The Telegraph
Thursday , April 17 , 2014
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Parents test IQ in pooch party

Q: Enter a dark room with a matchstick. You will find a newspaper, an oil lamp and a candle. Which one will you light first?

A: Umm, the matchstick?

(Not everyone in the room got it right and nine more questions followed).

To know bow-wow lingo and attitude, take an IQ test — not of the dog but of the “pet parent”.

Mumbai-based specialist and trainer Shirin Merchant made 45 doting “dog parents” answer a set of 10 questions at the Calcutta Kennel Club off Mayo Road during her canine behaviour workshop on the first weekend of April.

At the end of the quiz, Merchant explained dog behaviour in anthropomorphic terms: “If you are not intelligent enough, how will you understand what your dog is trying to communicate. After all, they have a language of their own. Treat your dogs as dogs, not as humans. That is the root cause of all misunderstanding.” Bark, yelp, growl, snarl, howl, whine or a pug’s tug at your shoelace — each one has a meaning.

Merchant was in Calcutta for her Think Dog session after shows in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai.

Sonal Budhia, who organised the workshop in the city, said: “Calcutta is starved of workshops meant for dogs. I wanted to know my pug, Tiny, better and wanted her to socialise more with other dogs. If we can have workshops for children, why not for pets?”

Day 1 began with a theory class. “I am against cruelty to animals. I even discourage owners from using choke chains and shock collars. Training should be a liberating experience for the dogs. They should train with the owners so that the master’s voice is enough to make them obey commands,” she said, peppering her lecture with historical evidence, world trends and anecdotes. “No chocolates, garlic, grapes or onions for your dogs.”

Day II was about field training. The scorching April sun couldn’t deter the enthusiastic “parents” and their bundles of fur from a workout, games and socialising session at the kennel club lawns.

Siddhima Thacker’s three Bichon Frisé pooches — Gucci, Miu Miu and Fji — had a “great time”. “It was like a picnic for them. I wish there were more such events for them.”

The ground was breathing breeds — from Labradors to pugs, from Alsatians to cocker spaniels. Amid woofs and occasional yelps of disapproval, they were taught to “behave”.

Rachna Nahata and son Yash came to the kennel club with their German Shepherd and cocker spaniel, and a pack of entrenched doubts that Merchant earnestly dispelled.