Meet Rajasthan’s first female dog trainer and the only canine behaviourist in the state — Priyanshi Singh Shekhawat. Eight years ago, Priyanshi had just returned to Jaipur from Mumbai after getting a degree in Economics and was unsure about what to do with her life. “I was quite depressed as I didn’t particularly like the work environment in Jaipur and I couldn’t understand what career path to pursue. I was talking to my then boyfriend (now husband), Shardul and a random conversation about my love for dogs led me to pursue a career in this field. I did two courses with Shirin Merchant, who is a pioneer in the field of canine behavior and training in India and that’s how my journey as a dog trainer and behaviourist began.”
Trainer vs Behaviourist
Now you may wonder what differentiates a dog behaviourist from a dog trainer. While a dog behaviourist works to understand why a dog may behave in a certain manner and modify that behaviour, a dog trainer, on the other hand, aims to teach the behaviour as generally asked by the dog owner. To put it simply, behaviourists are well-equipped to understand the dog’s behaviour as well as train them accordingly, a trainer, however, may not be able to handle underlying behavioural issues in dogs. “If a dog is misbehaving, then that means there is miscommunication between the dog and the owner. As a dog behaviourist, my job is to help dog owners understand the behaviour of their dog and mediate between them”, elaborates Priyanshi.
As a dog behaviourist, Priyanshi had to face some certain challenges both at home and in the outside world. “Even though my father is a dog lover, but he was quite apprehensive about taking up dog training as a career”, says Priyanshi. Being a largely male dominated industry, it was also initially difficult for Priyanshi to garner the trust of people. “When I went for dog training sessions, people often asked me if I would be able to work with large breed dogs like Great Dane. They thought I could only work with small breeds like Shih Tzu.” However, gradually she started getting recognition for work and today she is one of the most revered experts in this field in Jaipur.
Intimate way of working
On a usual day, Priyanshi gets several calls from dog owners complaining about issues like hyper or anxious behaviour, sibling rivalry, destructive behaviour, biting, resource guarding, among others. Ask her how she deals with these issues and she says: “I prefer meeting the dog and the dog owner myself in their homes and most often than not what the owners tell me and what the dog’s behaviour tells me are two completely different things. It takes several one-on-one sessions with the dog, depending upon the problem, and a dedicated dog owner to tackle the problem.” Soon Priyanshi also plans to open a dog school in Civil Lines to be able to work with more dogs.
Social Media as a Game Changer
While word-of-mouth publicity did wonders for Priyanshi, she looks at social media as a total game changer. “Through my videos and photos on Instagram, people were able to connect with my life and see how I handle my own dog as well as how I have helped other dog owners with various problems. In fact, it has even inspired some people to take up this profession ”, she points out.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT BREED
It is also imperative to choose the right breed according to where one lives, how much time one can devote to the dog and how experienced one is in handling dogs, believes Priyanshi.
Breeds to Avoid as First Time Dog Owners:
Beagle, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Rottweiler, Husky, Malinois
Breeds to Get as First Time Dog Owners:
Labrador, Golden Retriever, Shih Tzu, Pug, Cocker Spaniel, Mastiffs, Rescue/Foster Dogs
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