Business is good. I have trained more than 50 dogs so far. I usually take a trained dog along with me. That way, the dog owners know what I can do
It’s hard to miss Komagan, even on the busy Poonamallee High Road — because walking beside him is a very tall dog. I mistake it for an extra large Dalmatian. “No, this is a Harlequin Great Dane,” Komagan tells me, and orders ‘Tiger’ (which, actually, is as friendly as a pussy cat) to ‘stay’. And with Tiger calmly sitting on the pavement, without a leash — and curious passers-by asking if it is a police dog, and if it can catch thieves — Komagan tells me how he ended up as a dog trainer.
Formerly a supervisor in the leather industry, Komagan switched his line of work in 2003, when the leather trade declined. “I used to have a dog, but I couldn’t look after it, so I gave it away. Soon, I happened to come across an advocate’s dog — a Labrador named Mars, and I trained it,” he says, speaking very fondly of the dog even after a decade. Dog training, he realised, suited him very well; he had a way with animals, and it gave him a chance to be self-employed. But it also came with its share of pain. “When the advocate moved house, they gave away Mars and I got very upset.” Till date, he considers Mars to be his ‘aathma’ (soul).
After Mars, Komagan trained many dogs. “I owe a big thanks to veterinarian Dr. Priyadarshini,” Komagan says, as she was instrumental in him getting many new clients. Some also came as referrals. “I usually take a trained dog along with me. That way, the dog owners know what I can do.” Typically, owners ask for the dogs to be trained ‘quickly’. “But I explain to them that it will take a month to make them understand commands. Until they’re approximately one-and-a-half years old, they’re just babies!”
A properly trained dog should be silent at home, follow instructions, and not disturb anybody, explains Komagan. But professional training, he concedes, only teaches the animal basic commands. “The rest, especially retaining all that was learnt, depends on the owner. They have to co-operate too!” However, owners only make things difficult, by spoiling puppies, and then realising, too late, that they have an unmanageably big, heavy animal wanting to sit on their laps. Komagan is also called in when adult dogs decide to take owners for a walk, dragging them around and giving them a nasty shoulder pain. “But it’s possible,” he says, “to train dogs to walk properly, on a leash.”
Komagan also teaches eating discipline. “Some owners hand-feed their dogs, or feed them inside the house.” And while all this is cute when they’re pups, it leads to conflicts when the dog is older; besides, it’s not very nice to have adult dogs steal from the table. And just then, ironically, Tiger sticks its large, wet snout inside Komagan’s trouser pocket, and rootles for biscuits. “No, Tiger,” Komagan says, and Tiger, the wannabe-pickpocket, sits down.
“Business is good. I have trained more than 50 dogs so far. See? They shouldn’t bite when you touch their ears or tail or mouth,” he says, demonstrating with Tiger. “That way, you don’t need half-a-dozen people to take them to the vet or give them medicines.” Komagan has, previously, trained dogs to act in movies and ad-films. In every instance, he has only used rewards to train.
Besides training, Komagan also walks dogs (to exercise them) twice a day. “Dogs are very affectionate,” he says, stroking Tiger’s neck. “They are also very punctual. If I’m even five minutes late, they get upset.” One particular dog, he says, will wait until 5:10 a.m. for its walk, after which it ‘gets very angry’. “One thing is for sure, if you have a dog, you cannot afford to be lazy!”
(A weekly column on men and women who make Chennai what it is)