Canine companions – The New Indian Express

Canine companions - The New Indian Express 1

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Two young pet lovers, one goal. Diyya Vummidi and Dhiraj Gopinath want to make the world a better place for dogs and their owners. Who knew that a naughty brat at their own home would’ve been a driving force behind setting up a training academy that teaches basics of manners, respect and socialisation skill for dogs. Top Dog Academy in Avadi, was started two years ago and picked up speed during the past six months. Dhiraj, with a degree in Sociology from Loyola College, was earlier working with crocodiles at Madras Crocodile Bank, and went on to pursue a course at the Starmark Academy for Professional Dog Trainers to become a Canine trainer and behaviour specialist. Diyya, with a degree in Biotechnology from SRM University, went to University of California, Davis to study animal behaviour, cognition and emotion. Excerpts from the interview with the partners: 

How does Top Dog Academy function? Take us through the course available for dogs? 
Dhiraj: Training is our main job. Boarding facilities are secondary. There is no single syllabus. All dogs are different. We cater to what dogs need on an individual basis based on the surrounding where they live, their owners and client requirements.
Diyya: We have a boarding facility where an owner when going on a vacation can leave their dogs. They will be trained during the stay and we will have follow-up sessions with the owners once they’re back. We’re soon to start a puppy pre-school to familiarise dogs with what could bother them later in life. They undergo phases like anxiety and depression too. We go to individual houses and train dogs and also have outreach programmes in schools to teach basic dog behaviours.
What are the challenges while dealing with dogs? 
Dhiraj: Dogs learn consistently and quickly. Getting the owners to be consistent is tough. The rules are set for all and it has to be followed by everyone in the house. It requires only 15 to 20 minutes of daily participation. 

How do you hire your staff?
Diyya: We use motivational methods of training — fear-free and force-free. We give food as incentives to get a dog to do something rather than sticking to conventional harder ways. The staff is trained based on that. 

What are the misconceptions about dogs and dog trainers? 
Dhiraj: People unleash their dogs the minute we step into their houses. Just because our profession is to train dogs that does not mean the dogs won’t bite us. Secondly, a hefty rottweiler breed might look scary but it is actually the silent one. While a fluffy pomeranian might be the wilder one. Appearances might 
be deceptive. 
What has dealing with dogs taught you?
Dhiraj: Dogs teach you patience. They live in the present and never worry about the past. .
Diyya: Loyalty and companionship. The emotions are momentary whether you punish or pamper them. End of the day, they will always wait for you at the door step. 

What’s your USP? 
Diyya: We’ve taken professional courses that help us understand dogs better than others. Unlike other training places, we teach the owners the methods that are being followed. This can help them in our absence. 
What are your future plans? 
Diyya: We conduct professional certificate courses for dog trainers. Recently, we attended the Association of Professional Dog conference in  Memphis, Tennessee in October 2018 to learn new methods. We eventually will work with animal welfare board to make life easier for dogs.

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