If you’re a dog parent, then you must know that responsible ownership, positive training and a better understanding can go a long way in ensuring the well-being of the canine member of your family.
We caught up with Paramita Das, a dog trainer and behaviourist in Kolkata, to discuss how to deal with dog behaviour issues and growing opportunities in the field of dog training and canine behaviour.
Edugraph: What exactly is the work of a dog behaviourist?
Paramita Das: Dog behaviourists work with pet owners to help them understand the behaviour issues of their dogs. They also implement a programme to help address and manage such issues. To do so, these professionals study the behaviour patterns of dogs, observe the interaction between dogs and their owners, and interpret and observe the body language of dogs in various situations.
How did you get into this field?
PD: After over two decades in the corporate world, I wanted to pursue my passion of working with dogs. I realised that besides loving dogs, it’s important to try and understand them better as they are a completely different species from humans.
Once I completed my first canine trainer’s course, I wanted to help pet parents train their dogs using positive and kinder methods. My aim was to ensure that both they and their canine family members can have a great life together. After that, I went on to complete courses on canine behaviour and aggression as well.
What are your daily activities in this profession?
PD: My daily activities include training young puppies and adult dogs to be good companions, training dogs to play fun games, working with families facing behaviour issues with their dogs. I also deal with chewing and destructive behaviour, separation anxiety issues, attention-seeking behaviour, toilet practice, fear issues, leash walking issues and aggression issues.
What’s the most common challenge you face?
PD: While most humans believe that the dog is the problem, a lot of issues primarily stem from the pet owners themselves. There is a lack of understanding as to why dogs behave in a certain way and how we may have contributed towards that behaviour. In today’s busy and hectic pace of life, time and patience levels are limited. That’s one of the biggest problems. Once the family is invested in working with their pets in a structured manner, things become smoother.
Can you mention the techniques you follow while working with a dog with behaviour issues?
PD: I primarily follow techniques to help the pet family understand the reasons why their dog is exhibiting behavior issues. It’s important to have the family get involved in obedience training so that their pet obeys them in various situations and in acceptable ways. Pet owners should have some influence over their dog’s behavior in a positive manner. My job is to implement a programme to strengthen the bond between family members and their dog.
What’s the common mistakes pet owners make while interacting with their dogs?
PD: Many pet owners treat their dogs as a human being or a toy. A dog is a living being — a different species. Human Beings are primates, while dogs are canids. Even though dogs are our best friends, some pet parents must acknowledge that they still belong to a different species. So, it’s important for them to understand the canine species. Families should know everything about the breed of their dogs and use that information in a positive manner.
What would you advise someone who is to bring a puppy home?
PD: Understand that the dog is a different species and be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort. Know your dog better — teach the puppy acceptable behaviour, take him/her for walks, play acceptable games with him/her and be part of activities he/she enjoys.
Be prepared for financial commitments like vet bills, expenses when your dog falls ill, grooming charges, boarding charges when you are away, relocation costs. You also need to put a support system in place in case of any emergency.
Overall, I think you should be prepared for a long-term commitment of 12 to 14 years bringing up a dog. We can pursue our own hobbies and interests but a dog is dependent on the human family to give him/her a great life. Let’s not disappoint your pet on that.
What would be your advice to young people who already own a pet?
PD: Get involved in your dog’s life. Try to be part of the activities that your dog really loves. If you have a Labrador, take him/her for a swim. If you have a Beagle or Indie, take him/her for scenting games in a park. Spend quality time with your pet to build a strong relationship. Enjoying your time together is all that matters.
What would be the academic and professional pathways if someone wants to be a dog trainer and behaviourist?
PD: There are courses which can be pursued to gain the knowledge and education required to become a professional dog behaviourist. I have pursued courses conducted by Shirin Merchant, who is one of the pioneers in the field of canine behavior and training in India. I have also completed courses by John Rogerson, who is a world-renowned canine trainer and behaviourist. Both Shirin and John use kinder and positive training methods that focus on building a strong relationship between the dog and his/her family.
What are the career streams one can follow while working with dogs?
PD: There are a lot of opportunities in this growing field. People are becoming more aware about the need to take their pets to specialists these days. Working as a vet, groomer, trainer and behaviourist are some of the most common options. You can also run a boarding centre for dogs. Animal rescue and working at a shelter is another option. With appropriate training, you can also become a pet nutrition consultant.