Day 4 of my Indonesia Trip (Sept 2009)
By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
One fact that’s wonderful about dogs is that whether they’re a pampered pet from America, a trained competition dog in Germany, or a street dog in Bali, the language is the same. So no matter where I go, I know I’ll be able to communicate with them.
On the morning of our first full day in Bali, while my friend Asri and her family and I are waiting at Lovina beach for our dolphin-watching boat to get fixed, a little village dog follows a visitor to the beach looking for food. The little white terrier reminds me of my Jack Russell Terrier Jonesy except that her skin mite condition, characterized by patches of hair loss and dark, thickened skin give her a sad look.
I pull a sweet roll out of my bag, squat down and toss her a small piece. Even though I avoid eye contact in order to look less threatening, she’s a little fearful at first. Once she eats the treat, however, she tentatively steps forward to take the treat I have in my hand. A few more bits of bread and she’s decided I’m safe. Now she gives me a big wag.
Now it’s time to teach her to sit. I use the bread treat to lure her into a sit. After luring her a bunch of times she starts sitting on her own. I look around; the tour people are still working on getting the motor running, and the little dog’s only eaten 1/8 of the bread bun so far. Our driver, a Bali resident and dog lover, watches smiling. “I’d take her home if I weren’t working today,” he tells Asri in Indonesian. Home is three hours away.
In Bali, the safest way to get around and to navigate the traffic is to hire a driver. The cost for us was $60.00/day-cheaper than a rental car in the U.S., and the drivers are great in Bali. Ours went to hospitality school. Because the Balinese people and government understand that their economy is based on tourism, the government helps train citizens to work in the industry. The hotels also provide cheap rooms for drivers, and the tourist areas have lounge areas for drivers to hang around. Our driver is stellar. Every time he drops us off for an activity, HE magically appears right when we’re ready to go on to the next thing.
I turn my back on the little dog so that I can alternate facing between the driver and Asri. “Asri, tell him to take her home anyway. We’ll find a box for her to sit in.” Of course, if he takes her home she’ll have to be treated for sarcoptic mange mites so she doesn’t pass them on to his other dogs. He has several purebred dogs at home that he lets into his house. Luckily the cost of such treatment is relatively inexpensive. She tells him and he laughs.
“What do you want to call her?” I ask, hoping to convince him to take her.
“Deannie,” he says. Hah, one step closer to the goal. As I wonder whether he might actually take her Asri exclaims, “Hey Sophia. Deannie wants to be trained. I look down and realize that every time I change my focus to look at Asri and then the driver, Deannie repositions herself to be in front of me.
Next I decide THAT maybe it’s time to train her to perform a trick. It could come in handy if she has to coax food from tourists. I decide on “sit pretty/beg.” When she sits, I lure her with a treat to sit up on her haunches with her front legs of the ground. She’s a quick study. She’s able to balance almost upright when I use the food lure to help her understand what I want.
After about 5 minutes she can sit in the beg position for several seconds although she’s not perfectly straight. She’ll need a few more 5-minute sessions to be able to balance on her own, and then a few more sessions where I reward her for offering the behavior on her own without my prompting. The behavior has to be un-prompted since tourists won’t know to ask her to perform it. Realistically it will take 2 days to train. I should have chosen play bow instead because that doesn’t require dogs to learn to balance. But I hope to train her more after we get back from the dolphin watching tour.
Unfortunately after we get back, 1.5 hours later than expected, locals trying to sell souvenirs immediately blanket us and I don’t have a chance to train anymore.
HOWEVER, Deannie did immediately recognized me as a friend and approach me with a smile and a wagging tail. Which reminds me once again that across the world dogs are the same. They like you if they associate you with good things, and they learn what you want if you reward them right when they perform the desired behaviors and avoid giving rewards for the undesired behaviors. It’s an easy and simple set of formulas for gaining four-legged friends and one I’m glad to possess.