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A chat with...Sindhoor Pangal, India

Sindhoor Pangal is a Canine Behaviour Consultant from Bangalore, India. She joined the PDTE in 2015 and recently held an official opening for her new centre in Koramangala. She has also been actively observing and researching the street dogs in her area, for a project she has termed "Lives of Streeties". We touched base with Sindhoor to congratulate her on the exciting new centre and discuss her dog training ambitions. Hi Sindhoor! Please tell us a little about your new centre. The new center is a place that offers counselling services for pet parents with new dogs, puppies or troubled dogs. It has been running for a year now but due to my travel commitments last year it was only inaugurated last month. The center is in the heart of Bangalore, a very busy city in India with a population of 10 million people. The center sprawls over 2000 sq feet of alfresco consultation and evaluation area and has another 2000 sq feet of lovely garden space. This is definitely a luxury in a city as dense as mine.

What are you hoping to achieve at the new centre? Who is it for? The center is for the pet dogs of Bangalore and their families who are willing to dedicate time to their dogs. The center currently offers counselling services for pet parents who have new dogs, puppies or troubled dogs. The center will also soon house an education unit which will focus on conducting educational programs for pet parents as well as aspiring dog trainers and behaviour counsellors in the city. There will be a third unit that will focus on research on dogs. The aim of the center is to become a local center of excellence that improves the quality of life of pet dogs in the city, as well as making a meaningful contribution to the international efforts towards decoding canine behaviour. How long did it take to get things ready for the official opening? The actual set up took two months, from the point at which we identified the location to starting the first consultation. However, the project has taken a lot longer due to the basic challenges of finding a viable venue in a city as expensive as Bangalore and overcoming social stigma associated with dog related businesses in the city.

Give us a brief run down of the kind of training and classes you will be running. The training provided is fairly minimal. Most of the effort goes into counselling pet parents. Puppy sessions are focused on addressing common problems that are part of most situations. I teach pet parents how to address jumping, mouthing, destruction, greeting visitors etc. Pet parents are also taught how to effectively use a hand signal to calm the dog down, draw boundaries, ask the dog to stay etc. We do leash walking practice where, for the first time in India, people are being taught how to use a long leash to do loose leash walking without jeopardising the safety of the dog. New pet parents are also counselled in dog body language, nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation and stress. For older and troubled dogs, the issues are dealt with on a one-on-one basis, based on what the dog needs. Are there any unique considerations that living in India presents to dog trainers and owners in comparison to your European counterparts? The primary difference I see is that of density of population. Indian cities are very busy and can be very stressful for people and dogs. They need a lot of guidance on how to stay calm and keep their dog calm in these situations, with the limited space available. For dog trainers, the big difference is that the demand for the profession exists only in large busy cities. Even smaller cities do not have a large enough market for dog trainers. Dog trainers also have to work a lot harder in India to acquire quality education, either by reaching out online or by travelling. As far as training is concerned, the one thing Indian dog trainers have to get very good at is dealing with plenty of stray dogs and teaching people how to handle stray dogs. I have also noticed that many of the pet parents in India are not averse to allowing their dogs to befriend street dogs. This is good news for dog trainers who can then help pet parents with the socialisation process and help provide pet dogs a good social circle. Tell us a bit about your "Lives of Streeties" project. "Lives of Streeties" is a study on the free ranging dogs in Bangalore. The study started as a way to find out how much exercise a dog was giving himself, left to his own means. It then increased in scope to become an activity chart that detailed how much time dogs spent on different activities during the day. The project has been in the works for a year and will perhaps take another year to conclude.

A big finding in your study related to a lack of activity shown by street dogs. Presumably a street dog will have different requirements than a pet dog, especially when it comes to conserving energy for survival, general health and exposure to the environment. How relevant do you think an understanding of street dogs is to the relationship we have with our own pet dogs? To understand that, one has to understand the lives street dogs lead in Bangalore. The lives they lead is largely based on the neighbourhood they are in. The neighbourhood I did the study in was a fairly typical neighbourhood in Bangalore. In these neighbourhoods dogs are taken fairly good care of. Most dogs have found a few "friendly" households. The households feed them regularly, provide them with water and basic health care. The dogs are also provided with a comfortable spot in the shade to rest for most of the day. Very few of these dogs actually have a need to go foraging out. Most of the activity observed was leisurely strolls, play or just exploring and sniffing about. There was almost no activity recorded that required a lot of their energy. Most dogs seemed quite healthy and fit. This lifestyle seems very close to pet dogs lives, barring the freedom of movement they seem to have. So I think it can be a close approximation of lives pet dogs lead and hence can be very relevant. Of course, further studies on the differences in lives of streeties and pet dogs can answer this question better and I would love to have collaborators to embark on all such studies. My hope is to see many more studies facilitated by Bangalore Hundeskole. What made you join the PDTE? I first heard about the PDTE from Turid Rugaas. The idea appealed a lot to me because I realised that my professional growth would be accelerated if I had access to other professionals who had similar ethics. I also was keen on belonging to an organisation that would in some way provide quality and ethics assurance to my clients. This would give some reassurance about the person they are trusting the care of their dogs with. What or who has been your biggest influence in dog training so far? Definitely Turid Rugaas. Five years ago, my dog was in a terrible accident in which she lost half her face. But thanks to Turid I was able to ensure that it did not leave emotional scars on my dog. Today she is the happiest dog I know and I owe that to one person. I know a gift when I receive one and this one is just too good for me not to pay it forward. Tell us a bit about your own dogs. Nishi is my boxer and Tigger is my native Indian dog. Nishi is my miracle girl. She was the one in the accident, but no one realises it when they meet her. Her love for life is contagious and her joy is inspiring. Tigger came from severe abuse, where she was kept in a cage for seven months before she was rescued. She is a survivor. She is an extremely independent thinker and her incredible survival skills never fail to amaze me. The girls are in love with each other and I love to watch them play each evening. I love to watch them consult each other when they have problems they need to solve, collaborate with each other when there is something naughty they want to do and back each other when they sense trouble. Their camaraderie reminds me of what I have with my own little sister and I feel honoured when they let me enter their little world of love and joy. And finally, if you were a dog, what breed would you be? I think I would be a boxer. I can relate to their extreme playfulness, moodiness and affection. But just being any kind of dog would make me happy. Dogs by nature are so happy - it's a good life, if I had a good human around.

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