Sit, Stay And Don’t Poo On 2022!

– Lessons Learnt By Pet Parents In 2021 –

Shirin Merchant is India’s pioneering Canine Behaviourist and Trainer. For the past 25 years, she has worked hard to ensure that dogs in India are trained using reward-based methods. 

“You need to help me NOW!” a lady screamed at me over the phone. “My Figaro has pooped on my carpet for the 100th time and I am fed up!”

2021 was the year that dog lovers abruptly decided was a good year to bring home a pet and they ran out to adopt or buy dogs as fast as a Labrador wipes his bowl clean! And of course, when you bring home a pet without much thought you are going to end up with issues. My phone rang off the hook… ‘How do I teach my dog to stay alone at home?’; ‘Why won’t my dog eat his veggies?’; ‘Why is my dog stealing my socks?’; ‘Why is my dog scared of the vacuum cleaner?’; ‘Why won’t my dog listen to me?!’

As much as pet parents struggled to understand their dogs, their pets got a bit fed up with the pandemic way of life too. So here are some lessons our dogs would like us to learn from 2021…

Give Your Dog His Private Time And Space: Whilst many dogs enjoyed the extra time they got with us, after a point in time, the extra attention got stifling for them. The constant hugs, cuddling all day, being petted when trying to take a nap – a lot of pets found it extremely stressful. It also led to dogs becoming over attached to their humans – not a healthy relationship to cultivate. If you’ve been smothering your dog, you need to start making changes. Start with small periods of time daily where your dog can rest in a room by herself without anyone disturbing her. Spending quiet time by themselves allows our dogs to get rest, clear their thoughts and reduce stress levels.

Set Boundaries And Rules For Your Dogs: Dogs love rules and structure in their lives. Whilst giving your dog some freedom of choice is good, giving too much will make him a spoilt brat. So put down simple rules – show your dog what you expect from him so that you don’t have to scold him for unwanted behaviours later. Teach your dog how to behave when greeting guests, how not to jump on a kitchen counter, how to stay out of rooms of the home he may not be allowed in, how to be still during grooming, how to listen when you ask for a behaviour, and even how to behave when you are eating food – basically all the simple boundaries and rules that keep your dog well-mannered and safe from harm.

Let Your Pet Be A Pet: Dogs that never get to be dogs are just surviving and not thriving. Allow your dog to smell the flowers, scratch the bark of a tree, watch a bird soar in the sky, smell the ocean, and listen to the sound of water in a brook. Exposing your dog to nature is a great way to reduce stress, iron out the creases in many sensitive dogs and even build a stronger relationship with you. Sometimes, when I see the dog-human relationship broken, that is all I get the pet parent to do for a fortnight – get the dog to be a dog. They often return with big smiles at the next consultation! So let your Labrador knock over the water bowl and splash in it, let your beagle smell the hundreds of smells, let your Indie show off his clever mind by allowing him to find a hidden object, let your pup have zoomies at 11:00pm – let your dog be a dog!

 Listen To What Your Dog Is Saying: Dogs speak a language packed with woofs, growls, posturing, wags and even facial expressions. Learning to listen to what your dog is saying can mean the world for your dog. Most of our pet dogs talk to us but are never heard. How frustrating for them! If you love your dog, the least you can do is to learn their language. Your dog will be so grateful to you for it.

Learn Ways To Reduce Stress In Your Dog: Stress? What stress? How can my dog possibly have any stress, she has such an awesome life. That’s what most pet parents tell me. But look a bit closer – stress lurks in every corner. A noisy kitchen, a dog that lunges at your dog when out for a walk, constructions noises, fights, harsh handling, sickness, slippery floors, separation, lack of sleep… the list is endless. Small stressors that we take for granted could all add up. Often dogs that randomly seem to bite every couple of weeks are not mean dogs, but ones whose stress levels have tipped over.

Few city dogs live stress free lives. So, what can we do to help our dogs? Make a list of things your dog enjoys eating, places he likes visiting, people he enjoys spending time with, items he likes play with… get the drift? And then ensure he gets at least one of those everyday. It will make a world of a difference in reducing his cortisol levels and increasing his happy hormones. Give it a try today and see the difference in your dog within a fortnight.

Allow Your Dog’s Dreams To Come True: We all have a dream when we bring our dogs home. And just like us, our dogs have dreams too. That little pup sitting in your lap on the drive home is also probably wishing for things – will this be the family that loves me, treats me kindly, plays with me, will they lock me alone in a room, will they hit me when I’m naughty? I hope they will be fun and kind to me, care for me till the very end and never give up on me.

If we love our dogs, it’s our job to help make their dreams come true. The least we can do is promise to be there for them teach them manners, be kind, play with them and find ways to infuse their life with happiness.  If you make just one new year resolution for your dog, let it be this one. You want your dog at 16 years to look back on life and say it was a well lived one!  

Happy New Year! Hope it’s filled with wags and woofs!



Shirin Dhabhar

About Shirin Dhabhar

Shirin Dhabhar looks forward to answering all relevant queries from our readers. Please write in to: or

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