What an incredible experience teaching three 5-day courses to dog handlers from all across India and to receive support for these classes from the Animal Welfare Board of India, Vets Beyond Borders, Jeevashram, the Municipal Corporation of Gurgoan, and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation. I am honored to be a part of this and I believe this government supported program will have excellent influence on the culture of dog handling in India.
For Phase 1, I taught about 50 students over the three courses. These “train-the-trainer” courses included classroom time with PowerPoint and Video, afternoon hands-on labs, sunrise
captures, and student presentations to strengthen their ability to teach. All of the dogs gathered for this course were sterilized by Jeevashram veterinarians, vaccinated, and returned to where they were captured. The course was held at Jeevashram in Village Rajokri near Delhi and I am extremely grateful to Dr. Sharma and his colleagues and staff for working so hard in hosting the course.
For Phase 2, each student has promised to teach 20 others over the next year (I know it will be less, but some will enthusiastically train many more); and so we will reach 1,000 dog handlers who will learn compassionate and effective approaches to dog capture and handling. To help the students and increase the strength of the program I am producing a training video of my course and a notebook to help the students train others. To produce the video, I am working with Ronnie Novick of Ten Directions Video Productions and I writing the script. This will take several months to develop, but we are dedicated to complete it as soon as possible. GWR is also in the process of filming and producing videos and once these are available we will announce it on this blog and on our website. My participation in Phase 2 is completely voluntary, so please if you can, go to our GWR website and donate to support our daily operations and internet services.
These courses were very successful and received great comments from students and collaborators. It was actually quite moving for me as I saw shifts in so many of the students. Many of the dog handlers have never touched a dog even though they have caught dogs for years. This is because they have used nets and transported them in the nets, or worse- they used metal tongs or loop and poles and thrown them in the trucks. Beginning with the first day I started them with handling friendly dogs to build confidence and compassion. One student who was a very solid and strong man could only scruff the dog with such force that it made the dog squeal. I would gently take the dog from him and show the same technique with the dog relaxed. To make the lesson more clear, each day I would shake hands with him and would not let go until he softened. We were usually surrounded by other students and even though he did not speak English, he understood and we all laughed over my method of teaching. By the last day he was aware of himself enough to give me a soft handshake right away and he handled the dogs softer with a great sense of pride and confidence.
Another student who worked for a municipality was very touched by the constant focus on compassion. As the course progressed, he courageously revealed a time when he was called to take a dog from a woman because the dog had bitten someone. The woman refused to give up the dog and he told us how he had been so aggressive with her and with the dog when he got it in hand. He now regrets those actions.
A last example of the impact of this course was how the students came to learn that dog handling is a great skill to be studied and is extremely rewarding in so many ways when it was done in a compassionate way. And they learned from the experienced handlers such as those from Sikkim (SARAH) and Jaipur (Help in Suffering) that skillful and compassionate dog handling, which includes positive education/interaction with the public, is actually fun!
After just one week of rest, I am off to Palau to teach a course for the Palau Animal Welfare Society. Once I settle back into Bozeman I will be writing much more.
For more photos, visit our Flickr Photo Website. Thank you all for your support and comments. Please consider making a donation to Global Wildlife Resources to further support our work. I will gladly send you a personal thank you. Dr. Mark.