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.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tommy, Canine Good Citizen!

We INDog fans know that our dogs are highly intelligent, trainable and safe pets. But believe it or not, there are many who still have misconceptions about them on all these counts. I've even heard a lady in Mumbai describe street dogs as "wild" dogs!

INDog owner Monique Nerman took the trouble to enroll her Goa-born Tommy in two obedience training programmes when she took him to the US. He didn't just pass, he did so with flying colours! Yay for Indies!!

Tommy is now officially an American Canine Good Citizen. He has also won another honour, first place and Trophy in the Huntington Beach Obedience Class.

Read about the Canine Good Citizen Program of the American Kennel Club here. As Tommy's trainer said, "It's not an obedience test. It's to show that he is a good and reliable dog." Skills include heel, lie down, meet other dogs and behave, and not to react to loud noises.

Hats off to owner Monique Nerman for proving that Indies can do anything other breeds can do; in fact they often do it better!

I asked Monique to tell us about Tommy's training, as it might provide useful insights to other Indy owners about teaching their own dogs.

Monique's story:

I enrolled Tommy in two obedience classes when he came to California. Tommy had barely even walked on a leash before, and I had to adapt him to a western life style and its different dog-social behaviors.

For instance, Tommy doesn't understand why dogs chase balls - when he sees dogs running on the beach chasing tennis balls he thinks it's a fight going on and then chases all the dogs and tells them to stop!

I went twice a week to classes where we had to learn basic skills with a group of other dogs. Tommy had to learn: sit, lie down, heel, come here and stand for inspection.

It got more advanced with "automatic sit" which means that every time you stop, the dog has to sit down.

Tommy quickly learned that he only had to do automatic sit in the class, and everywhere else it was business as usual...
It was very easy for Tommy to learn all the obedience skills; the problem was to keep him motivated. I had to make the exercises more difficult to keep him interested. Make the training sessions at home shorter - only five minutes at a time - otherwise he would get bored as he didn't need repetition.
For a street dog from India who has had to live a different life than western dogs, treats worked the best - there are very different opinions about this, most Kennel Club trainers don't agree with treats, but with Tommy it was the easiest way!

When we did "come here," one trainer taught us to hide in the house and call "Come here!" and then the dog will find you - and get a treat - it's a fun game and it works for Tommy. "Come here" is not about doing something wrong or getting punished, but it's about being happy when you run back to your owner.

He doesn't get a treat every time, but every time I call "come here" he comes back - I trust him with this command, which is something that we impress a lot of American dog owners with!

The advantage of an INDog is that they are very clever and smart, and usually can figure out things before the other dogs do.

Tommy has been exemplary in all his classes and tests. He knows when it's "show time" and when it's play time.

At the actual Canine Good Citizen test, we were 10 dogs, from Pit Bulls to Poodles to a Chihuahua.

It's a pass or fail test.

You have to display 10 skills that show the dog can cope with everything, from being handled by a vet or a groomer to being left alone with a trusted person.

Each one of us had to go up to the evaluator one at a time and perform our skills.

The dog has to sit politely while the evaluator checks ears, feet, coat, shakes hands, drags a wheel chair behind the dog, drops things to see if they get spooked. The dog should not react when other dogs walk by, and then it's the "lie down" and "sit down" on command.

The best part was, when we had to do the "Meet another dog and handler while your dog sits down," most of the other handlers chose Tommy as the dog to meet as he was so well behaved!

He passed on all the tests, and was complimented by the evaluator.

Four days later we had the exam at the obedience school...

...and Tommy won the Trophy for 1st place in the class!

I truly believe what the "dog whisperer" says, that a dog needs a job, to be fulfilled. Especially for INDogs and INDog-mixes.
Tommy's job as a street dog used to be to survive, and here in the West his job is to protect me but he also has to be a good dog. It's not about having a dog that's a trained monkey but about a dog that does things right and communicates well with his owner.

I can tell that it has made Tommy more focused and you can tell he knows when he does things right.

Positive reinforcement in a new life has been the key element.

Every time Tommy does something right he is a "good dog," from lying calmly in his bed to walk at heel.

In terms of being a "wild" breed - I can only say that dogs are pack animals, and again, by reinforcing his place in the family or home, and by teaching him what he is supposed to do and giving him lots of love, exercise and a job to do, the INDog can be an adaptable dog.

My vet here in California said that I would be most likely "very happy" with this dog as he would not have any inherited illnesses.

It's been an amazing journey with my Indian dog, from spending lazy days together on the beach in Anjuna, to flying across half the world and seeing him walk through Chicago international airport as calm as when he lies under a tree in the monsoon.

Below: Some pictures of Tommy in Goa and California

He truly has shown himself to be a Very Good Canine Citizen!

Thank you to Karah Night, Dog Trainer, Hacienda Hills Dog Obedience Club.
Thank you also to Marlies Meister, Anna Wells, Jan Palmer and Niklas Gummeson, for helping me with Tommy's journey to the US.

Story: Monique G. Nerman
Photos of training and test: Elisabetta Colombo

Huntington Beach


Note: For other stories on training, read the posts under Topics "Dog Training" and "Canine Behaviour."


doggylove said...

congrats tommy!! u have made all ur in dog friends in india proud!! keep it up!

Khara said...

Tommy is an awesome dog but just as important, Monique knows him! She knows how to motivate him and to put him in check. I was so happy to read this blog about these dogs and see him put out as a great example for the INDog!
Great Job Monique & Tommy!
you make me appreciate my job even more!

Khara Knight, dog training instructor for Dog Services Unlimited.