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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dogwatching on the beach

Last week Nagaon beach was almost empty of tourists - a rare thing nowadays - and we had the beach to ourselves. I took our little handycam on our walk and shot some video clips of Kimaya, Lalee, their friend Brownie and two new friends. Unfortunately the video lost quality when it was uploaded.

Interactions like these take place on almost all our walks on the beach. I notice my dogs and the others using the signals and body language I've read about in dog behaviour books. I rarely, if ever, interfere in anything that goes on. A well-socialized dog knows how to communicate with her/his own kind, and human bungling is not needed here.

Brownie in this video is demonstrating one of the conflict-solving tactics described by Turid Rugaas in her book Calming Signals. He does this all the time. I've frequently seen him "splitting up" interactions which could get tense. Sometimes he stands between the dogs and barks loudly till they disperse. Read more about him here and here.

In fact dogs who are, or have ever been, free-ranging, will go out of their way to avoid a conflict (exceptions are during mating and territorial intrusion). This is my experience anyway. The displays of dominance and submission may look alarming to some people, but it is just a process by which these dogs are establishing their ranking order. When Brownie and Lalee rush at the White Male and he immediately crouches in submission, he is averting an attack. If he had challenged their superior status it would have been a different story. Brownie himself is very submissive in front of my bossy Lalee.



Veera said...

This is a great video, thanks for filming and posting it!

It shows how very important it is for dogs to give signals for each other, especially submissive signals. A few weeks ago my dog Nana suddenly attacked a little terrier in the dog park without the terrier provoking her in any way. I was of course very shocked because Nana had never done anything like that before and because the terrier did absolutely nothing! Nana has never ever shown aggression towards dogs who don't provoke her. Luckily I was able to stop her attack in time and the terrier was unharmed.

Later I found out that the terrier who was adult had just shifted owner. I now theorize that the terrier was either unsocialized with other dogs or he was simply depressed because of the change in his life and maybe lacked all will to interact with other dogs. My dog was confused because there was no reaction and no signals of any kind from the other part.

Imagine if you go to a person and say something and there is no response. You are sure that the person has heard what you have said but he just stares at you blankly and says nothing, would that not be more confusing than an unfriendly answer? Whatever the response is, it's always better than no response at all and I think all communication - human as well as animal - is based on the presumption that there will be a reaction of some sort.

My theory was supported today when Nana again showed aggression towards an unfamiliar dog (but didn't attack because I noticed her tension and didn't let her enter the dog park). I talked with the owner and she told me they had just moved from another area and her dog seemed quite depressed and didn't want to interact with other dogs. And the dog indeed seemed very "expressionless", just blankly staring at my dog who was trying to find out if this newcomer is a friend or enemy.

Rajashree Khalap said...

That's interesting Veera. I think you're right. Specially if the dogs were staring at her, she might have interpreted that as a threat even if the dogs were not giving any aggressive signals.

Rajashree Khalap said...

Look at the White Male - he's a beautiful perfect INDog

charu shah said...

such a beautiful video! wud love to see our urban dogs have some time outside to play and behave like animals and not always like good kids!

doggylove said...

i have observed this with tommy: he always shows dominace and the stray friends show surrender and tommy accepts them as friends,after his first confirmation of a dog as his friend he never threatens him again, but when it comes to pet dogs, mostly the pedigree, or larger breed dogs, tommy doesnt want to make friendship at all, he growls at them,hair all raised in anger,tail tightly tucked upright.i have to take him away from the very sight of the dog.later on if he meets the dog ownerof the same dog he is a very friendly dog.he sniffs for his rival but accepts the owner as friend.what must be the reason?shirin had said that the other dog must be having heirarchy problems in his pack itself, so cant send correct signals to tommy?tommy has play aggression, i keep control over him when his play gets very rough as suggested by trainers and animal psychologists and he obeys me.he used to get rough with 'buddy' but after few meetings he has accepted him as his friend.my question is: is tommy a aggresive dog? or a friendly dog?what would u say abt some dumb pet dogs who are not bothered of anything around them? are they more humanised and fail to respond canine way?

Rajashree Khalap said...

I think Tommy seems to be a bit like Lalee, rather bossy with other dogs but not aggressive exactly :-) Though Lalee doesn't get aggressive during play. Like Veera's Nana, Tommy must be responding to the other dogs' signals or lack of signals. Indian dog owners don't seem to socialize their pets properly from what I've seen. Most of them seem paranoid about how their dogs will behave and they try and prevent their dogs from interacting with others right from puppy days, so what can you expect? I think owners of large breeds in particular seem to lack confidence about their ability to control their own pets. This is what I've seen when a number of dogs meet at a doctor's clinic for instance. It's such a pity these poor creatures have to lead an unnatural life deprived of interaction with other dogs. I agree with the anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas - she says what dogs really want is to be with other dogs.

Rajashree Khalap said...

@Charu: I'm really grateful that I can give Lalee a life like this, where she gets to behave like a dog for at least some days every month. Otherwise she'd be doomed to just waddling around the streets here! I have been warned by many people never to take her to Oval Maidan, because some of the large pet dogs (GSDs, Dobes) brought there are practically untrained and have been known to viciously attack smaller dogs. I suspect it's the same story in all the parks where pet dogs are allowed to run off-leash. I feel Lalee is safer among free-roaming village dogs who know how to behave.