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.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Other End of the Leash: when dog meets monkey

I just wrote about the book on "calming signals" by Turid Rugaas.

Here's another brilliant book on canine training and behaviour: The Other End of the Leash, by Dr Patricia B McConnell.

What makes it really unique is that it deals with HUMAN behaviour as much as canine. The author is a well-known Applied Animal Behaviourist and dog trainer who has studied the behaviour not only of canids but also of primates - and that includes us. It's fascinating to learn just how similar our body language is to that of chimpanzees and bonobos (after all, we share 98% of our DNA with these species). It's also humbling to realize how little control we have over our essentially primate gestures and how difficult it is to change the ape-like communication techniques that come so naturally to us. For instance, hugging is entirely a primate expression of affection. (We never see dogs hugging each other, do we?)

Dr McConnell explains how problems so easily crop up because of the completely different communication styles of our two species. We can bridge this gap to a large extent by learning to behave more like dogs than like primates, when around our pets. She also explains the pitfalls of the conventional "dominance" kind of dog training, and how it can often worsen your pet's behaviour.

I think one of the most important points she makes is that communication with dogs is NOT intuitive in humans, whatever we may think. But it's something we can and should learn.

Her acute observation and insights make this book a delight to read, specially as it's also written beautifully and with a lot of humour. Much of it had me clapping my hand to my forehead and wondering how I could have been such an idiot all these years. Though my mistakes have not arisen from stupidity (not all of them, anyway), but simply from being human.

I think some of us are secretly a bit scared of anything to do with training. Possibly we fear that we will ourselves have to undergo a personality change - from baby-talking softie into military-type disciplinarian - and we don't quite feel up to the task! Trust me, read this book. The suggestions are based on common sense and can be practised by anybody.

Even if you don't own a dog, you get the sheer thrill of understanding the mind of another species, of connecting with it. One of the greatest joys in the world.

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