It has happened to many of us: on a trek or in a galli we are suddenly surrounded by 20 or more yapping canines, some of which are the size of small tuk-tuks. How would most of us react? Probably as I did when I was caught in just this situation last week and not at all frightened or worried about which
part of my anatomy was about to be bitten off.
I was attending the 'Who's the Boss Dog Obedience Training' held on the Department of Livestock service's vet hospital grounds in Tripureswor last week. Leading the group of 20 or so Nepali dog owners was Elke Meyer, a senior Dog Behaviour Trainer from Australia who had come over the pond to volunteer her services to Dogmandu.
Sponsored by AnimalNepal.org, Meyer has just concluded her weeklong program. What was amazingly apparent in just the first 10 minutes of my arrival on Day Three was that I did not have to be in fear for my life as these beasts were all on check chains and trotting around the field in almost total control. "Heel! Down! Stay! Good Dog!" And all the dogs did as they were told even though the commands were in English. I had never seen a Nepali dog do such things. My experiences were more of the Bad Dog variety: snap-ouch!
Meyer's program was for both professional trainer wanna-bes as well as for the public, anyone who had a pooch was eligible. Costs were marginal, Rs 900 and items such as check chains and leashes were on sale for pups who had never seen such a thing. Those completing the course were awarded certificates based on their participation. Aspiring trainers were tested both on the field with their animal as well as in the classroom where they had to correctly answer questions on Alpha Pack Behaviour and other aspects of canine psychology. Both human and canine graduates are now in a continuing program to train others on the topic of 'Who's the Boss'.
What I found most inspiring is that the state of pet ownership in the kingdom is approaching a new higher level of proficiency. Whereas most pets used to be allowed to roam the streets sustaining themselves on garbage, owners these days are getting more sophisticated. All of us here in the Doo have had run-ins with strays and pets posing as attack and/or guard dogs. In fact, according to Elke Meyers, most dogs purchased to guard homes or businesses are just as dangerous to their owners as to the would-be burglars if not properly trained.
For example, a properly trained dog may bark at the garbage collector but with a simple command of "Come", this potential weapon of ankle destruction would immediately return to the owner, tail wagging and grinning from ear-to-ear.
Dogs that go through obedience training learn that they are not the alpha male of the pack, meaning they do not have to defend the entire family and that they are not the one who make protection decisions. In other words, they are not the leader. After that responsibility is taken off his shoulders, it places the pet at ease, reduces an enormous burden and promotes vigorous tail wagging instead of jaw gnashing.
For example, I watched a large Shepard on Day Three of the training refuse to lie down on command. It took the owner and Elke both to put the yapping nipping stubborn one down but down he finally went. By Day Five, the same unruly pup was going down on command and very happy to get a "Good dog" from his owner. The owner was looking a lot happier as well, he knew now that he was the boss and not the other way around.
Although Elke Meyers has gone back to Australia to continue training dogs and horses down under, she has left AnimalNepal with a strong training program, which is continuing now at 1905 Restaurant in Kantipath every Saturday. All you need is your dog and a free afternoon.
What makes a dog tick
Little can be as rewarding as training a dog so it feels at ease in the human world. Good training is not punishment-based, but reinforcing good behaviours through reward. By understanding what makes a dog tick and using the proven techniques, trainers can learn to socialise and train a dog to be a well-mannered companion.
Obedience training is basically an education in good manners. Dogs can learn to respond to cues such as sit, down, stand, stay, come and loose leash walking, as well as for troubleshooting issues such as poor manners, jumping up and pulling on leash. Here are 10 do's and don'ts to train dogs:
1 Keep training simple
2 Start training in a quiet place
3 Set up your dog to win
4 Reward all good work
5 Reward immediately
6 Train just a few times a day
7 Don't nag or blame your dog
8 Keep encouraging your dog
9 Stop training if your dog is tired or has lost interest
10 Don't train if you are tired
11 Don't let anyone use a different command word
12 Always give voice and hand signals at the same time- make sure they are clear
13 The earlier you begin training the easier it is
14 Train at home for five to 10 minutes at a time
15 All dog commands are just one word
16 Develop three tones of voice: command, reprimand & praise
from Basic Dog Obedience Training + The Golden Rules of Training by Val Bonney