'Play with them, talk to them, don't control them': Trainer on how to raise a happy pet
Shirin Dhabar, an Indian pioneer in canine behaviour and training, says pet parents must spend quality time with their pets.
Pet parents are getting more involved in development of their furry friends with advent of social media and many online platforms that aim to educate people and spread awareness around our loving companions. Shirin Dhabar, an Indian pioneer in canine behaviour and training says that today's pet parents are an enthusiastic lot and things were different three decades back when people lacked interest in different training techniques related to their pets. (Also read: Avoid eye contact, stand very still: Pet behaviourist on useful tips to calm a dog, prevent dog bites)
Around 27 years back, when I started, pet parents weren't that involved and used to say - 'you train them and then give them back.' Now pet parents say - 'I want to learn.' In the past I had trouble convincing them about how important it is for humans to learn these techniques. Now they (pet parents) follow trainers on social media and show their eagerness in learning training methods they have seen. They are very involved, enthusiastic and it's wonderful to see that change in them, says Shirin.
As regards training dogs, the pet trainer and behaviourist believes in making it fun for them and designs trainings keeping breeds in mind. Her motto, she says, is not to control them, but to nurture them.
Learning whether it is with anyone - a child, a dog a human being, you, me or any adult, if it is made into fun is no longer a challenge or a chore. For a dog it shouldn't be like - 'Oh my god, the trainer has come today.' When you do it using positive and reward-based methods, then you make it all into a game. It's all about how you take a command, and you play games with it. While the command is still being practiced, the dog is having fun, the human is having fun and that's how training should be. It should be a game. The same we do with children also, says Shirin.
WORK WITH THEM, NOT AGAINST THEM
Shirin says a training is more effective and comfortable for pets when it is done keeping their genetics in mind.
You have to understand the breeds and what they are bred to do. Try to work with them and not against them. For example - Labradors are trained to retrieve, they love to do that, retrieving is in their blood. They do it innately. How do we work with that behaviour? How about finding them things that they enjoy doing because it includes genetics that made them into. What people do is find a dog breed, observe what they are doing and then curb the behaviour, control it. It's so much harder, the method you use is much rougher. Why not work with the dog, work with the genetics. They thrive when you work with them not against them, she says.
IF YOU CAN'T GIVE THEM TIME, DON'T KEEP ONE
It's heart-breaking when pets and abandoned or not given time at home. Shirin says just like children, all your pets want from you is your time and just feeding them lavish meals or giving them a cosy house isn't enough.
When you are getting home a pet, you should first consider your lifestyle and the amount of time you can give them, because the one thing they need from us is our time. People if they have lots of money and a big house, they get a dog. Dogs don't care for that. If you can't give pet your time, don't keep one. It's cruel to say - 'oh my dog sleeps all day, eats very good designer meals, go for walks, what a lovely life they have.' That's not enough, you need to play with them, communicate with them.
'DOGS MORE INTELLIGENT THAN HUMANS'
Personally, Shirin feels dogs are far more intelligent than humans at a different level yet owners at times take pride in how well they have trained their pets.
On a personal level, I see dog's intelligence is way higher than human beings. What's amusing is that we feel we are the superior species, and I am quite sure all the other animals are laughing at us. Compared to them, how well trained a human being is? When somebody tells me how well I have trained their dog, I don't tell them, but I feel the dog is trained way better than humans. It's actually the dogs that train you to be better, she concludes.