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    Articles on Dogs by Maneka Gandhi

About Maneka Gandhi & People for Animals :
People for Animals was founded in 1994. By Pritish Nandy and Maneka Gandhi, two people were convinced that India needed a people's movement to stop cruelty towards animals and spread the message of ahimsa. Gandhi, writer and politician, minister of environment and forests in the Indian Government, a crusading activist for the cause of animals, was the chairperson.

Heads & Tails later became a cult book and its author, Maneka Gandhi went on to receive some of the highest awards in the world for her pioneering work among animals.

How to understand your dog?

It always amazes me that people think they are cleverer than their pets. Let us look at the actuality. You expect your dog to learn several languages. You speak in Hindi, your daughter in English, the servant in Purabi or Telugu or Nepali , small children in “ tootli” but the dog is supposed to - and invariably does - understand each person’s commands. These commands are not simple and few. These range from come here, stop, no , yes, stop it,sit, go, lie down, get off the bed/sofa/chair, go sit there, stop licking , don’t irritate the guest, run slower, wait for me, stop barking,leave the room ….

All these in at least 3 languages.You want the dog to learn manners : to be obedient, not to use the house as a bathroom , not to bark at night, not to jump on guests, to stand still when he is bathed,not to want the food from the table, to know what time he is fed and to appear immediately, to eat whatever rubbish you give him and be happy with it, to learn that the puja room is taboo inspite of the prasad in it, not to be a nuisance in any fashion. And you expect him to make out the difference between human and human : know the difference between the night colony patrolman and a thief,.to be gentle and patient with children, to be frisky with the master and run for balls which are meaninglessly thrown for him, to slow down and be attentive when he walks with the lady of the house.The fact that a dog can discriminate between words shows that he has a developed power of reasoning.

All this from an animal you consider to be less intelligent than humans. The only thing about him that is less intelligent is that he will adore you even if you are a bad, immoral, careless, cruel owner. When I moved into Maharani Bagh in 1984 there was a dog called Moti who used to sit outside my neighbour’s house and growl at them when they came out into the car but never do anything else. Soon I found out that two years ago they had taken Moti who had been a most loving and intelligent pet of theirs for three years but was unfortunately Indian in pedigree not foreign and this embarrassed this man who had been an Indian Member of Parliament who put him into the dicky of their car and threw him out in Chandni Chowk at the other end of Delhi . It took two months for Moti to come back and he sat outside their house accusingly, did not take food from them but would not let them forget how mean they had been. It took me two years of leaving a bowl of food in front of him to respond to me and then only he entered my house - and that too as a favour to me. He never spoke to or came near a human again.

So the dog is supposed to understand everything. Do you understand a single thing about him ? Do you know why his tail rises in different degrees, why he scratches himself ( nothing to do with an itch), why he howls , why he sometimes defecates where he is not supposed to, why he rolls over , why he bites some people and not others . Can you interpret his smile ? Do you how he says : I love you and what he expects in return, how to recognise his bad temper or when he is feeling ill ?

In this article I will give you a few pointers: then you send me the things that you notice and I will interpret them for you. Soon you will also be able to speak their language . Think what a wonderful surprise it will be for an animal who cannot communicate to anyone in the house he lives in.

When a dog grins and hangs his tongue out , he is not smiling, he is totally fed up. He is either in pain or tired or in a situation which he hates.

When you call a dog and he suddenly sits down and starts scratching himself , it is because he does not want to come but does not have the courage to say no so he invents the scratch and will continue scratching till your attention is diverted elsewhere.

When a dog looks at you , open his mouth and then closes it without a sound , he is saying I love you.. If you open your mouth and looking at him , lick an imaginary cone , you are saying I love you too.
When you scratch a dog and then stop , he will sometimes pick up a paw and rub it over his face. This means please scratch me some more.

When a dog is completely happy he will lie on his back and offer you his stomach. This is his most vulnerable part and he is saying I trust you. Some dogs when scolded do this . Again , it is a form of total surrender.

When the dog wants you to play with him he will stretch out his two legs and bow in front of you several times. This may be accompanied by a high pitched yap. When you want a dog to play with you , you could do the same.

Send me your observations. Maybe someday , we might be able to compile a dictionary of dog language.
- By Maneka Gandhi
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