When a Sanskrit class turns into a lesson on living with dogs

The main subject of my studies are Indian cultures, languages and religions. Therefore, a vital part of my studies is to learn Sanskrit to understand the old Vedic texts.
In last Thursday’s class we were translating a few short stories. In Sanskrit, these stories sound something like: “the Brahman boy learns the Veda from his teacher”, “the Kshatriya warrior takes his son to war” or “the priest makes a sacrifice to Shiva”.

The last sentence we had to translate was this one:

यः साधुर्भूतेभ्यो ऽ भयं ददाति तस्माद्भूतानि न बिभ्यति स च तेभ्यो न बिभेति  ।

 yaḥ sādhur bhūtebhyo ́bhayaṃ dadāti tasmād bhūtāni na bibyati sa ca tebhyo na bibheti |

In English, this would be:

A holy man, who gives other beings fearlessness or safety, is not feared by these beings and he does not fear them.

Having translated this, my professor looked at me and said: “That’s a good one to remember for you.”

After two hours of translations, I didn’t understand at first what she wanted to tell me.

“For your dog training… See, if we slightly change the sentence, it goes like this: If a person gives a dog fearlessness and safety, the dog does not fear the person and the person does not fear the dog.”

And how right she was!

A dog who is treated with fairness and can experience safety in the relationship with his owner can grow into a confident, secure dog, who does not fear its human and will enjoy living side-by-side.

My Kali spend her first few months on the streets (while not doing very well there) and then lived another half year at KAT in a small, pretty stable group of dogs. When she first came to Switzerland, she was pretty insecure. Mostly she was afraid of other dogs we met on our walks. I guess living in a stable group and always being around the same dogs, she never really learned how to react to new dogs.


Kali (a few weeks after I found her in a temple, still recovering from mange) reacts to Pangre (you can only see a part of his nose on the right), a big male at KAT, who approached her too fast.

We only work with positive training, and it was more important to show Kali that other dogs are not dangerous, than to get a dog who “knows how to behave around dogs”. So soon after she arrived in Switzerland we joined a small group for social walks. On these walks each dog gets as much space from the other dogs as he needs to be comfortable. Over time, this distance can be reduced, as the dogs learn to be calm and feel safe around other dogs. These weekly walks helped Kali tremendously!


Kali (now in Switzerland for one and a half years) confidently meets Lajos, a young male Hovawart on a group hike we attended.

Kali still needs a lot of space and time when meeting other dogs for the first couple of times. But each time she has a positive meeting with a dog, her confidence grows. Each time she can experience safety in meeting another dog, she becomes more secure.

We do not solely train with positive methods, we want to live together positively. This is not about owning a dog, but living together with a dog. We work together, giving Kali the freedom she seeks and the security she needs.

And we are doing damn well at this. We are an awesome team.


1750900_origWe are joining in the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Dachshund Nola & Tenacious Little Terrier. Each month, bloggers and readers share and learn about positive pet training techniques, tools, frustrations and triumphs. Join every first Monday of the month!

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…
Mary from Roxy the traveling dog pointed us at to WOOF’s blog hop. WOOF, Working Out Our Fears, is an online group for reactive dogs and their owners to seek support from others who are dealing with similar experiences.



13 thoughts on “When a Sanskrit class turns into a lesson on living with dogs

  1. This is a great post! That is a wonderful concept to work on and I think it would help many who have a fearful or reactive dog. Thank you so much for sharing this in our WOOF Support hop!
    Gina and Oz

    • Thank you! I really like the concept, and I think we often forget how much influence we have on our dogs, not by training, but just by sharing a life with them. It’s something we need to keep in mind.

  2. What a beautiful way to look at it….not just training, but living together positively. How rewarding it must be to see Kali coming along so well. I’m glad Mary asked you to join the hop, because we can all learn something from this great post.

    • It IS rewarding! I think we should try to focus less on our dogs’ issues, and more on their progress. It’s something we tend to forget…

  3. So cool to see you in the WOOF hop! I hope you’ll join every month–it’s a wonderful group of people. I am, of course, in love with Kali and her story–I too am a dog rescuer and own seven of them. Reactivity comes with the territory, but I love what you say about dealing with it. Three of mine have a similar problem to Kali’s: they were born here at home (mom rescued from a garbage dump already pregnant, too late to do anything about it) and they never left. This pack is their family. I thought growing up with other dogs would make them not fear dogs in general–boy, was I wrong. So now I take them out individually on different tracks, different places. It’s early days, but I’m seeing improvement already. Or is that wishful thinking?

    Thanks for the visit over at Life In Dogs :)

    • Wow, must be lots of work with three dogs – I know it’s hard enough with one who has this kind of problem. I’m sure it’s more than wishful thinking. We tend to overlook a lot of our dogs’ improvements while focusing on their problems…

  4. I’m so happy that you joined the WOOF Support hop so that I could discover your lovely blog! Kali is beautiful. My previous dogs were named for goddesses – one was Lasya and with your studies I’m betting you’re one of the few people who knows what it means! I’ve added you to my reading list as I can tell you delve into the more ephemeral side of the human-canine relationship – my favorite.

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