Dogs and humans have learned to coexist for thou sands of years, if not tens of thousands of years. In all this time, dogs have learned to communicate with humans and read humans very well. The reverse is also true. It’s in our blood to understand dogs. Dog training is a relatively new concept that has become essential due to our rapidly changing lifestyles. But in this short time, it has come a long way.
At first, the training was very coercive. Very military-like.The dogs were forced to do things that they may or may not like and when they did things that were considered wrong in the human world, they were punished for that. That was in the West. This was at my grandfather’s time. In India, however, people would laugh at the idea of training. My grandfather was a farmer in a village and he would have laughed and said why does a dog need training to be a dog.He fed them and they came and went as they pleased, guarded the house and farm and slept near the door at night on a gunny bag that was put out for them.
Then the world moved to positive training. In India, there were more city homes that started keeping dogs as pets. My father, being a farmer’s son and having grown up with animals, naturally wanted to keep a few dogs and cats.But following the local trend, we got a police trainer.Training in India was still stuck at coercive training and I don’t even want to imagine what the trainer did when he took my dogs out for training. But rest assured, they were neither happy dogs nor well behaved dogs. But we loved them to bits anyways and were willing to look past everything. But there was a thorn stuck in my heart about their wellbeing and I was determined not to put any other dog through such training. I knew there had to be another way.
Now, with our cities being flooded with apartments, dogs are looked upon as family members and some kind of training is becoming more or less mandatory. Dogs are being put in situations where they have to learn to deal with city life.That means dealing with traffic, street dogs, other dogs, people in elevators, children and a very high density of people in general. The need for good leash walking is getting more and more evident. However, the training methods in India are now moving to positive training methods.
I am currently in Ashville, North Carolina, getting a yearlong education in the latest methods of dog training and it’s time to move on from positive training. The latest is natural training. This method relies on giving a dog an opportunity to be a dog again and hinges on a belief that a dog knows how to coexist with man. It is based on communicating better with a dog, reading his messages to us and being able to communicate back to a dog, without treating the animal as a dumb, non-thinking animal that will do anything for food. Sounds familiar? We seem to have come a full circle.We are going back to basics and it feels good. It feels right.
I recommend to my clients, students and readers to look at books and resources on calming signals of dogs. Dogs use this to tell us what they are thinking and having a good knowledge of these signals is like learning a new language. It opened my world to a whole new way of thinking and I can assure you that if you got yourself well versed with this language, you would be surprised at how much your dog talks to you and all the things he says to you. Happy chatting!