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Your Guide to Dog Training in Singapore (2024)

Introduction | Dog Training Singapore

Dog training is a term we hear frequently, but what does it truly entail? In Singapore, the industry for training dogs remains unregulated, allowing anyone to call themselves a dog trainer. This places a significant responsibility on pet owners to find knowledgeable and trustworthy trainers who can meet their dog’s specific needs. Whether you’re considering dog training classes, a dog training academy, or dog training schools, this article aims to guide you through the landscape in Singapore, helping you make informed decisions for your furry friend’s well-being.

What is Dog Training?

Dog training is an umbrella term that encompasses various types of training, each designed to achieve different goals. Understanding these categories can help you choose the right training path for your dog.

Types of Dog Training

  • Sports Training: Includes activities like agility and flyball, focusing on enhancing your dog’s physical abilities and teamwork skills.
  • Fitness Training: Covers strength and conditioning exercises to keep your dog physically fit and healthy.
  • Behaviour Modification: Addresses issues such as aggression, separation anxiety, fears and phobias and compulsive behaviours.
  • Obedience Training: Also known as Basic Obedience Training or Skills/Manners Training, teaches foundation cues like sit, stay, and recall, often leading to certifications like the Canine Good Citizen award.
  • Puppy Training: Sometimes known as Puppy Kindergarten or Puppy Classes provides a comprehensive programme including socialisation, toilet training and resolving common puppy issues such as excitability and mouthing/play-biting, and is especially useful for first-time dog owners.
  • Board and Train: A training program where your dog stays with the trainer in a kennelled environment, for intensive training sessions that lasts 2-3 weeks or more.

The type of training dogs you choose should align with your specific goals, whether it’s through dog training classes, a dog training academy, or dog training schools.

Examples of Dog Training Goals

Different goals require different types of training. Here are some common objectives and the corresponding training methods:

  1. Excel at Sport: Enrol in sports training programs to develop agility and teamwork.
  2. Be Physically Fit and Healthy: Opt for fitness training to maintain optimal health.
  3. Fix an Undesired Behaviour: Behaviour modification programs can address issues like aggression or separation anxiety.
  4. Dog Obedience Training: Classes focus on basic skills to enhance overall behaviour.
  5. Raising a Puppy: Puppy preparation courses focus on socialisation and foundational training.
  6. Train with Minimal Input: Board and train programs offer intensive, hands-off training.

By identifying your goals, you can select the appropriate dog training classes to meet your needs. The next step is finding a suitable service provider, such as a private coach or dog training school.

How to Achieve Dog Training Goals

Before seeking a service provider, it’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of dog training. This knowledge will help you evaluate potential trainers effectively.

Fundamentals of Dog Training

Generally, dog training involves two key steps:

  1. Shaping Behaviour: Using positive reinforcement to gradually guide your dog towards the desired behaviour.
  2. Reinforcing Behaviour: Using rewards to encourage repetition of the desired behaviour.

Scientific studies have shown that positive reinforcement is the most effective dog training method. For more details on the basics of dog training, check out our article on the fundamentals of dog training!

The Effectiveness of Reinforcement in Dog Training

Reinforcement is the cornerstone of effective dog training, especially when viewed through the lens of operant conditioning. Certified professional dog trainers, accredited dog trainers, and certified dog trainers all utilise positive reinforcement to shape and reinforce desired behaviours. This science-based approach minimises negative associations, creating an optimal learning environment for dogs. Professional trainers rely on these methods to ensure successful outcomes.

Positive reinforcement in dog training classes involves rewarding a puppy or dog immediately for performing a desired behaviour, which might include treats, praise, or playtime (see our step-by-step guide for obedience training in dogs). The principle is straightforward: dog behaviours that are rewarded are more likely to be repeated. When you start training your dog using this method, it helps the dog avoid improper reactions. Unlike methods that rely on punishment, this approach minimises stress and fear, fostering a learning atmosphere where trust and cooperation flourish. Teach your dog in different scenarios to ensure consistent behaviour.

The superiority of reinforcement is its ability to foster positive emotions during training. Negative associations can make training miserable and cause undesirable side effects, as discussed in our article on classical conditioning. In contrast, positive reinforcement ensures a fun environment, strengthens the bond with your dog, and helps bring out the best version of your furry friend.

The strategic use of science-based methods in reinforcement has proven to be the most effective way to eliminate improper reactions. By consistently rewarding alternative positive behaviours and ignoring or redirecting unwanted actions, trainers can guide dogs towards more desirable conduct. Checkout our article on how to get rid of undesirable behaviours to further appreciate the superiority of reinforcement training.

The Ineffectiveness of Punishment in Dog Training

Here are a few reasons why punishment is discouraged:

  1. Ineffectiveness: Dogs are not in the right state of mind to learn when punished.
  2. Limitations: There are limited ways to apply punishment before it becomes counterproductive.
  3. Reinforcement of Punisher: Punishment can become reinforcing for the person administering it, leading to overuse.
  4. Misuse: It may be used for revenge or to establish dominance and control, rather than as a training tool.

For more details, check out our article on why punishment is an inferior training tool!

On the other hand, positive reinforcement has been proven effective, even with marine animals where aversive methods are not viable. When evaluating trainers, ensure their approach aligns with these principles.

Reviewing the Impact of Negative Punishment in Dog Training

As we reflect on the discussion above, it is clear that negative punishment is not only ineffective but also detrimental to the training process. Dogs, being incredibly perceptive animals, quickly associate negative emotions and stimuli with their training sessions. This association, rooted in classical conditioning, leads to undesired behaviours and a breakdown in the pet-owner relationship.

Few dog trainers, even in a training academy, may overlook the fundamental concept of classical conditioning. This is where dogs learn to associate a neutral stimulus with a negative experience, leading to anxious, fearful, or even aggressive behaviour over time. For a more detailed exploration of this process, refer to our article on classical conditioning. Certified professional dog trainers and certified behaviour consultants often address these issues in dog training classes to prevent dog aggression.

Understanding this process highlights why dog owners should avoid negative punishment in training. Instead, using positive reinforcement techniques not only improves learning but also ensures a positive experience for the dog. By adopting these humane methods, dog parents can foster better behaviour and a strong bond with their well-behaved furry companions.

What to Look Out for Before Engaging a Professional Dog Training Service

Choosing a professional dog trainer is akin to selecting a marriage counsellor for you and your dog. It’s essential to find someone who aligns with your values and understands both you and your pet.

Key Considerations

  • Experience and Knowledge: The dog trainer should have practical experience applying dog training techniques and a deep understanding of dog learning mechanisms.
  • First Consultation: A credible dog trainer will assess your dog before recommending a training package.
  • Contextual Understanding: The dog trainer should inquire about your home environment, other pets, and family members, as dog behaviours do not develop in isolation.

What You Should Expect from a Professional Dog Trainer

A professional dog trainer should offer tailored services specific to your dog’s needs, especially for complex issues like separation anxiety or canine fitness.

Essential Services

  • Tailored Dog Training Plans: Customised to address your dog’s specific challenges and goals.
  • First Consultation: An initial assessment to understand your dog’s behaviour and your training objectives.
  • Contextual Enquiries: Questions about your dog’s living conditions and background.
  • Coaching for Owners: The trainer should teach you how to train your dog, breaking down complex concepts into understandable steps.

If you encounter issues with your dog, our behaviour consultants are always here to help.

Questions to Ask Your Dog Trainer

Before committing to a trainer, ask your potential trainers these critical questions:

  1. Living Conditions: What do they need to know about your dog’s living environment and family members?
    Response: It’s crucial to identify the dog’s primary caregivers first. Are all the key players in agreement on setting consistent rules to avoid confusing the pup? This is key for shaping effective training strategies and ensuring the success of the dog’s training journey.
  2. Positive Reinforcement: What do they do when the dog displays the correct behaviour?
    Response: Our primary goal is to see if the trainer is great at reinforcing good behaviour. If they do something right, definitely give them a treat! Sometimes, if there’s a negative stimulus already in play (like holding back a toy when teaching “leave it”), once your furry friend masters the skill, you can take away the negative and reward them with the toy.
  3. Handling Mistakes: What is their approach when the dog does something wrong?
    Response: Initially, it’s crucial to confirm that we’re not inadvertently rewarding the behaviour. Equally important is to avoid punishing it. The professional approach is to concentrate on molding the preferred behavior. This means patiently waiting for the desired behaviour to manifest itself before positively reinforcing it.
  4. Aversive Stimuli: If they use aversive methods, ask why and explore alternative approaches.
    Response: The need for aversive stimuli is minimal in training. If implemented, it should be done with the aim of removing it once the desired behavior is exhibited, serving as negative reinforcement. However, trainers must clearly articulate how they intend to encourage the desired behavior using aversive stimuli. If they cannot, it indicates a lack of focus on reinforcing positive behaviour, contrary to the latest findings on effective training methods.
  5. Explanation of Steps: Ensure they can explain their training methods and the rationale behind them.
    Response: Understanding each step is crucial for effective replication. A dog trainer’s role is to mentor you into becoming the best handler for your pet. If they fail to achieve this, they may not be the ideal candidate for the role.

By clarifying the aforementioned questions with potential trainers, it enhances the ability to thoroughly evaluate their suitability and methods. These inquiries not only shed light on a trainer’s philosophy but also ensure that their approach aligns with modern, research-supported training techniques. This is a recap of the above points:

  1. Handling Mistakes: Trainers should ensure that undesired behaviours are not inadvertently rewarded. They should avoid punitive measures and instead concentrate on shaping and reinforcing the desired behaviour when it naturally occurs.
  2. Aversive Stimuli: Trainers generally shouldn’t rely on aversive methods. If such stimuli are used, it should be with the intent of swiftly removing them once the dog displays the desired behaviour (negative reinforcement). A trainer’s ability to articulate how they plan to use and withdraw aversive stimuli signifies their commitment to reinforcing desired actions in line with current best practices.
  3. Explanation of Steps: It’s crucial for trainers to clearly explain their methods and the reasoning behind them. Effective communication ensures that owners can replicate training steps, reinforcing the notion that a trainer’s role is to coach owners to become proficient handlers.

Including these questions and understanding the answers is key to selecting a dog trainer who will employ humane and effective training techniques, thereby fostering a positive, understanding relationship between you and your dog.

Cost of Engaging a Dog Trainer

The absence of standardised regulation leads to significant variations in dog training costs, ranging from $50 to $1,000. This variation is influenced by factors like the type of training, the trainer’s experience, and the program’s duration. After comparing dog training prices across different countries, we’ve determined the average cost to give you a better idea of what to expect. Here are some average costs for specific types of training:

  • Puppy Classes: Training in this category typically falls within the $500 to $1,200 range per programme. This foundational training is essential for setting positive behaviour patterns early on.
  • Behaviour Modification: To address more complex and specific behavioural issues, you can expect costs to range from $180 to $500 per session. These sessions often require a more tailored approach and experienced trainers that understand canine biology, behavioural sciences and animal welfare sciences on a deep level. Usually, multiple sessions are needed depending on the complexity of the case and the commitment level of household members in helping the dog overcome the behavioural condition(s).
  • Group Classes: For those looking for a more affordable option, group classes usually cost between $80 and $150 per session. These classes offer a structured programme that cannot be customised to you and your dog, but can allow you to learn basic skills and concepts in a structured way.
  • Fitness and Conditioning: A specialised training area focusing on your dog’s physical health, which generally costs between $180 and $300 per session.

Investing in the right training can substantially improve your dog’s quality of life and save you from future expenses related to unaddressed behavioural issues.

Process of Becoming a Professional Dog Trainer

For those interested in becoming dog trainers, the journey involves gaining practical experience, understanding canine behaviour, and often obtaining certifications from recognised institutions.

To gain credentials, aspiring dog trainers should start by studying the theory behind canine behavior, including topics such as learning theory, animal behavioural sciences, and a variety of rewards-based training methods. Credentials from reputed organisations provide a solid foundation and are highly regarded in the industry. Important certifications include:

The certifications ensure a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience by requiring practical case studies, video demonstrations of training approaches, and other hands-on applications. Without these components, the certification will not be awarded.

Hands-on experience is crucial for becoming adept at dog training, whether working with individual pets or in group sessions. Engaging with knowledgeable certified dog trainers through internships or mentorship programs provides invaluable insights and guidance, allowing new trainers to refine their skills under expert supervision. Additionally, continuous education is a must, as the field constantly evolves with new techniques and understanding of canine behaviour. Attending seminars, workshops, and engaging in discussions with fellow trainers ensure professionals stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and maintain high standards in their practice.

To see the experience and knowledge of Pet Coach SG accredited trainers (chief behaviourist and head coach), check out our About Us page.

Ready to Engage? Find Out More About Our Training Approach!

At Pet Coach SG, we prioritise positive reinforcement and customised training plans tailored specifically for your dog’s individual needs. By employing the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach, we ensure that our training methods promote the well-being and happiness of your furry companion. If you’re ready to enhance your dog’s behaviour and overall well-being, contact us to learn more about our comprehensive training approach and how we can help you achieve your goals. Don’t just take our word for it—refer to the NParks Training Guidelines to see how our methods align with industry best practices.

By understanding the landscape of dog training in Singapore and knowing what to look for, you can make informed decisions that benefit both you and your furry companion. Research has proven that positive reinforcement is the most effective training approach, fostering a cooperative and trusting relationship between you and your dog. Whether you’re addressing behavioural issues or aiming for excellence in canine sports, the right training can make all the difference. If you’re struggling with your dog’s behaviour, visit our Dog Training Service Page to discover how we can assist in overcoming these challenges.

Picture of Webster Cheong, BA, IAABC-ADT, CPDT-KA

Webster Cheong, BA, IAABC-ADT, CPDT-KA

Webster has trained various species in zoos, rehabilitated companion animals, and championed animal welfare standards. He represented Singapore in the Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group, focusing on amphibian care and conservation. Now, his main focus is in canine fitness and conditioning as well as essential canine skills.

Picture of Qiai Chong, MSc, CSAT, CSB-D, CPDT-KSA

Qiai Chong, MSc, CSAT, CSB-D, CPDT-KSA

With over a decade of study in the animal behaviour and welfare sciences, Qiai earned her Masters from the University of Edinburgh and has since devoted herself to the welfare and behaviour of pets. She has worked as an animal behaviourist since, and her expertise lies in addressing pet behavioural issues such as fears, phobias, anxiety and aggression.

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