|Dog owners with their pride and joy at the kennel club event. (Sayantan Ghosh)
Seven-month-old Indispensable was about to blow his Calcutta Kennel Club debut when a tug and a stare seemingly reminded the Labrador that stopping to bite his leash in the middle of a show was doggone dumb.
Owner Sanjoy Bagchi acknowledges that indiscipline would have cost Indispensable the trophy he brought home last week had his handler Subhankar Bodhak not used his expertise to restore his ward’s focus.
“So many sure winners fail because of bad handling. But I knew Subhankar could be trusted. He has been with my dogs for two years,” Bagchi said.
Your young and restless pet probably needs some expert handling too, and the country’s largest pool of handlers is right here. The problem is, there is no way to tell a good handler from a bad one in the absence of certification.
“We have no hold over handlers at present. For any misconduct, there is nobody the owners can complain to. If they are licensed, handlers will have to abide by a code of conduct and we can revoke their licences in the event of a breach,” C.V. Sudarshan, the secretary of the Kennel Club of India told Metro on the sidelines of the 154th Championship Dog Show in Calcutta.
The Chennai-based club is working on a plan to start licensing dog handlers to give them professional credibility.
Calcutta Kennel Club secretary S. Raman estimates that at present there are 1,000 to 1,200 handlers in the city, including those who take dogs for walks. The top handlers number around 25, including the much sought-after Ratan Sharma. “About 25 local handlers came to attend our three-day camp last year,” said Sudipto Bhaduri of the German Shepherd Dog Club of India.
“The average handler can make Rs 20,000-25,000 a month,” said Bijoy Singh, who guided 13-month-old Taco to a trophy at last week’s show.
Bijoy had started off by feeding neighbours’ dogs and then taking pets to shows. Fellow trainer Subhankar learnt “on the job” after picking up the basics watching others.
Veteran Swapan Das has been around since 1983 and is acknowledged as an obedience specialist. “The way my brat of a dog turns into a rabbit in front of him is a sight to behold,” said an impressed client.
Swapan is delighted at the prospect of licensing handlers. “These days, anyone who takes a dog around on a leash becomes a handler. I would like handlers to be graded and their licences should mention that,” he said.
The Kennel Club of India is in talks with the regional clubs to frame the rules. “Grades won’t be there immediately. Ring-steward licences, introduced in 2004, will start carrying grades after two years,” Raman said.