When we return to the villages with our routine health programme, finding out that some of the dogs have died due to poisoning/car accidents or have gone missing, is a pretty common scenario. It’s a very sad to learn that a young, healthy and loving pet that we saw a few months ago, is no longer with us. The thing is that these losses are easily preventable, through changing human behaviour.
If people didn’t leave their dogs to roam free and kept them on a lead while walking on the streets, they wouldn’t be able to run into on-coming traffic or pick up rubbish or food. Fewer roaming dogs would also mean people don’t get so fed up with the dog population and feel the need to poison or cull them. Also, if more people knew about animal protection laws or followed through with police reports and prosecutions, there would perhaps be fewer poisonings.
Learning to Value Dogs
Due to this sad situation, we have started a human behaviour change and dog training programme in the communities. This programme delivers basic training a selected group of dogs and their owners. With the assistance of a professional trainer, we are teaching the dogs basic commands like sit, down, stay, and how to walk on a lead, as well as socialising with other animals and people.
By showing people what their dogs are capable of, and what they need to thrive, we hope to change the way that people treat their pets. The hope is that, if owners value their animals more, the number of dogs that free-roam the streets will decrease, and the number of deaths along with it.
Starting Small for Big Results
For now, our training programme is focused in Quillahuata, the community with the highest poisoning rate of those we work in. We are running various series of weekly training (with a limited number of participants in each) with as many owners who are interested. Once we have made good headway with the dogs and owners in Quillahuata we plan to replicate the dog training and education programme in as many villages as possible. By changing human behaviour, we hope to start seeing results soon: fewer roaming dogs, more dogs walking on leads and fewer dog deaths.