Ahmedabad: Saturday was a day for dogs at the second edition of the India Environment Festival, with three rescued canines getting new homes at the Dog Adoption Show on Day 2 of the three-day event. We managed to draw canine behaviourist and trainer Nidhi Mehta of Dogspective away from her four-legged friends to chat about Ahmedabad as a canine-friendly city, her work, and the topic of ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’.
Here are a few excerpts:
Dogs have always been special to me, right from my childhood. So when I decided to take this up as a career, I trained under Shirin Merchant—one of nine people in the world with accreditation from the KCAI (Kennel Club Accredited Instructors) scheme.
That was five years ago.
Today, I act as a bridge between dogs and their humans, not just in Ahmedabad, but also in Gandhinagar and Bhavnagar. In addition to training the animal, my job is to also help my client identify and understand patterns in their pet’s behaviour. For instance, if a pet-owner tells me that her dog makes a mess or gets destructive every time he or she is left alone in the house, I have to ask if they like leaving their pet alone. Most often, the answer is no. So, they have to understand that pets also have feelings; they don’t like being left alone, and this separation anxiety presents as destructive behaviour.
There are still some housing societies that object to pet dogs on the grounds that they might dirty the place, or disturb the peace by barking or whining loudly for long periods. Not only is this illegal, it ignores the fact that pet-owners are supposed to be responsible for training their pets, keeping them healthy, and cleaning up after them.
On the whole, however, Ahmedabad is becoming more canine-friendly than ever. It’s now common to see people—especially children—taking care of and playing with ‘community’ dogs in their localities. So we work with that. For instance, around Diwali, I try and talk to children about how high-decibel crackers scare dogs, and might also cause burns and other injuries. Once they are sensitized, they talk to their parents. It’s wonderful to have kids come and tell me they didn’t burst crackers because they didn’t want dogs to suffer.
Choosing the right pet
While having a pet is great, it is also very important that you get the right kind. Breeds like Siberian Huskies, Tibetan Mastiffs and Saint Bernards are meant to live in cold climates, not in cities like Ahmedabad, where the temperature can touch 50 °C. The argument that they’ll be kept in air-conditioned rooms is a farce as dogs need to go out, get exercise, and explore new smells. An air-conditioned room is basically a plush jail for the dog.
It’s also important to consider other factors, like, whether you have enough space for a dog, whether the rest of the family is comfortable around one, and whether you can actually afford the financial costs—food, vaccines, medicine, etc.—that come with bringing up a dog. In many cases, dogs are abandoned because the owner has not considered all these things.
Adopt, don’t shop...
Having a pet is a responsibility, just like bringing up a child.
It might be tempting to buy an expensive Rottweiler puppy because your child’s friend has one, but it’s unfair to the animal. Pets are not toys to be bought according to one’s choice of colour and size. Neither are they meant to be status symbols. People who get pedigreed dogs as pets to raise and maintain a standing in society are not always aware about unscrupulous breeders who do not care about the animals’ welfare, as long as they have a steady supply of puppies to fetch high prices.
There are enough dogs abandoned every year. I have always been a proponent of people adopting pets rather than buying them. When you adopt a pet, not only you’re giving a new life to it, but also making a value addition to your life, too.
Sujith Nambiar tweets at @sujith17nambiar.