About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels 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 natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Talking Terms with Dogs

Recently I read about a Japanese-made gadget that claims to "translate" a dog's barks into English sentences. You attach it to your dog's collar and it tells you what your dog is trying to say. The gadget is being sold by a Mumbai pet store. A popular daily asked four dog owners to review it. From what I remember, two of the interviewees were quite scathing about it and didn't think it was of any use. They also felt (and I agree) that people who need something like this should not be keeping a dog at all!

While the merits of such gadgets are dubious, the motivation for creating them is very real. There is an undeniable communication gap between dogs and humans, no matter how much we may love each other. The human filters we naturally apply would lead us to misinterpret or simply miss a lot of what our dogs are trying to express.

For me, a new door just opened on the mysterious world of dog-human communication, thanks to Norwegian dog trainer and behaviourist Turid Rugaas. I recently read her wonderful little book On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals (Yvonne, thanks for gifting it to me!) It was a real eye-opener and I am so impressed with it I want to recommend it to all dog owners. Turid Rugaas has done pioneering work in this field, inspired by her "childhood dream about talking to animals." She believes that dogs are conflict-solving creatures, and they use many signals to prevent aggression, and also to calm fear and stress in themselves and those they interact with. By using the same signals, we can solve many common behaviour problems in our dogs and really understand what they are trying to say.

I tried a couple of her suggestions on my sometimes boisterous Kimaya, and they worked beautifully. I'm looking at Lalee with new eyes too, wondering if I've misinterpreted some of her expressions and body language for so many years (of course, my husband believes I have!)

The book is very easy to read and illustrated with many photographs. I think all children of dog-owning families should be made to read it.

I am now going to order another book by Ms Rugaas, Barking: The Sound of a Language. The publisher for all her books is Dogwise Publishing, http://www.dogwise.com/

Incidentally, there is a very interesting chapter on dog "language" in Stephen Budiansky's book The Truth about Dogs.

Click here for an earlier post in this blog on useful books for dog lovers. And if there are any other books you have liked, please share the names with our readers - just post a comment below.


Veera said...

I read Rugaas book when I adopted Nana and it is really recommendable reading! Nana is very "dog language sensitive" and for example if I raise my arms to strech my back she thinks I am showing her my power and she will turn her head in the side and then come to me with lowered ears, tail wagging low and start appeacing me - so I cant really strech in the same room because it worries her!

Unfortunately many dogs have lost their natural ability to give and understand signals due to breeding and it can lead to problems when dogs interact wich each other.

Rajashree Khalap said...

That's so sweet! Poor Nana.

I wonder what scary things I must have "said" all these years without intending to. Lalee gives sideways looks all the time and I used to think she did it because I find it cute! I would love to know what Rugaas has to say about barking.

Btw, I saw a lovely wolf site once with lots of illustrations of facial expressions - many more than dogs have. I've forgotten which site it was, perhaps Wolf Song of Alaska or International Wolf Center.

Gargi Singh said...

Sharing my joy-
I have thoroughly enjoyed and used these books to train and bond with my Indog Mitsy:
1) The Dog Vinci Code by John Rogerson- some really commonsense (and still not very obvious to me) techniques to have the best dog and be the best owner!
2) Before you get your puppy and After you get your puppy- both by Ian Dunbar - wonderful books- they completely changed my perspective and training styles
3)The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare - was a fun scientific reading into research on dog cognition and how for dogs (and us) it is the survival of the friendliest and not fittest...
4) How to teach old tricks to a new dog by Ian Dunbar