This blog is for aboriginal dog enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah Dog) and INDog-mixes (Indies) are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive landrace village dog of the Indian subcontinent. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too. Also see padsociety.org
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I wanted to share this great remedy I used on Lalee last year.
I don’t know about other cities, but the Mumbai monsoon is peculiarly harmful for dogs. (Itchy skin is the least of the problems really – licking rainwater often seems to push the poor things into an extremely virulent kind of bloody diarrhoea).
Anyway, last year Lalee started scratching a lot and actually made small cuts all over her body. The doctor told me to mix these three things: equal parts powdered camphor and haldi (turmeric), and enough coconut oil to make a smooth thick liquid. I applied this mixture all over her, muzzled her and kept her on the balcony for 30 minutes. (At the end of that time the balcony walls were all yellow, but at least the new colour scheme hadn’t been spread to the rest of the house). I then led a highly indignant Lalee to the bathroom, leaving a trail of yellow paw prints, and bathed her with Margo soap, which seems to be a really good neem soap. (And yes, the bathroom also turned yellow).
Her scratching reduced by at least 95% with just this treatment and she soon had her beautiful coat back. For those interested in unimportant details, the walls were also restored to their former beauty after a bit of scrubbing.
If your dog has a really serious skin problem, for instance with pus or some other symptom, please DON”T try this without first checking with your vet. If he suffers from allergies, DON’T try this. But in simpler cases I don’t think it could do any harm as long as the dog doesn’t lick the mixture. If your dog is white, perhaps he will retain a yellowish hue for a while after this treatment – but it certainly won’t be permanent. Anyway, isn’t that a very small price to pay for a no-longer-scratchy dog?
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Below: Mylo, ten years old now
Far left: Our sweet Blackie, no longer with us
Left: Jippy - always in good shape!
The four pictures above:
Top left: Gogi and her beloved adopted sister Bitie trying to share a favourite basket. Bitie died of jaundice at age 14.
Top right: Jippy with Amit Choudhury
Lower left: Jippy and Snowy with their son, Mishu, in the middle
Lower right: Snowy and Mishu
Saturday, September 22, 2007
This is a must-see: Lovely photos and beautifully written personalities for the strays. The canine characters are sure to remind you of Mumbai street dogs you know and love - after all, the stray dog scene is very similar in Thailand and India, the major difference being that the official stance in Thailand is anti-killing.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
With dog ownership on the rise, the scope for this “mutual misunderstanding” has increased enormously. On the one hand we assume our beloved pets have exactly the same thought processes, needs and priorities as us (“He’s almost human!” is considered a great compliment…Why?) On the other hand, our dogs often interpret our indulgence and pampering as signs of submission, and write us off as weak-minded wimps.
Miraculously, we may pass a lifetime in this beautiful bubble with no major harm done. But if and when the bubble does burst, and we finally realize that our dog is bringing more stress than joy into our lives, it’s sometimes too late to undo the errors we made.
It’s so much easier to get everything right at the start. Considering the vast body of knowledge now available on the topic of dog behaviour, there is really no excuse for bungling.
As one of the kind-hearted people who adopted a stray dog, you have an additional responsibility: You are now an ambassador for the cause of street dog adoption. Isn’t it great to show off a perfect-mannered Pariah dog or mongrel – and let others see how it is as good a dog as any pure-breed?
Undoubtedly the best person to consult on this topic is Shirin Merchant, India’s only practicing canine behaviour consultant, an associate of John Rogerson (one of the world’s foremost canine behaviour experts), and editor of Woof magazine.
Shirin points out that all new dog owners need to take certain steps to settle their new pets into good habits – whether their dogs are purchased purebreds, or Pariahs and pariah-mixes adopted from the road, or abandoned purebreds adopted from shelters. However, the issues you must tackle in the case of street dog rescue/adoption or abandoned dog rescue/adoption are different from issues in the case of a pup bought from a breeder or a home. We asked Shirin to respond to some of the most common queries that crop up every time a stray is adopted.
Q1. Are there any basic temperamental differences between pariah dogs and mongrels and purebreeds?
A1. No, temperament will depend on a dog’s genetics, the environment it grows up in and its experiences as a pup and through life. All three play a role in the temperament of a dog and you can have a nasty tempered labrador or a wonderfully sweet rottweiler just as you can have a good natured pariah or a hot tempered mongrel.
Q2. What must I expect if I adopt an adult stray dog who has lived a while on the street?
A1. New owners will often feel sorry for a rescued dog and so may initially take time off work to help it settle in, taking it for long walks and spending extra time with the animal. But when they finally go back to work, the dog will get distressed with the abrupt change in routine.
A newly adopted dog is often very insecure in a new environment. It is your job as his new owner to build his confidence and convince him that he and you are here to stay. Dogs find comfort and stability in a fixed routine, so try and keep your and his daily activities as consistent as possible - it will help him adjust quickly to his new home and teach him that he can depend on you. So start as you mean to go on and get the dog used to your lifestyle from Day One.
Q3. Can such a dog be taught to be obedient? Will he accept human direction after being used to an independent life?
A3. Yes, most dogs crave to be part of a social group – it could be a family or people or other dogs – and if trained with kind and reward-based methods, they will happily listen to any person in the house. However, the new owner must keep in mind that these dogs have been used to a life of freedom and can be strongly independent. They will not accept any training method that involves the use of choke chains or force – the dog may then either withdraw into a shell or show aggression to protect himself.
Q4. Up to what age could a dog be trainable? If I adopt an older dog, what are the chances of his grasping house-training for instance?
A4. A dog that is trained with reward-based methods can be trained at any time and point in his life. It is a fallacy that you cannot teach new tricks to an old dog.
However, toilet training is not to be confused with “training of a dog.” It is a separate behaviour. If taught with patience and if there is consistency on the part of the owner, any dog – at any age (as long as there are no medical problems) – can be toilet trained within a week.
Q5. Street dogs are used to passing urine and stools whenever they need to, in a place of their choice. How will they adjust to being taken out only at fixed times? What would be the most humane, healthy way to tackle this problem?
A5. As a matter of fact, street dogs are very particular where they defecate and urinate. They will never dirty their bed or near where they are fed. Adult strays also will quickly get used to a routine and can ‘hold’ their urine for long periods of time, till they are taken out to clean themselves. For those dogs that do mess in the house, they need to be put onto a toilet training schedule – with a bit of consistency and patience, they will soon learn to toilet outdoors.
Q6. Many street dogs seem to dislike chains and leashes. How should we introduce them to being walked on a leash?
A6. You can’t blame a dog that has lived free and walked anywhere he pleases to resent being constrained on a leash. A leash and collar should be introduced slowly to the animal. It is a good idea to teach the dog to accept the collar and leash without the distractions of the outdoors. But don’t just put the dog on a collar and leash and expect it to adjust. Put on the collar and leash just before mealtime and let him eat his meal with the collar on. That way, the he will soon learn to associate the collar and leash to a pleasant experience. In addition, put the collar and leash on and walk the dog about the house, using treats and praise to lure him and distract him away from the restrictions of the leash. Do this for a couple of minutes everyday, then remove the leash. Do not leave it on and let the dog walk about the house with the leash trailing behind; this can lead to the leash being chewed or misconstrued as a toy – which can lead to problems later on.
Also remember never to use the leash to correct the dog for misbehaving, it is kinder to verbally reprimand him than to choke him by yanking on the collar.
It is also advisable to use a simple collar or a half choke. Never use a choke chain on a dog – if used wrongly (if the dog continues to pull on the choke chain or is yanked hard), it can harm the dog mentally and physically.
Q7. A dog who is used to life on the street experiences a lot of freedom and variety. Won't he get bored living in a flat? How can we prevent that?
A7. In the same way that you would for any dog – play games, take it for outings, walks, treks and give it plenty of love and care.
Q8. We already have a dog and we want to adopt a second dog from a shelter. Do you think they may fight?
A8. A lot depends on the temperament, age and sex of the two dogs and whether either dog comes with a preconceived hatred of other dogs. The kennel staff will be the best people to advise you on which dog to adopt. There are ways in which you can correctly introduce two dogs, making sure few problems, if at all, will occur in the long run.
Q9. Adult street dogs don't play with toys or have possessions. What toys would be best for them?
A9. All dogs play –they may not play with the fancy toys you buy them, but they will play with any object they deem fun – it could be an empty toilet paper roll or a plastic bottle or even your TV remote control. Scientists have long known that play is an integral part of a living creature’s well being. Even adult strays can be seen playing tag with one another or play-wrestling or chasing. The games you allow your dog to play must be appropriate and not encourage any kind of aggression. Encourage the dog to satisfy his instinct to chase by throwing a ball – do not allow him to chase birds or cats or other small animals – if allowed, he could even start to chase children one day.
Discourage tugging games that involve a lot of growling – stop the game when it gets out of hand. It is also noticed that men prefer to pit their strength against their dogs by playing rough and tumble wrestling games. These games should be strongly discouraged as they encourage aggression in a dog. The dog will then expect your grandmother or your niece to play the same game. Encourage your dog to find hidden objects or chase a ball.
It may be difficult to get a former stray to play initially, but do see what kind of game he prefers and work in that direction. Some dogs like to use their nose – play scenting games with them. Some like to chase – throw a ball for such dogs. Some love to explore – take him for a hike. That way your dog will be kept happy and out of trouble.
Q10. Will they be more territorial or aggressive than purebreds? Are they likely to attack guests for instance?
A10. The dog’s temperament and attitude towards people will depend on the life it has led on the streets. If it has had friendly and pleasant experiences with people, it will probably be a friendly dog to live with. However, if it has been abused, chased or hit, it will probably attack people or even family members if it feels threatened or fear at any time. A purebred dog is more likely to turn out to be aggressive or territorial if its parents were so, or it was brought up in that manner. Lack of socialising and training a dog to be aggressive can also play a part in a dog attacking people.
Stray dogs tend to be territorial when living on the streets, because their survival depends on it. But it is often seen that some of them when rehomed, tend to have a diminished territorial drive since they no longer have the need to protect resources as they are in abundance (food, shelter, water, etc.)
Q11. Children are often cruel to strays. Are rescued/adopted dogs likely to be scared of children? Will they be aggressive with them?
A11. It really depends on their previous experiences with children. Some dogs, who have faced no abuse may be okay with kids. Dogs who have suffered any kind of abuse will probably show aggression in self defence. In any case a child and dog should never be left unsupervised or alone.
A good shelter will carry out temperament tests on a dog before placing it in a home with children.
An adult dog that resents children or is suspicious of them will probably never come around to liking kids, so new owners have to keep that in mind and not be foolish and think that if the dog is exposed to kids long enough, it will learn to appreciate them.
Q12. What are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting an adult dog, as opposed to a puppy?
A12. Puppies can be appealing and great fun, but they also require a lot of care and running around. A pup needs to be taught manners, will need to be housebroken, exercised and will chew up everything he can get his little teeth into.
You can bypass the struggle with a dog that has outgrown the aggravations of adolescence. An older dog is calmer, requires moderate exercise and can even be left alone at home for short periods of time. If you lack the time, energy and commitment to bring up a pup, an adult dog may be a better choice.
However, whilst a puppy’s character can be moulded from the beginning, with an older dog, what you see is what you get. He will be pretty much set in his ways. If you do opt for an older dog, make your choice carefully; you can teach an old dog new tricks, but it is almost impossible to teach him to forget his old tricks.
Q13. Do street dogs have a greater hunting instinct? Can they be trusted around smaller animals or birds?
A13. It would depend on the environment the dog has been brought up in. If a dog has lived alongside a cat, it is very likely he will be OK with the animal. But a dog that has chased cats or hasn’t been exposed to them may end up chasing the animal.
Q14. What about rehoming an abandoned purebred? Will the dog have behaviour problems?
A14. Most purebred dogs are abandoned when they get too expensive to maintain, when they fall ill, get old, get chronic skin infections or when they develop behaviour problems. A good looking, otherwise healthy purebred dog that is abandoned is sure to have behaviour problems. Unfortunately, the behaviour may not surface in the kennel or until the dog has been in its new home for over a fortnight. Temperament testing an abandoned dog will reveal a lot about the dog and where he came from. The kennel can then accordingly rehome the dog keeping in mind its needs and temperament.
Q15. Does inbreeding make some purebreds unpredictable and nervous? Would street dogs be more or less free from this problem?
A15. Inbreeding does not make a dog nervous or aggressive – poor breeding does. If either the sire or dam have a nervous or aggressive temperament, it is highly likely that all the puppies in the litter will grow up to be of similar temperament. Potential owners should therefore carefully check the parents, before purchasing a puppy.
The same will go for street dogs – pups born from parents with a poor temperament will grow up to be nervous or aggressive. However, in our society, an aggressive dog is less likely to get fed by people and is likely to be killed or removed by people. This kind of ensures that most of the dogs on the streets, other than the odd exception, are even- tempered and even quite friendly towards people who are friendly and kind to them.
You can ask Shirin Merchant questions on dog behaviour on this blog (mail the questions to firstname.lastname@example.org). If you wish to consult her directly, write to Canines Can Care on email@example.com
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Bini used to live on the street below my house, Regal Cinema at Colaba. Her full name is Binodini; she was named after the heroine of the film Chokher Bali, which was showing at Regal at the time. (If you've seen the film, you'll understand why - Bini has the same melting eyes). She was energetic, lavish in her diplay of affection and completely besotted with my pet dog Ronnie. One day I found her sitting very quietly, only to discover that she had blobs of pus where her nails should have been. Even after a month of medication and dressing there was scant improvement, so on the doctor's advice I brought her home. It took her six weeks to recover and her address permanently changed from Regal Cinema ground floor to Regal Cinema second floor.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Veenu came like a burst of sunshine into the lives of me, my husband and my father-in-law sometime in the first half of 2003. And life for us has never been the same ever since.
For me, having a dog is as natural as breathing as I have grown up with dogs and cats all around me. But for my husband this was a whole new ball game as he had never had pets ever in his life. However, Veenu just fitted into the family and today is also my father-in-law’s shadow.
I remember getting a call from Daisy Sidhwa, WSD's Adoption Manager. She told me that there was this little pup that was ready for adoption in case I was interested. Though my husband had a few misgivings, I went to the kennel only to immediately fall in love with a tiny little fidgety pup that just didn’t seem to sit still even for a moment. It was love at first sight for both Veenu and me, and after the formalities (I made sure it took as little time as possible), she was happily in a cab speeding away to her new home.
There were no adjustment problems and Veenu promptly made herself at home. As small as she was, she took it upon herself to make friends with a cat that we had earlier rescued. Now Nobby (my cat) and Veenu are great friends though they have their share of ups and downs.
Veenu today is the highlight in Ashu’s and my lives and both of us look forward to the exuberant welcome that she gives us each time one of us comes home from our jobs or even a trip to the grocery store. I am grateful that Daisy made that call that day so that Veenu could come into our lives. I hope that some day when we have a bigger house, we will be able to adopt one more from the kennel.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
The Rg Veda (composed between 1300-1000 BC) tells us of Indra’s dog Sarama, called devashuni or bitch of the gods. The name Sarama means “the fleet one.”
The cattle of the god Brihaspati had been stolen by the Panis, followers of the demon Vala. They had hidden them in a cave. At Brihaspati’s request Sarama was sent to look for them. She crossed a large river and found the place where the cattle were hidden.
The dialogue that took place between Sarama and the Panis is recounted in Volume 10, verse 108.
The Panis tried to make friends with her: “We will make you our sister, do not return, we will share the cattle with you, auspicious one.”
But Sarama sternly demanded the return of the cattle, saying “I recognize not fraternity nor sisterhood.”
A battle ensued after which Indra was able to recover the cattle.
The myth of the Panis is also found in the Jaiminlya Brahmana. In this version the gods first sent the eagle Suparna to find the cattle, but he was bribed into silence by the Panis and returned without information, for which he was punished. Sarama was then sent to find the cows. For her loyalty she and her descendants were blessed by Indra.
Sarama also makes an appearance in the Mahabharata, in the Adi parva.
Janamejaya, a descendent of the Pandavas, accompanied by his brothers, was conducting a long sacrifice in the field of the Kurus, when a son of Sarama came by. Janamejaya’s brothers beat the dog, who went yelping to his mother.
She asked him if he had done anything wrong there.
Her son replied, “I did nothing wrong! I neither looked nor licked at the offerings.”
Sarama then went aggrieved to Janamejaya and angrily cursed him:
“This son of mine did nothing wrong here! Why was he beaten? As he was beaten without doing wrong, therefore an unforeseen danger will befall you.”
Janamejaya was very worried by the curse and made much effort searching for a priest to expiate the sin.
(Those were good times! If only we could go around cursing all the ghastly people who beat dogs).
Sarama’s sons were called the Sarameyas and are described as chaturaksh or four-eyed. Two of them, Shyama and Shabala, were the companions of the god Yama, and guarded the road the dead must pass to go to heaven. Volume 10.14.10 of the Rg Veda says “pass by a secure path beyond the two spotted foureyed dogs, the progeny of Sarama…
Entrust him, O king, to your two dogs, which are your protectors, Yama, the four-eyed guardians of the road, renowned by men.”
Elsewhere, sarameya is used to mean a dog of high race.
Of course I'd like to believe that Sarama was visualized as a kind of Indian Native superdog, but I haven't found any descriptions to support this, especially as at least two other types of dog may have been around at that time. The Sarameyas in fact seem to have a rather fearsome appearance, as befits messengers of the god of Death.
Anyway, it’s nice to know that in Vedic times dogs were not looked down on (as in the later age of Puranic Brahmanism), but on the contrary treated with some respect.
(The quotations from the Rg Veda are from the translation by H H Wilson and Bhasya of Sayanacharya. The quotations from the Mahabharata are from the translation by Johannes Buitenen).
evading the heavy traffic, and dives into a dustbin on the other side,
nosing about for edible scraps. It is a dog, medium sized, a dull yellow
in colour, mangy in places, with brown eyes just as dull as his skin.
He is lean and ribby, and undoubtedly has worms. Ticks and fleas
infest his body. Nobody owns him, nobody cares for him, he finds his
own food, water, and shelter. Under conditions which would have killed
any of his domestic relatives, he lives, and, indeed, flourishes
to the extent that he reproduces.
Around the corner of the street, hidden in the ditch, lies a bitch,
with six pups fighting for her milk. She will have to feed herself,
sufficiently so as to give life-sustaining nourishment to her pups.
Out of the six, perhaps two will survive, the others being taken by
disease, traffic, and many other hazards that are all too eager to
take the lives of young pups.
What does all this tell us? The pariah, or pi dog is hardy,
intelligent, and a survivor. The weak and unfit have been taken; the
law of the survival of the fittest is inexorable, and, through the
ages, the pi dog has all the qualities needed to survive.
Pick up a pup at the age of about six weeks. Its mother has already
started the weaning process by regurgitating food for it - half
digested, the young one finds it easier to digest. Take the pup home,
deworm it - it is sure to have roundworms if not tapeworms - treat it for
ticks and fleas, and give it a good brushing, if not a bath. Feed it
regularly, starting with dilute milk and perhaps hard-boiled eggs,
chopped up. Later, it will even do well on kitchen scraps.
The dull coat will begin to shine, depending on the colour, a warm
golden yellow, a deep black, or a flaming apricot-red, the dry skin
will become supple, the lifeless eyes will turn a warm, trusting brown
as they look up to you.
What have you got for your trouble? A wonderful companion for free.
Consider this: if you can shake off the misconception that pi dogs are
ugly, you will find they are not. Beauty is in the eye of the
beholder, and many breeds admitted by the Kennel Club look remarkably
like the pi - the Basenji and the Canaan dog being two examples.
Looks are, after all, only skin deep, so what have they under the
skin? Hardihood, for one. As mentioned before, they come from
generations of creatures who have fought for survival amid the
toughest conditions, and the hardiest have made it. They will thrive
on food which softer dogs won't touch. They are remarkably resistant
to disease, and when ill, respond very quickly to treatment . I had
one which was mauled by a leopard, and recovered, with proper
treatment, in eleven days. But more of that later.
Loyalty and love for the master is another grand attribute. An old
and poor woman at the edge of the town sets out a bowl of scraps
outside her door. A big, black and white pi comes for it, cleans up
the bowl, and returns to his station just beside the doorway. Woe
betide any unwelcome intruder. Big Jim will soon send him on his way.
I have had, and still have, pi dogs as companions and guards. When
I am sitting by myself, often I will have a cold nose thrust into my
hand , asking for affection, and warm brown eyes look up lovingly and
trustingly into mine.
Intelligence, coupled with courage, is bred into them. They can be
taught surprisingly quickly, and pick up new ideas on their own. At
one time I had, among others, two, Koila and Harnol, who were
particular friends. Koila was my own dog; Harnol, his younger brother
was fed by me but stayed at a forest chowki a quarter of a mile away.
One day, Harnol came to the forest guard and started whining and
whimpering, running away a few steps, and returning to the man.
Thinking the dog was hungry (it was lunchtime) the guard gave him a bit
of 'roti', but Harnol ignored it, and began tugging gently at the man's
sleeve. Realising the dog wanted him to follow, the man did so, and
Harnol led him to a patch of undergrowth where his friend, Koila was
held fast in a poacher's wire snare. Koila was lying quietly and had
not, therefore, hurt himself and the guard released him without
trouble. Great was the gratitude and joy of both dogs!
Harnol, indeed was the victim of the leopard mentioned earlier. There
were seven of these dogs roaming the grounds, in the night, when a
smallish leopard picked up Harnol and attempted to carry him off. The
rest of them gave chase, and, unable to defend itself as well as carry
off his prey, the cat released the dog and made its escape.
Bhalu, the mother of both Koila and Harnol, was a small, black dog.
One night, a herd of cattle got into my crops, and my servants, aided
by Bhalu, got the bovines cornered. The next day the people had to
go for their regular chores, but Bhalu (self taught) circled the herd
and would not let them scatter until the Gujjar owner came and
negotiated with me for their release. There are many tales of Bhalu's
loyalty, courage and intelligence, too many to be detailed here.
As a rule, the Pi's courage is not a heedless, reckless one, but is
tempered with caution. It will bark at a suspicious character from a
distance, rather than rush in to attack and bite. I, certainly, prefer this
behaviour; it is too embarrassing and inconvenient to have friends and
casual visitors bitten - a warning is much more satisfactory. Nevertheless,
when the master is actually in danger, the dog will risk its own life to defend him.
If you are looking for a loving companion who can also protect your
property, you could do a lot worse than choose a pi dog. Love it, look
after it, and it will repay you a thousand times over.