Some of you probably already know this but for those that don’t… technically my job title is Kennel Manager and Dog Trainer. This is why I have so many photos of wonderful dogs to share with you. This past month or so has been a big training month so I figured I would take the time to write a little bit of info up about a couple of the dogs to go along with the photos. Starting off are two very unique girls from India.
This is Jasmine, a 3-4 year old street dog from India. Yes you heard me correctly, India. Her human brought her back with her, and has owned her since she was about 4 months old. Jasmine was raised by a family as a puppy from 8 weeks on until her current owner took her because she was just too much for the family. But her parents are street dogs and she still is very much a street dog mentality wise. When her current owner brought her home to the US her sister recommended us (I trained their dog Dalton.. before I started taking pictures of the dogs but if he comes back I will get one) so she brought her (two) in for an evaluation and left her here for their month of training.
Despite the fact that she has been with humans all her life technically she still carries a lot of the (assumed) street dog nature. Jasmine is very aloof, independent, confident (about what she chooses, not the humans),strong willed, shy with strangers, and one of the smartest dogs I have trained. All of this would make for a difficult dog to train, but add to it that she is a street dog and rather undomesticated as a whole mentally, and it becomes more of a challenge. But challenge or not I was looking forward to training these two (more on the other later) I will try and keep this short for those not into training/dogs as I am… or you can simply just look at the photos, I will not take offense (or even know)
It took me nearly 2 weeks before I (or I really should say she) felt comfortable enough to get a training lead on her. I did not want to push her as I wanted to gain her trust rather than force her into something she was not comfortable with this early in the game. And to be honest I did not trust her enough to put myself in that situation sooner than I did either. She was sending clear body language that she was not that into me and to stay out of her space. You have to realize that when dogs come to stay with us, their kennel becomes their home/turf in a matter of days and one of the biggest reasons she brought these girls in for training was due to how territorial they are as a “breed.” So her guarding her territory instincts are even stronger than many dogs in the US. She was reserved with humans but at the same time would stand her ground if given the chance, and I saw signs of that early on so I took my time with her. Everyone knew going into this that given where they come from they may need more time than the average dog. Anyway, I eventually gained her trust and was able to get the lead on her to begin my work with her.
Once I began to work her her attitude towards me changed drastically. Before she could really care less about me or any treats I was throwing at her, but after that first walk with her she would throw fits when I walked out of the kennel. And you wonder why I say that walking, and how you walk, is one of the most important things to do with your dog. Jasmine took to training well as a whole. Any trouble I had in training her mostly came from how independent geared her brain is, and I say that comes from her origins, these dogs are simply less domesticated. But she learned to walk loose lead at our side even with other dogs around. She went from really fighting her sits to actually offering me them without being asked at the doors etc. Again I think this was not simply her being stubborn by not sitting for me, but came mostly from the fact that sitting is a submissive position as well as a vulnerable one and street dogs are not keen on either. When I’ve observed dogs in some foreign countries they are most often either standing/on the move or totally laying down. Almost as if they do not have time to just sit and take things in. I could be totally wrong, but that’s just my perspective on it in Jasmine’s case.
Now to touch on how clever Jasmine was. I saw this most in relation to her kennel. She had a thing about not wanting to come in from outside, which again is no surprise as they are used to being outside even her being raised by humans since a puppy. I tried to think of all sorts of ways to get her in. For a while I could lure her in by sticking a treat through her door, but then she got wise to that. Next I had to open her kennel door and kneel down as if to say hello and she would come in for that, but then she got wise to that too. Then I went to kneeling while holding the training lead, and that worked for a while. Amazing how she knew what that lead meant. Well maybe not as my dogs know what their collars and leashes mean, but she made those connections in less than 2 weeks. Now what really showed me how clever she was was when I began to work with her owner. Upon taking her back to her kennel after a lesson with her mom and I, I lead her in and went to take the lead off and I thought I heard her growl. Well since it was hot and she was panting I was not sure so I brushed it off and just made sure to take my time taking the lead off. Well upon ending another lesson with her mom and taking her back in, I did my usual and went to remove her lead when she was in her kennel and this time I was sure I heard a growl, I addressed her about it and she gave me no more fuss. And this is what I think it came from. She knew that leading her back into the kennel, and then the removal of the lead meant that her time with us was over and she did not want that. So she thought a growl would keep me from removing the lead and thus ending the session. Pretty amazing deductions for a dog. If you have any other ideas where it may have come from throw ’em at me.
Now on to the crazier of the two…
This is Sona, she is another street dog but is not technically related to Jasmine. It’s amazing how similar they look though, but comparison will be the easiest way to show how different they were. In short Sona was a bit of a wild child. She was an adult dog who sort of adopted her “owner” (she is looking to eventually place Sona in the right home). She would follow her when she took Jasmine out on walks around the city, and appeared to want Human contact, so she took her in.
Sona as a whole was much more into people and sociable than even Jasmine, who was raised as a puppy with humans. Where Jasmine was more calm and collected and thought things out and was aware of what she was doing (brainiac)… Sona was energetic, demanding and reactive. I do attribute a large part of this to where he comes from, having no rules boundaries and limitations until her owner took her off the street, it leaves for a rather instinctual brain and reactionary thought process. Couple that with Sona simply being a more energetic, driven, and playful dog and you have a ticking time bomb if not given direction and outlets. And that is largely what I saw from Sona.
Now where Jasmine was aware and physically sensitive, Sona was largely not. Her grit really showed when we required that she not react about other dogs. But at the end of the training she really began to think before acting and settled down with the new rules, routine, and boundaries. I do think a lot of her reactions come from wanting to play and interact as well, but she was going about it all wrong and dogs (and humans) around here would not see it as friendly. But she was a sweet dog and I enjoyed working with her because of her desire to please, despite it being buried beneath tons of habits and energy. She has a longer road ahead of her to become a good citizen but we made some huge progress while she was here with us. And both myself and her owner (and sister) are very happy with the changes we were able to make. She began to learn impulse control and her focus improved as well as her ability to learn (human things). Her sits became better as well, her stays are still a work in progress but I know they will get better as she learns to be comfortable sitting still.
In the end when the dogs go home from here, they will only ever be as good as the owners require them to be. Some work the program more than others and it shows when we see them return for boarding or visits. I am confident that these two girls will continue to improve and become well behaved citizens simply because I saw how hard their owner worked when she was with me. She wants to do right by these dogs, and she is well on her way to doing so. I love when clients set the bar high for their dogs. Hopefully I will see these girls back at some point. I was not able to get any formal pictures of them, and the artist in me really wants to. All 4 of these photos were shot with my iPhone, and I’m thankful I at least got them. And I am totally in love with the second image of Jasmine, one of my best iPhone photos to date (minus the color distortion at the bottom)
Anyway for those that stuck through this whole post, thank you. I apologize if it was overly wordy, but next to photography training and dogs are a big passion of mine. I will warn you there are several more posts to come on this topic. If anyone has any questions I am more than happy to try and answer them.