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Your Pooch and me!

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Your Pooch and me!

Having lived and brought up well-trained and disciplined dogs I am in a confused state of mind to blame the breeds of dogs or to blame the wrong owners of good breeds...

Your Pooch and me!

Know Your Pooch

VK Joshi

The writer is former director, GSI, and an avid animal lover. His understanding of man's best friend comes from over six decades of dedicated association with it

Of late I have noticed that in Indian society two types of people have emerged. There are persons for whom their pooch is their baby, their everything. While there are others who cringe with fear at the very mention of a dog! Consequently, there are blames and counter-blames. The argument has reached such a state when certain breeds of dogs like the Rottweilers, Pitbull terriers, and even toy dogs like the Yorkshire terrier have been banned from import or breeding.

Having lived and brought up well-trained and disciplined dogs I am in a confused state of mind to blame the breeds of dogs or to blame the wrong owners of good breeds. Likewise, as a family man I know in my own family there are persons bitten by the well-cared and pampered street dogs, commonly owned by the so-called dog lovers. Should I blame the so-called owners, the street dogs, or the dear ones who have been mauled for no fault of theirs?

I thought this would be the best forum to thrash out the issue!

First, let me explain the reasons for dog bites. A dog may bite for several reasons: if threatened or feels threatened that his territory is being encroached upon, may feel that his favorite bone will be snatched away or his master or leader’s life is in danger or you are cycling down the road and at that time for him you are an animal of prey which he must chase to kill. Unless rabid or a psychological wreck, no dog attacks a human being out of the blue.

The dogs can be two types, a domesticated dog, may be well-bred, or a pariah. The other can be the dog on the street.

Whether domesticated or a street dog, a dog remains a dog. An animal that has endeared mankind for more than the past 50000 years. A dog has survived all these years and is still thriving due to his instincts. Every animal follows his natural instincts. Since the association of the dog and man is the oldest one, its instincts and senses have been well-studied and well-understood by dog behaviour specialists. Like humans, dogs too have different types of personalities and additional traits like viciousness. engrained mainly for the species to survive in this treacherous world.

We must also know certain general characteristics of dogs. They are social animals and live in packs, obey and follow the pack leader. They are creatures of habit and are able to distinguish between reward and punishment. A deep-throated growl by the dam of a six-week-old puppy is enough to remind the pup of the pitfalls of his actions considered wrong by her. In rare cases, she would hold the pup by the scruff of the neck and give it a few jerks with a growl as a severe punishment. But what is worth noting is that the moment the puppy corrects itself, she licks him well. This licking is the reward and in no time the pup knows that trying to chew his dam’s nipple just for the heck of it, is wrong.

In a single litter of six pups, one or two may be shy or nervous types. One may be vicious and the rest may be even types. Before acquiring a puppy 99% of future owners remain blissfully unaware of these traits. Moreover, when you adopt a puppy from the litter borne on a waste dump, you can never be sure which type of pup you have picked up. Because you go by the compassion in his eyes or maybe his pitiable condition, you may develop an immediate fancy. One of my relatives in Bangalore was going to her office. The moment she came out of her home, she saw a ghastly accident, wherein a bitch was crushed by an auto. Her hind portion was totally crushed. A compassionate animal lover she is, she rushed the bitch to a good Vet Hospital, where it was operated upon and treated. She decided to adopt the bitch. As a precaution she got her spayed too.

She was a darling at home, playful, loveable, and intelligent. But the moment she was taken out on a walk, she would cringe with fear, spread her legs wide, and hold the ground with her toenails. She would growl angrily if prodded to walk further. No number of treats would make her overcome the fear. But once inside the flat, she would be a completely changed person. As luck would have been the girl was posted to some other country and had to leave the bitch with her parents at Lucknow. There a kennel was made for the new member of the house with a big terrace in front. She lived happily in that. But if children or any outsider went near the terrace, she would attack with full might and even bite, if given a chance. Mind you she was not of a breed, which is being banned now in our country. She lived alone on the terrace and never bit the hands that fed her and finally after a certain age died of natural causes.

Once her owners asked me why she became vicious on the road and what could be done to train her. My analysis was that she was a shy dog, not socialized, and had undergone the trauma of an accident. The very din of the traffic on the road made her behave badly. The only alternative was to train her to sit comfortably in a car and take her out on a drive, expose her to various sights and sounds in a park and each time reward her for good and positive behaviour. But it is easier said than done and she lived and died in her self-imposed solitary confinement.

The purpose of this narrative was to make you understand the significance of timely socializing a dog and also observe the type of dog or pup you have.

Initially at the time you select a pup, take the help of a knowledgeable person, who may be able to evaluate the nature of the pup. But if you decide to go for adoption and if you have a choice just observe the puppies playing. Also, request the owner/adoption home to invite you at the time they are being fed. A healthy puppy with a normal temperament would play with his mates/family members, concentrate on the food, gulp it, and go back to continue his activity. A shy pup may growl at other puppies or see a stranger like you and may back out and hide. Avoid such a puppy. Don’t go by the pleading eyes.

Once at home, step by step expose the pup to different sounds, smells, and people. Some dog lovers say that by exposing the pup to people, he will stop guarding their home. I must clarify that there is a difference between a guard dog and a watchdog. A guard dog seldom barks and a watch dog only barks. Guard dogs are specially trained for the job and when fully trained, they stop the intruder by all means and do not discriminate whether he is a friend or a foe.

I had trained my Labrador bitch Goldy to guard. I was camping at Ramnagar Forest Inspection House and another colleague dropped in to spend a night with me. Goldy was wagging her tail for him and allowed him to caress and even cuddle her. Before going to bed, as usual, I commanded her to ‘Guard’ and forgot to inform my friend. He entered my room early morning at 4.30, without knocking at the door. All of sudden I heard a loud thud and deep-throated growls of Goldy and cries of my friend. He was lying flat on the floor and Goldy was snarling at his face. His face was ashen with fear. I commanded her to go away, which she immediately obeyed and helped my friend up and recover from the shock. He told me that the moment he entered my room, she pounced on him and hit his chest with her 40 kg weight. He fell straight on his back on the carpeted floor. Thankfully no bones were broken!

My friend changed his opinion about dogs, after that incident and he is now a ‘dog hater’. Whereas, my watchdog Chhotu would bark himself hoarse even at the slightest sound and would quieten only after much persuasion.

In case you have a dog, do dote upon him, love him, give him all the goodies. But always remember that the other person may be scared of dogs hence please don’t try to convince him/her that your dog is safe! Once a person is scared of dogs, the dog can sniff that and may not growl or attack, but if feels suspicious or the person tries to run away then your ‘sweet pooch’ may attack him. Thus, be responsible.

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