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September 15, 2009

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Training for dogs gains popularity as owners seek more obedient pets

IN a room at the Shanghai Loves Pet Training School, a black adult Kunming dog looks quite docile, sitting or running at every command from its trainer or owner.

It follows the trainer quietly and reacts immediately when hearing a commend or seeing a gesture.

This is Congcong's graduation ceremony. The dog has been at the school for a month. Just 30 days ago it was an irritable and scary creature, sharply different from the image of a well-trained "student" now, according to trainer Tan Dengchu.

Tan has 10 years of dog-training experience and started the school with seven other ex-soldiers from the Shanghai Police Dog Training Base.

In the school, about 40 dogs are undergoing training at present. Cute as some of them may appear, most have "criminal records."

A poodle named Feifei gnashes its teeth angrily every time it sees a stranger. Tan says it barked at other people and was a source of annoyance for many of the family's neighbors.

It is not a rare case in Shanghai where dog owners like to walk their pets in public unaware that people who don't share their love of dogs might be scared by them.

Lately the Procedures for Dog Management is under revision and under a proposed rule, pet dogs could be prohibited from entering such public places as the subway, outdoor markets and elevators.

To teach dogs with "bad habits" to act properly, several pet training schools have been set up in Shanghai.

In the Loves Pet Training School, each dog has a tailor-made training procedure, depending on its age, breed and living condition. "For foreigners' dogs, we give them instructions in English; we also offer dog training at your home," Tan says.

He likes to compare dogs to children. "We have a pre-school test for each dog, testing their character, habits and health condition, just like they are kids."

After the test, training procedures and goals will be made with agreement from the dog owner.

Every day the dogs receive health tests, and their training performance is tracked and recorded.

Some dogs stay in small cages. "People may say we are abusing them; but just like kids need lessons to grow up, it is also the case with dogs. Irritable dogs have to live in smaller cages," Tan says.

A graduation test and ceremony is held at the end of each term. "Some dogs perform better than others, but they all meet the standard we set before the training. There are good students and bad ones," he says.

Tan says owners often come to learn the instructions. "To train a dog, instructions and body language matter, not the person." With the knowledge, the owner can keep the dog well after the training.

Training takes one or two months, and costs range from 1,500 (US$220) to 3,500 yuan. The price can rise if the owner wants further training for the pet.

However, many pet owners still hold a conservative attitude toward dog training. "It is too expensive; I would rather teach my dog by myself, and I can do it well," says Xiao Lixin, a young student keeping a husky at home.

"In other countries, such as Japan, dogs have to enter pet training school before being adopted by a family. But here in China, pet training is just emerging. The target customers are mostly elite people. It still needs time for further development," says Tom Yang, from the Shanghai Pet Trade Association.

To ensure a harmonious living environment for both people and dogs, Jing Xiaoping, chairman of the association, suggests a shelter be built for stray dogs, and people should keep good control of their pets.

"Actually, the owners, rather than dogs, are the key to a better environment," she says.

Though well trained at schools, the dogs need further care from the owners. Their schedule for eating, sleeping and outdoor activities should be strictly kept, Tan says.

"Dog training needs enhancement after learning," he concludes.

Loves Pet Training School

Address: 109 Hongwei Rd, Minhang District

Tel: 5768-9412/1312-202-1104

Lingkong Dog Training School

Address: near Yingbin Ave, Jichang Town, Pudong New Area

Tel: 3393-4206/1376-431-2908

Baishun Pet Training School

Address: 383 Guidu Rd, Minhang District

Tel: 5443-5310/1316-201-9629

Naught Family Pet Co Ltd

Address: 2381-3 Hongqiao Rd, Changning District

Tel: 6268-9507


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