Moon (white) and Lolo (black), and one-year-old Undi, who make a softie of tough-guy John, are up for adoption.

John Abraham supports World For All in the agenda to take care of stray animals in Mumbai, be it cats, be it dogs, be it any kind of animals. “I appreciate the effort they’re putting in and I wish them all the best. I wish all pet lovers to do their bit for the welfare of the stray animals,” adds John.

Featured celebrity pet parents…
The calendar features 12 celebrity pet parents: Nimrat Kaur, Mukul Deora, Sapna Bhavnani, Priyanka Bose, Bruna Abdullah, Ankur Vikal, Paresh Kamath, Harish Iyer, Anju Mahendru, Vikas Bahl, Ahana Deol and Gargi Gogoi. All these pet parents have adopted Indian breed animals.

Each pet parent has a different story to tell. Bruna picks up stray cats from neighbourhood and gets them neutered. The cats in her shot are hers. While, Nimrat Kaur has two cats – one of them is nine years old. Harish always wanted to have a pet but his parents refused. So, one fine day, he brought home a pet and named him Shiva, so that his parents do not throw him out.

The brains and hard work
behind the calendar…
The calendar is shot by photographer Sahil Mane and produced and art directed by Tara Kaushal. They have four dogs and two cats. They are all Indian breeds. “Our dogs are called Janis Joplin aka Jana, Naomi Wolf aka Num-Num, Steven Tyler aka Cheelu and Ervin Olf aka Oli, all named after people we really admire in the art’s spheres. Mama cat is Britney Spears; her daughter is Chini Chairman Mao, named after the building cat Chinchin who was probably her father,” tells Tara.
“I believe discrimination against strays is a bit like believing in the caste system – that where a dog/cat comes from, who his/her parents are, etc determine what they’d be like inside. Adopting strays takes a certain level of cool – when you can go beyond lineage and pedigree, and see an animal for the love he/she has to share. The calendar contains celebrity pet parents –people you want to be or know – who love their Indian dogs and cats,” tells Tara.
“People say Sahil and my animals – four dogs and two cats – are lucky to have been rescued. In actual fact, we are lucky for the love they give us every day,” adds Tara.

The welfare organisation…
Founded by Ruchi Nadkarni and Taronish Bulsara, World For All ( is an animal rescue organisation that encourages people to adopt stray dogs and cats from Mumbai’s streets and runs an active spay-neuter campaign.
(You can pick up a calendar by mailing at: or

Transforming pets into models: My assistants were engaged in keeping the animals interested… making noises, offering food, meowing and whistling just out of the shot!
Dogs vs cats: Cats are static and shy, so it’s harder to get an interesting photograph; though sometimes they prove to be easier as they stay still.
Special shooting moment: Every one of the shoots has been special, but the shoot of animal-lover John Abraham, the cover of the calendar, was especially so. The puppies he’s shot with are up for adoption through World For All– were beautiful. And then, it’s John!
Advice to pet parents trying to get the perfect shot: Patience, Patience, Patience! Create interesting pictures by exploring lower angles and getting down to their level.

Paws and their stars

Ashok K Banker

How does a writer express his pooch love? Well, it has to be emotional, loving and from the heart…here, reputed mythology writer Ashok K Banker shares his pooch love. Excerpts.

Ashok K Banker with Willow

Willow is my boss lady. She knows when I’m writing and waits me out patiently (with a few impatient interruptions!). But when I’m home and free she knows it at once and demands attention. I work from home except for meetings and travels and she is so used to me being around most of the time that she can’t stand me being away for a whole day…,” says the talented author Ashok Banker. Before you think who Willow is…he adds, “She barks and scolds me terribly if I come back late. But if I’m away on a trip (she knows because she sees me take a carry-bag or suitcase) then she lathers me with love when I come back.”

Yes, Willow is the beautiful Basset Hound in the life of Ashok, an internationally acclaimed author of mixed-race based in Mumbai. His Epic India Library is a lifetime writing plan that aims to retell all the major myths, legends and history of the Indian sub-continent in an interlinked cycle of over 100 volumes. This includes the Ramayana Series, Krishna Coriolis, the Mahabharata Series, the contemporary Kali Rising thriller series and other works. His books have sold over 1.85 million copies in 13 languages and 58 countries worldwide. No wonder he is credited with the resurgence of mythology in Indian publishing.

Pooch love…

And the tale of Ashok’s pooch love is also interesting to share. “Oh, I’m a born animal, bird and nature lover. How can anyone not be? We are just two-legged animals too after all. We share this world, we don’t own it. We are all siblings traveling on this great Ark called Earth and we should respect and love our fellow travelers. It’s not just selfless love either. This entire planet’s eco-system is based on loving one another. Only by co-existing symbiotically can all our myriad species prosper and proliferate and keep the planet flourishing. As for dogs, someone once said – Dogs are human beings at their best. That is so true. They are such beautiful lovely creatures,” he shares.

First pet…

“When I was a boy I had a Cocker Spaniel named Tippu who died before he became a year old. It broke my heart and I never owned a pet afterwards. But during the brief time that Tippu was in my life, it was wonderful. As an only child raised by a single mother who was often away for weeks or even months on end, it was great to have a companion who was loyal to me to a fault, played games all day without tiring, and followed everywhere I went. I miss him even today, the little fellow. He got tick fever and had to be put down as he was suffering terribly but I cried and didn’t want to let him go,” he shares sadly.

Another pet…decades later…

“Once I was married, my wife disliked animals so refused to have one in the house. It was only when our son and daughter were in their late teens and pleaded with her for one that I chipped in and convinced her. That was how Willow came into our lives. She’s a pure-breed Basset Hound with a strong genealogy going back several generations but by some genetic quirk her litter inherited more Hound qualities than Beagle or Dachshund (those are the three breeds who were interbred by the French aristocracy in medieval times to create the Basset Hound for hunting). We don’t really care about breeding. We love strays equally. But Willow has a beautiful red coat and gets many admiring looks and compliments from other pet parents. She is not just a part of the family, she is like the matriarch! She bosses over all of us, especially me. And we love it,” he shares with a twinkle in his eyes.

On asking about who Willow loves most, Ashok replies, “She’s closest to me because I have always been her primary care-giver. I’ve stayed up all night sleeping by her side when she was sick, no matter how messy it was, and I am as loyal as a dog to her. She, on the other hand, being a Basset Hound is notoriously stubborn and snobbish and rarely comes when called – a Basset only catches a ball if it’s coming towards her, doesn’t like to chase it! It’s always a challenge to keep her exercising because they tend to get very lazy and fat but it’s good for me too and I enjoy it. Even at six years old, she is one of the most active and playful Basset Hounds.”

And that’s not all, Ashok keeps watching on Willow’s health, exercise, diet but his wife oversees her feeding and nutrition now because she’s a very fussy eater. “My wife, daughter and I take turns brushing, grooming her but I always bathe her and keep her free of ticks or infections and mostly it’s I who take her to the clinic for nail clipping, checkups, shots or health related visits,” he adds.

Spending time with Willow…

“I probably spend too much time with her! That’s one of the upsides of being an author, self-employed, and working from home. She loves going down by the stairs – all 20 floors of them right to the lower basement of the building, then sniffing around the parking basement, walking up to the garden, doing her thing, maybe playing with a ball. Then we go for a drive, I drive, she in the shotgun seat, looking out the window, cruising slowly so she can ogle the hunky dogs – she has a fondness for young muscular yellow Labs and literally collapses at their feet if she encounters one. We stop to socialise sometimes with other dogs but she mostly prefers to just cruise. We have a favourite route I’ve been driving since she was a puppy and she knows it by heart and always turns to lick me ‘thank you’ when we take the last turn towards home. At home, after she eats, she likes me to throw an empty plastic bottle around while she chases it. She tries to catch it and bite the cap off and I have to take it away before she can catch it. Then she gets a treat or two and settles down,” tells Ashok.

Crazy antics…

“Bassets are pretty sedate but when she was younger she used to have this tendency to go diving into any water body she saw. She jumped into puddles, potholes, a swimming pool at a resort once! The swampy pond on the Lokhandwala Back Road. The ocean of course but that’s different,” he adds playfully.

What Willow likes…

“I’m always there for her. I never pass the buck or hand her off to anyone. I’ve avoided long trips because of her for years. I have never kenelled her or left her with anyone else. I don’t believe in punishment training; only in positive reinforcement. I trained her using love,

making her realise that behaving well would please me and make me happy,” he quips in.

On vacations…

Ashok has taken Willow on vacations for a few times but he laments that good pet friendly resorts are so hard to find. “She gets a bit tired of long drives as she’s getting older but when she was young she loved them. One time we all five went to a resort (me, wife, son, daughter and Willow) and there was a small pool there that was not meant for pets of course,” he remembers.

On responsible pet parenting…

“Your pet is as much your child as your two-legged children. Treat them the same way: with love and respect. They will always reward you with more than you give. Dogs yield the highest return on investment of love you will ever make!” concludes Ashok Banker.

Thank you Paws!

He is your baby you can’t live without. He is your friend who walks beside you in the moments of happiness and pain. He is your companion in all activities you enjoy doing. This new year, let’s give a standing ovation for all what a pooch does for us!

We all dote on our dogs and count on them for making our lives more fulfilled and delightful. But did you know

feacture fun and frolic

Ruchi Nadkarni

that spending time with your pooch could be much more than just a feel-good factor? Here are some ways our tiny tail-wagging buddies keep doctors away with their constant woofs.

Your personal fitness trainer: You hate to get up in the morning and go for a walk. But your pooch is hyper-excited about his morning walks. So, when he drags you off your bed in the morning or wakes you up with his good morning licks, you can’t help but take him out for a stroll. Studies have shown that a daily dose of moderate exercise can stave off various health problems like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, blood-pressure, osteoporosis, etc. Walking your dog for just 30-45 minutes every day provides you with the amount of exercise needed to stay fit. Jogging with your doggy and playing Frisbee with Fido can be some great ways to stay fit and have fun together. Your pooch can thus cause you to enjoy exercising by making it a lot more fun.

Good for the heart: Researchers have always been intrigued by human-animal interactions and have conducted various studies to understand the benefits of owning a pet. National Institute of Health (NIH), Maryland conducted a study on 421 adults who suffered from heart attacks. After studying these men for about a year, it was found that the men who owned dogs were more likely to be alive compared to those who did not own a pet. This could be attributed to the ability of pets to reduce cardiac problems, by bringing about a feeling of happiness and optimism among their pet parents.

Best stress-busters: A study conducted at the State University of New York, Buffalo found that pet parents when compared to non-pet parents, experienced lower blood pressure under stressful situations. Dogs lower the level of stress hormones named cortisol released by our body in response to stress. They also increase the level of brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine which create a feeling of well-being.

The therapist: Pet therapy is often prescribed by psychologists and therapists to those dealing with depression. The unconditional love showered by dogs has a therapeutic property. It can make us feel important and taking care of a pet can divert our focus away from our problems. We all have a strong need to be heard when we are feeling low and dogs being such great listeners fulfill that need perfectly. Your pooch will intently listen to all that you have to say without judging or criticising you. Petting your pooch and cuddling up with your canine can be amazing stress-busters.

Compassionate canines for kids: Pet therapy is being used to treat kids with behavioural problems. In a study conducted on preschool kids at Oregon State University, it was found that spending time with canines enhanced the social skills of children and boosted their self-esteem. Pet therapy has been found to improve the cognitive and communication skills of autistic kids.

The happy-go-lucky attitude: Happiness is infectious… dogs are always in a happy and fun-loving mode. You might come home in a bad mood after a stressful day at work but the sight of your pooch happily wagging his tail and welcoming you with loving licks, makes you forget your worries.

The companionship: Pets have always been popular among those living alone, away from their family and friends. Apart from the need for security, these people also keep pets for companionship. Humans can develop strong emotional bonds with dogs and this strong friendship between pet parents and their dogs can make them feel loved and ward off loneliness to a large extent.

Widen the social circle: Studies have shown that those with an active social life live longer and stay physically and mentally agile when compared to those leading a reclusive life. Pets encourage us to reach out and mingle with others. When your dog starts playing with his newly found barking buddy in the park, you can’t help but strike a conversation with his buddy’s pet parent who also shares your passion for dogs.

When it comes to our health, happiness and well being, pets have a huge role to play. So, this new year let’s pledge to take good care of our pooch and keep him happy. In the meantime, let’s let him know how precious he is… with a big warm hug.

Paws for thought It’s tough-when it’s time to go…

Bruno, a 14-year-old Golden Retriever, was not fine and his pet parent called me for a home visit. Bruno was


Dr. Pradeep Sheoran

suffering from chronic renal failure, I patted his head and he made a brave effort to wag his tail. Bruno’s sufferings were unbearable. His pet parent couldn’t see his miserable condition. She patted his head and started crying. It was a tough time for me as well because I was emotionally attached to Bruno, we lost Bruno. I came back to my clinic with a heavy heart. After a few days, she called me again. When I reached there, I found someone barking at me. “Oh! That’s a really sweet Golden Retriever puppy. What’s his name?” I exclaimed. “Bruno-2” came the quick reply and then I realised life moves on and when it’s time to say Goodbye, one should let go.

Dr. Pradeep Sheoran, a pet practitioner based in Chandigarh

Dog Training

5 fabulous games for your paws & U

  1. Musical Freestyle:
    You and your pooch love to dance, so how about a mix of dance and some obedience training to have a

    Dog training

    Dancing is fun … Pic courtesy Down Hill

    blast! Turn on the music, bring out your dancing shoes, spin a little, do a traditional heeling exercise and what you get is a Musical Freestyle, an activity which both you and your pooch will simply love to do!

  2. Tracking:
    Dogs love to sniff and how about sniffing their way to the destination. Let your dog sniff a smell to follow a track and be a winner! Reward him with the sweet-smelling treat or a toy.
  3. Fishing:
    Take a fishing pole and tie a toy to the short line at the end of the rod. Drag the toy along the ground, lift it up and dangle it in air or move it in a circle and let your pooch jump and try to hold it! I bet you both will enjoy the fun!
  4. Digging:
    Take your pooch’s sandbox, and hide his favourite toys in it, let him dig into it deep and get his toys. He will love to dig and you will be happy to see him occupied and happy.
  5. Flyball:
    How about a relay race with four dogs in a team? Sounds exciting, your dogs will love that too. Make a starting line, put a hurdle six feet from the starting line and place three hurdles spaced 10 feet apart from each other and put a spring-loaded box 15 feet away from the last hurdle. A dog jumps the hurdles and then jumps on the box, which shoots out a tennis ball, he catches it and then runs back over four hurdles. When he crosses the starting line, another dog in his team starts the game. The winning team is obviously the one who finishes the race first and with no errors!

So, what are you waiting for, just go, have fun and bond.

Tickle your canine paws

People often ask me, “Why would you ever want to mess around with feet – especially dog’s paws?” The answer is simple: feet are connected with well-being. And maintaining well-being for your dog can lead to a fuller, more joyful life. Spicer is a 9-year-old Beagle who was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and a ruptured disk in her neck. In November 2002, Spicer was being given pain medication daily and had occasional episodes of pain. I began canine foot reflexology on her once a week. She responded immediately and appeared to have less pain. After 6 months, her owner began decreasing her pain medicines. After a few months, she was completely taken off pain medicines. It has been two and a half years and Spicer appears to be in no pain. Her owner has learned canine foot reflexology and gives her a session occasionally. She plays, digs in the yard and runs and jumps. Such is the power of canine foot reflexology.

What is foot reflexology?

In 1982, while attending classes in Houston at the now closed Esoteric Center, I took a course in reflexology, which changed my life. Foot reflexology is the art of using various techniques to apply pressure to points on the foot. These points are thought to be conductors of electrical energy. When pressure is applied, it sends energy to all parts of the body. When energy flow is interrupted, a breakdown in the body can occur and often illness or discomfort sets in. Stimulating the pressure points on a foot can release energy blockage and return the energy flow to normal – relieving illness and discomfort.

The history of reflexology is elusive and difficult to trace. There are some who believe that the practice of anointing the feet with oil was a form of foot reflexology. It has worked for many people and dogs.

Canine foot reflexology

I am a life-long dog-lover and soon I began to wonder if our canine friends would benefit from the same reflexology practiced on humans. As it turns out, they do. Just a few of the benefits experienced in dogs who have had reflexology are: relaxation, improved circulation, increased energy, decreased pain, released tension and overall sense of well-being. Tiw, my four-year-old Boxer, has had foot reflexology sessions since he was one year old. He loves the sessions and usually sleeps for a while after one.

Many of the dogs I have worked with have shown remarkable improvement after a series of sessions. My sessions usually last 30-45 minutes and take place about once a week.

The feet of a dog are very important to their survival. Initially, they may be shy about having them touched but once they become aware of this nurturing, loving process, they usually respond enthusiastically. Owners, interested in practicing reflexology, should prepare their dogs by lovingly holding their feet (to allow the dog to become accustomed to someone touching them). Dog caretakers are delighted to see their animals returning to wellness and balance.

Who can learn the technique

The strength of canine foot reflexology is that it is a technique that can be easily learned by everyone! Not only do I practice canine foot reflexology, but I also teach others how to help their canine companions. I encountered a case where a dog did not let me touch her. Georgia, a two-year-old Lab-Chow mix, had been given a diagnosis of hip dysplasia. I attempted to work with Georgia but she would not allow me to work with her feet. Her human did learn the reflexology techniques. Today, Georgia is healthy– thanks to something as simple as “messing with feet!”

(Sue Red Stackhouse is a registered nurse. Sue began working with canine foot reflexology and documented the dog foot reflex chart. For more info, visit their website

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, Ph-09820596903, 022-24165358-Mumbai)

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…… 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…..)

Pradip Burman

Keeping pets is perhaps one of the favourite pastime for even the busiest people in this world. Meet Mr. Pradeep Burman, the Chairman of Ayurvet Limited, who has loved pets since childhood. His ancestral home in Kolkata was a home to a number of dogs and once they even kept a leopard.
Currently, Mr. Burman and his family share their moments with a trio (3 dogs). Their house at Shantiniketan in New Delhi is always buzzing with activity as they have two pups of 4 months and 3.5 months of age, and one dog of 6 years of age. Mr. Burman introduced his dogs seniority wise, bluestacks for pc“The first is Simba the lion, a dashound. The second is Simone, a miniature dashound and the third is Samsung, an Alsatian pup”. The drawing room was a scurry of activities as Simba was trying to prove who the boss is. Simone and Samsung were involved in a tussle. Simone, inspite of being really tiny, was giving a full battle to Samsung and was barking away to full glory.
Dogs & Pups editor had a tête-à-tête with Mr. Pradip Burman on his love for dogs. Walking down the memory lane, he remembers his pets with fondness. Thinking of them brought a smile across his face and he told that among all his pets, he particularly loved Lucy, an Alsatian.

D&P : When is the first time you remember having pets and over the years which all pets did you have?
PB : I remember having pets, ever since I was a little boy. In my home town Kolkata, we had a cocker spaniel, a pug, and an Alsatian. My uncle was very fond of pets, and he used to keep white pigeons. We even had a leopard as a pet once. Besides, we always had dogs around the house.

D&P : Which was your first dog?
PB : It was a Mongrel named Lassie. Though Lassie is a comic toon character, this one was hardly a comic.

D&P : You mentioned earlier about your favourite Lucy, could you describe more about her?
PB : Yes, my favourite pet was Lucy, an Alsatian, which was with us in Kolkata when I was barely 14! (A smile crosses his face as he remembers Lucy!) The thing which I remember and loved most about her was that she was very moviebox for windows loveable and intelligent. She followed all commands and had a very strong dog sense. She could easily recognise whether a person is friendly or not.
She would stand on her legs whenever she was fed. She loved to play fetch and also loved catching rats.

D&P : How do you manage to spend time with your pets?
PB : As soon as I get back from work, I love to spend time with my pets. They are very playful and fun to be with, especially when they are pups. Before I go out, I always play with them for some time.

D&P : What do you like most about dogs?
PB : The most striking feature that I find in dogs is that they seem to be able to speak, even though they can’t say. The way they look at you and say it all is a very lovable aspect (said Mr. Burman emotionally).

D&P : What do you think your dogs love about you?
PB : They love the treats I give them. They look forward to it.

D&P : How do you ensure that that your dogs stay healthy?
PB : I make sure that they are taken out for walks regularly all the three times. If I am home early, I take them out for a walk in the evening. My household helpers take them for morning and night walks.

D&P : Which are your pet’s favourite dishes?
PB : They love to have mutton. I also get chews for them and they really love it. As I travel so often, I always get those chews from supermarkets abroad.

D&P : Is there any annoying habits of your pets?
PB : As Simone and Samsung are pups, they love to bite which annoys me sometimes. Also, when they are given a treat they eat it on the carpet. Sometimes, their little jobs are also done on the carpets.

D&P : Tell us some antics of your current pets?
PB : Simba is very moody. If you call him and he does not want to come, he would not come. Also when you give treats to Simba, he quickly takes his treat, hides it and goes to the other dogs and takes their treats too!! Simba also barks at the person who he does not like. Dashounds are very jealous- You pay attention to something else and they would immediately jump.

D&P : Any specific tip you would like to share?
PB : Besides giving responsi-bilities to domestic help, the owner must see the dogs are properly fed, check on the actual meat and also ensure that they are vaccinated on time. Most importantly, owner should spend sufficient time with their pets (stresses Mr. Pradip Burman).

Our minutes with Mr. Burman, ended with a lot of doggy talks. His love for dogs has no comparison and he was very emotional about his dogs. The best thing that he likes about dogs is their ability to express themselves, without saying anything. One would remember the lyrics of a song “You say it best, when you say nothing at all”.