When I told my friends I was going on a dog training course in India, I was always asked “Why India?”
Why not? Where better to learn than the vibrant, Indian outdoors in the warm winter sunshine set amongst acres of tropical landscape?
Dog trainers, rescuers and enthusiasts from around the world met at this remote spot in the hills of Maharashtra, to be instructed by the renowned Dog Trainer and Behaviourist, John Rogerson.
I first met John in April 2015, when I attended one of his weekend courses in England. I knew about the course in India and had wondered whether I could listen to one person for 20 days. After that weekend, I felt sure that I could, and I was right. I didn’t tire of listening to John for all the time I was in India.
Each day we (the students) travelled the 45 minute bumpy bus ride from our rustic hostel accommodation, along a windy country road, past farming villages, to the farm where John and his assistant, Miya greeted us. Every day all 28 students arrived promptly for the 9am start.
The day was well scheduled so that we would have practical training with the dogs in the cool of the morning. Then, after elevenses, we would be seated on the Gobar and under a canopy (Gobar is a “cement-like” material made from cow dung and apparently acts as a mosquito repellent which might be why I didn’t need my bug spray!) and John would talk to us on the dog topic of the day.
Lunch buffet was at 1pm sharp and would be wonderful selection of Asian dishes prepared by excellent Chef Lobo. With just an hour ‘off’, I would try to also use the time with either a swim in the lake or taking photographs.
The rest of the afternoon was given to a group exercise on dog related matters followed by a couple of instructional presentations by the students, which were nothing to do with dogs. The presentations were very entertaining. We were instructed on how to speak Chinese, how to make Indian parathas and a finger snack, Chinese tea, Kung Fu, Indian dancing and many other interesting subjects.
Chai at 4pm then back to practical dog training as the day cooled. Until 6pm when the bus took us back to the YMCA. By the time we were back at our dorms, had supper, mostly all were tired. I certainly was! Alcohol was forbidden so there wasn’t much partying to do.
I learnt a great deal and more than I expected. Not only about training and working with dogs but also more about working with people. We had to tackle problems in pairs and work in teams. There were language barriers, age, experience and cultural differences to deal with. But we all managed to succeed and be awarded certificates for completing the course. Most of all we managed to make great friends as we shared a truly amazing experience.
My thanks to John Rogerson and Miya Guo for sharing your wealth of knowledge and very special thanks to Shirin Merchant for organising the course and to both you and your husband, Junaid Merchant for being such fabulous hosts.
I hope we will all meet again.