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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

These four-legged friends have pawsome jobs

Our canine companions are now equipped to be rolling in the nine-to-five hustle and much more

more-lifestyle Updated: Sep 17, 2019 17:59 IST
Yoshita Rao
Yoshita Rao
Mumbai
Karan Shah with his pet dog Angel
Karan Shah with his pet dog Angel
         

A German Shepherd, by the name of Cairo, helped sniff out and assist in locating, Osama bin Laden. Loveable pooches, such as Cairo, have evolved from just a house pet to being a best friend, a nanny, a guard dog and they even sniff out spikes in bodily rhythms when it comes to illnesses such as cancer or diabetes. Here are a few dogs who go beyond the call of duty.

Wheels and Tails

Frodo, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever, and Cruise, a three-year-old Labrador, are two brand ambassadors of outdoor gear brand, Ruff Wear, and camera equipment brand, GoPro. How did they land this gig? They trek hills, swim in rivers and also have travelled the periphery of India in a four-month-long trip. Their verified Instagram handle, Wheels and Tails, is filled with pictures of this duo having tonnes of fun on different terrains around the country.

Travelling across 20 states in India, the trip took a total of one year to plan by pet parents, Priyanka Jena and, her partner, Tanveer Taj. “We approached the brands for support,” Priyanka says, adding, “the performance gears for the dogs, such as dog harnesses or life jackets, were provided by Ruff Wear. Our dogs didn’t just model in them, but also, were seen in action. They tested out the products in the real outdoor set up. While GoPro got a lot of content as we were filming the whole journey from a dogs’ perspective.” The couple says they have raised their dogs to love the outdoors. “We are very active even during our holidays. When our dogs came into our lives, we raised them to be outdoorsy,” says Priyanka.

Priyanka Jena with Tanveer Taj and their pets Cruise (left) and Frodo
Priyanka Jena with Tanveer Taj and their pets Cruise (left) and Frodo
An Angel among us

Five-year-old Angel’s day begins with assisting her pet parent, Karan Shah around the house, from opening the cupboard to removing his socks, his blanket and even help him with stretching exercises. Karan, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 3, says he wanted an assist dog to ensure he wasn’t dependent on others. It was canine behaviourist, Shirin Merchant, who coaxed him into training his dog to be an assist dog. “From the age of three months, Angel has been training to be an assist dog,” he says.

Angel trains every day, be it doing tasks without food incentives or assisting Karan in the Pawz and Kidz Workshop where they teach toddlers basic arithmetic. Karan says, if the class is learning 2+2=4, Angel barks four times. “This is done with the help of non-verbal cues that I don’t want to reveal as yet,” he says, adding that he has started training other dogs to be assist dogs as well.

Karan Shah with Angel
Karan Shah with Angel
Certified therapist

Leo Dalal is another happy helper at the Pawz and Kidz workshop with Angel and Karan. A pet to Parul Dalal, he is also a therapy dog. Leo, a five-and-a-half-year-old Golden Retriever, has recently been assessed for Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal Assisted Activities (AAA). Leo was gifted to Parul when he was a puppy. She says, “I always wanted to give back to society. Leo’s temperament, even as a puppy, were spot on to be a therapy dog.”

Calm and composed in nature, Parul says Leo is not an aggressive or a reactive dog. Therapy dogs are “regular dogs”, says Parul, albeit, Leo still trains for a maximum of half an hour every day.

He also goes on to touching lives even today. “Leo is a favourite at the aged home. There was one lady, who passed away, would look forward to meeting Leo. She would sing songs to him as well as shower him with kisses. If you could bring a smile to an elderly person’s face... that is why we do this,” concludes Parul.

Parul Dalal (left), with her pet Leo Dalal and canine trainer Brinda Thaker
Parul Dalal (left), with her pet Leo Dalal and canine trainer Brinda Thaker

Always on alert

Amrut S Hiranya, 33, has been training police dogs for the last 10 years. A part of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), who have over 500 German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois at their Dog Breeding and Training Centre, Amrut believes, these breeds are the “best” to be trained for police dogs. “The trainability of such dogs are much better in comparison to other breeds,” he says. Two such dogs — Rana and Nidhi — have been trained for the force since they were two and a half months old.

Their parents were explosive detection dogs, says Amrut, adding, “Rana, compared to Nidhi, was more fidgety in nature”. He adds, “He used to scratch, and went on to become a narcotics detector. We needed more active alerts (barking, scratching, sitting) for narcotics detection. But Nidhi, the calmer of the two, found the object and asked for help, which was very useful in explosive detection.”

Amrut S Hiranya training Rana, the narcotics detection dog
Amrut S Hiranya training Rana, the narcotics detection dog
Training process

There are nine exercises that help in the selection process of puppies. Amrut elaborates on a few exercises and their significance. He says, “We take puppies to a location that they’re not familiar with and gauge how she/he reacts. Later, a coin is tossed. How did the puppy react? Did it startle and recover immediately? Did it take a while to react? Did it run to the coin? Did it pick the coin up? This helps us assess the dog’s hearing ability and response time.”

He further adds, “Tying a toy to a rope and pulling it on the ground helps us assess the hunt ability in a dog. Whereas, hiding of toys or treats, to gauge if the dog is using air or ground scent to track it, are helpful traits in helping track explosives.”

First Published: Sep 17, 2019 17:59 IST

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