World over Postmen and dogs are always daggers drawn. It appears as if dogs are programmed to hate the postmen and chase them. Ask any postman, he will say ‘I seldom go near the letterbox at the gate of a house that has a dog; instead I just fling the letters in to the compounds from a distance.’ Well these are the views of Postmen who honestly try to perform their duties. The postmen in India I think are lucky because they visit the houses only during major festivals; rest of the year where your mail goes is anybody’s guess!
But I am supposed to write about dogs here. The postman intruded because there is a link between his cycle and dogs. In fact there is a link between anything moving and dogs. To understand we have to take our pooch back to wilderness.
Try to visualize the scenario of the past, a pack of dogs roaming around in search of food. They are carnivores and no dam of a litter goes to a store to buy dog food or get some meat and cook it. Their only method of getting food is to chase a deer or a rabbit or any other small herbivore. The pack encircles the prey. Barking and whining all the time. Once they close in they just pounce upon the prey and in no time it is torn to pieces. The pack leader who is naturally the most powerful one tears opn the stomach of the prey and they devour the stomach and entrails.
The others try to dislodge a thigh and carry it off to their lair, find a covered spot nearby, dig some ground and bury their meal and return later, after it has putrefied to consume it.
Hunting comes as an instinct to all dogs. It is packed in their genes. Thus wild or domesticated dogs do like to hunt. Instinct is something that cannot be wished away-specially in animals much lower to humans in the order of evolution. Hunting in wild means a chase and that too a long chase. Thus dogs are constructed in such a way that they can chase for long distances without getting tired. In case the prey is swift and cunning and tries to vanish behind the bushes he cannot remain hidden for long. Powered with a nose to sniff in parts per billion, they are able to sniff their way to the prey in no time.
But the dog we are talking about is not a wild dog and not even a dog on the street-it is your beloved pooch. He gets the best dog food in the world and choicest tidbits without making an effort. In other words he need not chase a prey to earn his meal. They why should he chase animals, cycles, bikes or even cars?
Actually the instinct to hunt is deep rooted in a dog’s genes. Remove that instinct and instead of a dog you have a goat or for that matter a rabbit. According to his level of thinking he chases anything that moves fast because he presumes it is his prey. Poor postman riding a cycle is ignorant about such instincts of your dog. Often he completes his round with a torn trouser leg! Many bikers end up in the hospital with a broken leg because a dog in a locality believes that the red bike has a strong resemblance with a deer or something like that!
Well an instinct is something which one does without any logic. In case of animals, instinct plays a larger role, because they mostly live and survive on instinct only. Therefore, despite man’s best attempt to create different breeds or groups of dogs for different purpose it is almost impossible to erase the habit of chasing.
Fortunately dog is one animal that learns by experience. Therefore, if he has been trained to stay on command or has been taught to retrieve a ball or any other object the nuisance of a dog chasing a bike or postman can be considerably controlled. Chasing a ball fulfills his desire to chase a prey. If he has been trained to retrieve then it serves a dual purpose-dog’s instinct is well served and he gets plenty of much needed exercise. Above all it does not strain you at all, because you remain standing on a spot while he does the running about.
Many dog owners find it difficult to teach their adult dog to retrieve. For them it is best to teach him to stay on command. This can be easily learnt if you go through Dogdom carefully. Briefly feed time is the best time to teach him to stay. Put him on a leash and place his food in front, out of his reach. He will certainly strain to reach his bowl. At that time in a booming voice give the command Stay preceded by his name. Count five and ask him to eat with all the honey in your voice. In the next meal increase the count to six and so on. In no time your dog will wait for your command to eat and he will stay endlessly in the hope of a reward afterwards. Never disappoint him though, but use the command before your pooch decides to chase me.