A Man with a Mission to Modernize Current Dog Training in all Forces

Col (Dr) P K Chug (R) is Consulting Director of Police K9 Cell established under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

Recently, he has been awarded the coveted Fellow of the National Academy of Veterinary Science (FNAVS) by NAVS (India)

Besides, he has been conferred with the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation on three different occasions; Various Trophies and Medals of Excellence by Corps Commanders, Army Commanders, and Director-General RVS during his 25 years of chequered service. In Part 1 of the interview published in our previous edition, he shared experiences from his early life and many interesting things on Working K9s of which most people are not aware. In this part, he shares his outlook on general dog training in India.

In your opinion, how the concept of dog training has evolved in India?

The western world had a long culture of keeping dogs in daily life; hence there was always an enhanced focus on developing pure-breed dogs to meet their specific purposes. In India, urbanization and nuclear families have witnessed more tendency to pick up dogs as companion pets. It has been observed that with more disposable income available with Indian urban families, the children are playing a vital role in opting for pets. In that sense, India is the fastest-growing pet market globally, with CAGR of 25%. However, this trend is skewed towards metro cities.

Col PK Chug conducting hands on training during the 2nd Police K9 Workshop at NTCD Bhanu of ITBP

Dog training, which was primarily restricted earlier among Forces, is now fast growing in civil society to meet the growing demand for quality and more friendly ways of training their pets. Therefore, it is fast evolving in India from erstwhile aversive or dominance mode of training to modern reward-based training. With the help of social media, the awareness has generated a demand in the Indian society where pet owners themselves want to understand the dog training to enable them better care for their four-legged family members.

Another encouraging development is that many people are interested in ‘Dog Sport’ who are keenly pursuing dog training to an altogetherdifferent level. Protection Sports Association (PSA) of the USA and IGP (formerly known as IPO/Schutzhund) of Europe are fast becoming popular among Indian pet lovers. The focus on breed development has also grown; however, due to restrictions on the import of dogs, these pet lovers are facing difficulties in procuring quality dogs of German Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd Malinois and other sport breeds.

The Forces are also in the process of transformation where benefits of modern operant conditioning are assisting them in a happier dog who’s willing to work for the intended purpose. The ‘Police K9 Cell’ is also doing our bit in fast achieving this target by frequently organizing ‘Police K9 Workshops’ of 03 days with each Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) where participants from neighbouring states are also invited.

We had recently organized the 2nd ‘Police K9 Workshop’ at NTCD of ITBP at Bhanu (Haryana) for 03 days with effect from 12-14 Jan 2021. It was participated by 55 participants representing 14 different security organizations comprising CAPFs and Other Central & State Police & Law Enforcement Organizations. It was an eye-opener for the participants to learn and understand the ‘modern language of K9 training’, especially the ‘clicker training’, which can revolutionize the police K9 training standards. Educative lessons on contemporary police and military K9 training techniques and ‘hands-on training’ on dogs were part of the workshop. The MHA initiative in this regard has bee highly appreciated.

How do you think we can make our society more pet friendly?

I strongly feel that there is a lot to improve in our society when it comes to pet keeping. The K9 good citizenship programme of KCI is the one that can make our pet parents aware of their obligations not only towards their pet but also towards the community as well.

Further, society is yet to mature in welcoming pet dogs at public places. Restricting them at home is counter-productive both for dogs as well as pet parents. I strongly feel that we need to change this stereotype and make our public spaces more pet-friendly, similar to the western world, where pets can accompany clubs, hotels, markets, shopping malls, amusement parks, convention centres, etc. However, we need to ensure the safety of pets as well as people at these public places and maintain cleanliness. 

In this regard, I have developed a behaviour assessment model for dogs by which we can screen the pets in a quantifiable manner to ascertain their reactions or behaviour in commonly encountered real-life situations. Such assessments can certify these dogs, which can then be permitted at public places, giving them full freedom and enjoying life with their pets. Similar endeavours to facilitate companionship with pets would make pet keeping more fun-filled and enjoyable.

Do you feel training is a must for the dogs kept as pets at home? And let us know how far it is essential for pet parents to learn basic dog training techniques?

The emerging concepts of dog behaviour and training are essential in recognizing the unique requirements of pets and ensure that they are looked after properly. The anthropomorphic approach may not be suitable for their pets, leading to a difficult life for their pets in absence of authentic information. Therefore, if formal training is not feasible for someone, pet’s awareness sessions from reliable sources are obligatory for pet parents. It would make their experience of pet keeping more enriching and entertaining.

As a matter of fact, dog training is not difficult if pet parents are willing to spend little time learning for themselves. It also makes sense as the pet would eventually be interacting with the owners or family members and need to be friendly with them for reasonable compliance to their requirements. Notwithstanding, if time is a limitation for pet parents, then dog training may be essential through professional dog trainers. In such a situation, the pet parents would have to learn the handling part of it eventually and maintain those dog training exercises on a regular basis.

In either case, pet parents must ascertain their pet training instructor’s level of knowledge and proficiency. The modern concepts of reward-based training and clickers in marking their behaviour are always a good option over the conventional aversive mode of dog training. The pet parents must realize the importance of the socialization of their dog and making their pet environmentally stable. It is essential to make some conscious efforts to expose their pet early in life to various real-life environments that comprise public places, different types of floors, diverse sounds, vehicle movements/travel, handling by strangers and range of obstacles, etc.  These early experiences of puppy would help raise a confident adult dog, who would be affable and positively engaged in the surrounding environment making a happy and healthy pet.   

How has been your journey as a dog trainer?

I feel extremely content with regards to learning the subject of dog training. The dog training is dynamic and ever evolving. The organized research efforts on different aspects of dog training are unearthing new findings which are helping us to understand the finer nuances of dog’s handling and training for specialized work purposes.

I started with conventional dog training in the year 2000, hhowever, I soon realized the deficiencies and difficulties of the old school of training.

Brig KS Kutty Trophy being conferred to Col PK Chug for the best contributions in Research & Development in RVC during his younger days

The desire to find answers to my queries on dogs took me to different people, experts and books to learn and find practical steps which is reliable and scalable.  Connecting with domain experts’ world over, gave me access to the knowledge I was striving hard to find here in India. Every tenure with specialized Army Dogs in RVC provided me the unique opportunity of learning and experimenting. I kept pushing the limits to raise my knowledge and performance standards of my dog teams and myself.

I challenged the status quo within my organization to augment the operational performance of my dog teams. I never had a laid back approach; hence I was feeling short of time to work on my dog teams. I felt extremely disturbed on finding a few counter-terror operations where dogs could have really made a lot of difference, but they were either not called for intervention or were called late, as a last resort. I started quickly to accept the challenges and worked actively to fix the problems in all their dimensions. I began trying to establish benchmarking that are trustworthy in all the situations.

Col PK Chug with his Assault K9s Parth and Drona while commanding the elite K9 Unit of NSG

I took them before the users (Infantry troops fighting to eliminate terrorists) to increase their trust in my dog teams, challenging them to try my dog teams in difficult operational situations. They took my challenge and tested my dog teams in many operational scenarios based on their previous experience. This dual approach of preparing well my dog teams and spreading awareness among user units led me to unparalleled success during counter-terrorist operations in each of my tenure.

Our teams got appreciated with honours and awards in each term. Every Independence Day or the Republic Day, my dog teams made it to the final list of awardees. We feltencouraged and honoured being a smallest unit in the field formation of Army comprising of 24 Army Dogs Teams.

Fortunately, I kept my focusand never allowed myself to be complacent. I kept on working to find customized solutions to the challenges that encountered in the counter terror operations in field.

Col PK Chug leading the intervention team of Black Cats with his Assault K9 Team

This hunger to learn more took me to many countries to participate in professional Police and Military K9 workshops, seminars and conferences. These were expensive tours but were worth my while. I call them ‘K9 pilgrimages’ and my loving wife Rishu was always supportive of my madness and indulgence with WorkingK9s.

I did’Bomb Disposal Course’ Basic as well as Advanced Level, from elite NSG Training Centre, Manesar, which made my understanding of ‘Explosive Detection Dogs’ much superior. As a qualified person in ‘Post Blast Investigation (PBI), I could find the role of dogs in PBI. I joined some elite professional organizations like IABTI, USPCA and NAPWDA, which allowed me to evaluate US Police and Military Working Dog Teams as one of the master trainers during their annual workshops in USA. I used my exposure to match the proficiency of our dogs with that of global standards. I was the speaker in prestigious professional international K9 conferences where I had earlier attended as participant. I presented on multiple occasions at events in the USA, UK, New Zealand and Sweden to earn the appreciation of the global K9 fraternity.

Col PK Chug representing the nation among the International Defense K9 Experts at Wellington, New Zealand during New Zealand Defense K9 Seminar in the year 2019

Before the current assignment with the Ministry of Home Affairs, I was commanding the specialized K9 Unit of NSG which we could transform in all its dimensions. We discovered the enhanced role of ‘Assault K9s’ in leading the intervention. The directional training imparted to our ‘Assault K9s’ allowed us to deploy them far away from us, without accompanying them on a wireless communication system while getting the audio-video feed on an arm tab in real-time basis to guide their movements. The ‘K9 Vision System’ (KVS), Canine Remote Delivery System’ (CRDS) and ‘Laser Guided K9 Deployments’ were some of the path-breaking initiatives that changed intervention operations once for all among Special Forces.

When I look back, it is a nostalgic journey with my four-legged warriors who could share their relentless spirit with me due to shared passion for the profession.

Share some words of wisdom for the budding dog trainers.

I see some extremely committed trainers and dog enthusiasts among police and military forces as well as among civil society, which assures me of a bright future in this niche field. I am always available to support them in their professional endeavours, and they can freely approach me for any assistance. Let me assure them, the future in this field is bright. There will be a definite positive development of this subject among Police Forces because of inter-dependence. We are going to involve dog breeders and trainers frequently in our future activities to create an environment of professional learning and an ecosystem where the requirements of the Forces are met indigenously with the help of professionals among civil society. My advice to the budding dog trainers would be to continue their learning efforts and improve the subject of pet keeping in society. Together, we need to develop a model wherein their knowledge of dog sport or dog breeding is equally useful to the country’s security agencies.

Achievements

  • Conferred with the Most Coveted ‘Chief of Army Staff’ Commendation on three occasion
  • Honoured with Commendation Cards, Appreciation Letters, and ‘Medal of Excellence’ by Corps Commanders, Army Commanders, and Director-General RVS.
  • Honoured with ‘Techno-Warrior Trophy’ for developing innovative, inexpensive dog training aids in RVC.
  • Awarded ‘Brig KS Kutty Trophy’ for contributing best in ‘research & development in RVC.
  • Got Commendation from United Nations and US Department of Defense (DoD).
  • His units were adjudged the ‘Best Army Dog Unit’ on multiple occasions.
  • Conferred rare distinction of ‘Fellow’ of National Academy of Veterinary Sciences in May 2021
  • Bestowed with prestigious ‘The Best Administrator Award – Consulting Director’ by Pearl Foundation, Tamilnadu

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