By Priyamvada Shukla* I have loved being around dogs since I was a toddler. In 2013, life took a pleasant and unexpected turn, and I ended up joining a workshop which was training pet owners to learn about and understand their dogs better. And I have never looked back at a corporate desk job ever since. I am a canine behaviourist based out of Mumbai. Caesar, my 8-year-old male Labrador, came into my life in 2011. And yes, I have been around dogs since 2011 and training them since 2015. The motivation behind becoming a canine behaviourist is primarily Caesar. I also do not like the idea of a desk job anymore. On a daily basis, I meet and train dogs of all shapes and sizes, from puppies to adult dogs for various reasons – it could be fussy eating, separation anxiety, hyperactivity or basic obedience. I regularly organise outdoor sessions for teaching puppies/ dogs to be obedient outdoors, and educating pet owners about the correct way to socialise their dogs in an outdoor setting. I play an instrumental role in creating the much desired “Canine-Human” bond between pet parents and their furry companions. In the past I have also worked with several Animal Welfare Organisations in Mumbai to help the dogs at these shelters get adopted. In 2017, I was a part of a team of trainers who were training rescued dogs at a shelter in South Mumbai, and trying our best to help these dogs find their forever homes. Through correct training and behaviour modification methods, my team and I were successful in finding good and loving homes for a few of these dogs. When I had initially got Caesar home, I was clueless, scared and worried. He would nip and bite, jump and pull on his leash. It was not what I had expected. Through the years of bringing up my own dog, and then a series of workshops, professional canine training and behaviour courses I have learnt quite a bit about dogs and their natural ways of living. I want to put all this education and experience into good use and educate pet owners to create a better Human-Canine bond and also see more well-behaved dogs in our society. Providing 24/7 guidance and tips to my clients, I counsel and advise first time pet owners on everything from their first vet visit to how to groom their new puppies. It is a very similar process to how a family prepares to welcome a newborn baby home. I have also worked with puppies and dogs with aggression and other behavioural issues, and used positive training to modify their behaviour. My canine training and behaviour endeavour is called as “FineK9-Pawsitive Dog Training and Behaviour”. The name is inspired from one of my favourite movies “Citizen Kane”. On an average, I meet around 6 dogs every day. I always treat my clients like family members and counsel them in a friendly and comfortable environment. I have been an ardent student of Canines Can Care by Shirin Merchant and The Northern centre for Canine Behaviour by John Rogerson. Since 2015, I have successfully completed certification courses like Canine Training, Canine Behaviour and Aggression, Crime Scene Investigation, and Scent work with Dogs. Since I am a freelancer and the industry is not really organised as yet, there are quite a few challenges anyone working in this industry can face – from delayed payments to last minute cancellations, a hectic travel itinerary in the city, and uneducated/uninterested pet owners. A lot of pet owners do not really reflect on their decision of getting home a dog, and later they face problems like puppy biting, hyperactivity and toilet training issues. Many deicide to hire a professional canine behaviourist to help them understand how to be able to settle their new family member in the house, but a lot of them give up and either abandon their puppy or re-home them. Each year many (mainly breeded) dogs are abandoned, and left tied to a tree or a stone on the highways around the city. A number of Animal Welfare Organisations work towards rescuing these dogs and trying to get them adopted, but many dogs are still purchased every year. Factors like backyard breeders, unorganised pet shops, hostile (non dog owner) society members, reluctant pet owners who do not understand the vitality of picking up after their dog, the unbelievable number of increasingly badly behaved dogs outside, pet owners not teaching their dog to behave appropriately outdoors, and not believing how important proper training can be for a dog also cause a major lag in a canine behaviourist’s motivation to work in this field. Many pet owners shun behaviourists, search for dog training tips online and on social media, or consult their dog-owner friends. Almost all of them end up missing signs of serious behavioural issues, and it is almost always too late by the time a canine behaviourist enters the picture. In the future I plan to run a Canine Activity Centre, aiming at providing an active engagement space for dogs in the city of Mumbai where otherwise there is no space for a dog to run, play and be engaged or stimulated. I firmly believe that with proper and correct stimulation, most of the behavioural issues in dogs can be corrected. “Just like humans, even dogs undergo mood changes – they get bored, feel excited or happy, many show signs of depression as well”. A hyperactive, sad or an under-stimulated dog can feel better with proper training, activity and stimulation. * Priyamvada Shukla is a Certified Canine Trainer, Behaviourist and Aggression Consultant based out of Mumbai.