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I only use the vibrate function, just to get my dog’s attention or to pair a positive experience with it so he/she starts to enjoy the vibration which I can then use as a training tool.

The SPCA is asking for a ban on electric shock collars. If a collar does not have the potential to cause pain or distress, we are not asking for its ban. It is worth noting, however, that some dogs do find vibrations aversive and uncomfortable. There are other, less intrusive ways to get your dog’s attention like using unique sounds (e.g. a squeaker) or working on getting your dog to automatically check-in with you and offer eye contact through positive reinforcement. 

My dog is not food motivated and I can only get his attention with an e-collar/shock collar, especially outside.

All animals have to be food motivated to an extent because they need to eat to survive. There are many possible reasons why your dog will not take food. Here are some things to consider:

  Does your dog find the food you are offering tasty and motivating? Like humans, dogs can have preferences for different types of food. It is worth doing a preference test with your dog to see what he/she likes best.
  Is the environment too stressful for your dog? Some dogs may not eat even really high value and tasty treats if he/she is overwhelmed and stressed out by the environment. What you can do is help keep his stress levels down by walking in quieter times or in quieter places.
  Is your dog uncomfortable with taking food out of a person’s hand? Some dogs may have had bad and stressful experiences with human hands reaching out to them, even if it was with good intentions. If this is the case for your dog, you could place the treat on the ground or use a squeeze tube that you can fill with soft, yummy food.
  Is there an underlying health condition you should check with your vet about? You should certainly approach your vet if your dog is not eating much at all, even at home, as there could be a medical reason for that.

If you feel that your dog prefers toys, you can use tug as a reward to reinforce the behaviours you like when out on a walk. If your dog enjoys sniffing, you could use sniffing as a reward. Alongside food and toys, there are lots of environmental rewards we can use creatively to motivate and positively reinforce our dogs to get their attention and so there is really no need to use an e-collar/shock collar.

When it comes to getting your dog’s attention on walks, consider whether you have taught your dog your attention cue well enough first. The environment outside can be really exciting for your dog and he may not yet understand that the cue you are using to get his attention applies to many different locations.

I am only using very low levels of shock, so low that it does not cause pain and is similar to just tapping the animal on its shoulder to get the animal’s attention. It is just ‘stimulating’ the animal. ‘Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)’ is used to treat pain so what is wrong with using this on animals for training? The shock collar is a communication tool and not a punishment tool.

It is great that you do not want to cause your pet pain. Trying to move people away from the use of pain and fear in training is what our ‘Teach with Kindness’ initiative is all about.

The first thing to consider is whether a low-level shock is really not hurting the animal. Not everyone is good at reading animal body language and we have seen many instances of people misreading their pets.

A medical practitioner using electric current for treatment is not comparable to the use of the shock collar on animals for training. For humans, they have control and a say over the treatment and can dial things up or down as they wish. Humans also get to be made aware of where the stimulation is coming from, what to expect, and why it is happening. An animal does not have that control, choice, and awareness. In TENS therapy, a practitioner knows that they should not be applying TENS with “persons who have trouble communicating or who have a mental impairment and cannot provide feedback to ensure the safe use of TENS.” (Source: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/15840-transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens)

The word ‘stimulating’ implies a positive experience but just because the term is used in the context of shock collars does not mean the experience is positive for the animal. To understand if something is really positive, we would need to consider what the evidence tells us.

Assuming this first hurdle has been cleared and we are as sure as we can be that the animal is not experiencing pain or any unpleasant sensation, then we can ask what value the shock collar provides. If it is merely about getting an animal’s attention, there are many other ways to do so, such as calling the animal’s name, using hand signals, or teaching and reinforcing auto check-ins. If one is instead using the shock collar to perform behavior modification, then the pain would need to be caused because the stimulation needs to be aversive to the animal to punish and reduce unwanted behaviour. 

Since there are alternatives to get an animal’s attention and to work with other aspects of behavior modification, the shock collar is not necessary for this purpose and because it can be very easily abused in the wrong hands, we feel it needs to be banned. You may trust yourself to do the right thing with the device but what about others? Why take the chance with something with such a high risk of harm? If there are so many pain-free alternatives, why continue to allow the sale and use of the shock collar?

The shock collar is a useful teaching tool. I have solved my pet’s behavior problems with it.

From here onwards, we will address the use of the shock collar as a tool of punishment.

While it may be possible for a shock collar to achieve the desired results, we believe that the process matters as much as the outcome. Just because a tool seems effective does not mean it is the right one to use on your pet, especially when there is the potential to cause significant harm to the animal. Why use electric shocks on an animal when there are equally, and often more effective humane methods available?

Punishment requires impeccable timing to work effectively and the intensity of the punishment must be just sufficient to stop the behaviour in the first application. Too little and the punishment is ignored. Too much, and one may cross the boundary into abuse. If you have that impeccable timing and training mechanics, you can work effectively using positive reinforcement to train just about anything within your dog’s physical capability.  

Dr Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, dog trainer, and behaviourist said, “To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need: A thorough understanding of canine behaviour; a thorough understanding of learning theory; impeccable timing. And if you have those three things, you don’t need a shock collar.” 

Ultimately it comes down to a decision to make a choice between different training methods. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

We empathise with pet guardians who struggle with their pet’s behavior issues and we know firsthand that this can bring about a lot of stress in the human handler. We suggest that there is an alternative way to solve these problems that studies have proven are either equally good if not better than aversive based methods.

I have engaged “positive” trainers before but it didn’t work. What should I do?

You can go back to your trainer to discuss why the problem has persisted and what can be done. There are no easy solutions with behaviour and modifying an existing habit will take time, patience, and a consistent approach. Sometimes, we need to change the approach if something is not working and consider consulting other professionals such as veterinarians. It is possible you may have missed something (e.g. an underlying medical condition) so it is always useful to review the whole situation again if the desired results have not been achieved.

If the issue is still not resolved, you can consider getting a second opinion from another force-free trainer as each trainer comes with their own expertise and experience. It would also be worth consulting trainers who may be outside of Singapore but take cases virtually. For example, Michael Shikashio (https://aggressivedog.com/) specialises in working with aggression in dogs using force-free methods and takes cases virtually around the world and there are a number of Certified Separation Anxiety Trainers (https://malenademartini.com/) who take separation anxiety cases online.

Shock collars are necessary to control reactive/aggressive dogs and to prevent them from being euthanised.

This is a particularly dangerous view.

Dogs often react or show signs of aggression due to high levels of fear and use these behaviors to get a perceived threat to move away. Subjecting a fearful dog to electric shocks or other painful and fear-inducing stimuli is not going to help and can make the problem much worse. This is the last thing that such an animal needs.

The shock or other aversive stimuli may at first appear to diminish the aggressive behavior. However, it does not address the underlying fear and emotional stress that the dog is experiencing, and is only suppressing the dog’s behaviour. There are two potential outcomes of behaviour suppression:

  1. The dog will suppress its behaviour up to a point, but when faced with a serious perceived threat, he/she will aggress and will likely skip the warning signals like growling and barking because those behaviors have been previously punished. In the E-Collar Technologies, Inc. owner’s manual itself, it states that “It is not uncommon for aggressive dogs to associate the stimulation with the handler and take action against the handler. Sometimes dogs put under e-collar pressure during a fight can exhibit redirected aggression and become more aggressive.” (Source: https://www.ecollar.com/media/300%20Owner%20Manuals/300%20302%20Owner’s%20Manual%20May%202015%20(1).pdf) This goes to show that a shock collar/e-collar is not a safe tool to be used with dogs presenting aggressive behaviour.

  2. The dog will go into a state of learned helplessness where it is still afraid of what it was originally afraid of, but because it keeps getting punished for expressing its fear and has no way of escaping, it shuts down and gives up trying. The dog may not aggress, but its fear is still there and it’s in a very stressful state where it is too scared to do anything other than what it is told. Compliance is not equal to confidence. Learn more about learned helplessness here: https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/learnedhelplessness.pdf 

Both of these possible outcomes from using a shock collar on a reactive/aggressive dog shows that the fallout of using such tools is significant. It is not worth the risk and it can be incredibly detrimental to the dog’s welfare to live in a constant state of stress and fear.

Another potential fallout of using shock collars and other aversive tools is that the dog can start to associate other stimuli in the environment with the pain/discomfort that they get from the aversive tool. For example, you may give your dog a zap/stim because he’s pulling on the leash. However, at the same time that you did that, a child walked past your dog. The dog can start to associate the presence of a child with the pain of the shock collar and can start presenting reactive or aggressive behavior towards children in an effort to try to get children to go away from him because he/she thinks that a child causes the shock. If the guardian of this dog continues to use the shock collar in an effort to suppress the reaction towards children, this can lead to an endless loop of aversive punishment which again leads to two potentially bad outcomes for the welfare of the dog.

There are many different strategies to work with reactivity and aggression within force-free training and these should all be explored if you are dealing with a dog presenting more challenging issues.

I agree that the shock collar can be abused and should thus not be sold over the counter. Instead of banning it, we should allow its use by or under the supervision of trained professionals. Also, AVS accredited trainers are advocating for the use of the shock collar.

Studies have shown that shock collar training is not in any way more effective than positive reinforcement training and at the same time, compromises a dog’s welfare and causes stress. So regardless of who is using the shock collar, it does not make it any better. As a society, we should also be striving towards kinder ways to train and treat the animals in our care and force-free training allows us to do that.

A large number of professional animal training organisations and veterinary associations have taken a strong position against the use of shock collars and other aversive tools in training. Here are some of them:

  Pet Professional Guild (PPG)
  International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)
  Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) UK
  Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Australia
  Association of INTODogs
  The International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour (ISCP)
  Karen Pryor Academy (KPA)
  Victoria Stilwell Academy (VSA)
  Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC)
  The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB)
  European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology
  British Veterinary Association (BVA)
  British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
  Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)

You should be educating the public rather than asking for a ban on a device. Any device can cause harm so why not ban X, Y, or Z?

We fully agree that any device can cause harm. The trainer who strangled a dog with his bare hands after having hung the dog with a leash certainly demonstrated that point. 

We are asking for a ban on the shock collar because it is very easy to cause a significant amount of pain and harm to an animal with the device if it is misused or abused. There are unfortunately still some who frequently use punishment in a way that harms animals and the shock collar makes it too easy for them to do so. The device should not be left in their hands. And because the uses of the shock collar which cause no or minimal harm to an animal (i.e. vibrations) can be easily replaced with other devices.

Education is an important component in achieving change and is a big part of what we do. We will continue with this effort to raise awareness of training methods and to promote the use of force-free techniques.

Are you calling ‘balanced’ trainers or people who use shock collars, choke chains, and prong collars cruel?

Absolutely not. Our aim is to raise awareness of the alternatives available with the simple message that there are other methods to choose from. We do hope that over time, people shift away from methods that cause pain or fear and instead choose to use force-free training methods.

I have seen videos of dogs wearing shock collars looking ‘happy’ and enjoying themselves. This is proof that shock collars are not harmful.

There needs to be an overall better understanding of canine body language. What we often find is that what people often interpret as looking like a “happy” face is actually a dog who is stress panting and is actually very uncomfortable. It is also common to misinterpret all tail wags as being “happy” when it could sometimes actually be a distance increasing tail wag that signals aggression or threat if the wagging is tight and quick and the tail is raised up high, or a tail wag signally fear/anxiety if the wagging is slow and sweeping and the tail is low. “Tap outs”, where a dog lies on its side, is another fearful appeasement behaviour that can be misinterpreted as a “happy” dog seeking belly rubs when it is actually a signal to ask someone to go away. Subtle body language indicating stress and fear such as lip licking, yawning, head turns, whale eyes, ears pulled back, shake-offs, and momentary freezes may get missed. 

In the videos you see of dogs wearing shock collars and having fun or looking happy, it may be that the dog was indeed having a good time playing while off-leash, for example, and that the shock of the collar was not being applied then. However, you may notice that more fearful and tense body language appears when the shock is applied. These signals of fear and stress may be subtle, but they are often there if we take a closer look.

Have studies been done on humane and aversive methods or on devices such as the shock collar?

 Yes, you can find a good summary of the scientific literature here (https://spca.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/dog-training-methods-review.pdf). Credit: Dr Joanna Makowska

There has also been a recent study done on the efficacy of shock collar training vs positive reinforcement-based training: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00508/full

You say we should teach animals with kindness but what about kindness to people who use shock collars and other methods you disagree with? Why label us cruel and say we are torturing animals? A lot of anger and hate is being directed at us.

Our Teach with Kindness initiative has not labeled shock collar users ‘cruel’ or said that these are devices of ‘torture’. While we may disagree with proponents of shock collars, we will do so respectfully. Vitriol should not be directed at anyone for their choice of training methods.

 We believe that the vast majority of pet guardians want the best for their pets and do everything they can to provide their pets with a good life, and this includes those who use shock collars.

There are, however, instances where “harsh” and punitive methods cross the line and become animal cruelty and we will never hesitate to speak up against that and do all we can to prevent it from happening again.

Here is an example of what we consider to be cruelty in training:
In a 2017 case, a dog trainer, in an effort to discipline a pet dog, used the animal’s leash to hang the dog (all four feet off the ground), with the animal thrashing about in fear for its life. The trainer then pinned the dog to the ground and grabbed the dog by the neck to strangle it, with its eyes turning bloodshot and tongue blue. Despite furious protests from the dog’s owners, the trainer continued with the abuse while mocking them and saying that their dog would never learn if they were so nice to their pet. He only stopped after the owners informed him that the dog started sputtering blood.

 There are other similar cases in recent years. Even if we disagree on the shock collar, we trust that all who have spoken up in support of the shock collar agree with us that the 2017 case describes cruelty to an animal and that these methods have no place in animal training. Please join the effort to shift these trainers to a humane and kinder approach.

Where can I learn more about force-free methods?

 We have put together a list of resources and done our best to ensure the content is of high quality and that the methods taught are humane. However, we cannot guarantee all of the content and we do encourage you to be a discerning learner and to always apply the principles we have outlined throughout our ‘Teach with Kindness’ programme to any content you come across.

 We have put together a list of resources and done our best to ensure the content is of high quality and that the methods taught are humane. However, we cannot guarantee all of the content and we do encourage you to be a discerning learner and to always apply the principles we have outlined throughout our ‘Teach with Kindness’ programme to any content you come across.

What are aversive training methods?
These are methods that can cause pain, injury, fear, distress, or anxiety and include techniques such as beating, kicking, and choking, using equipment such as choke chains, prong collars, and electric shock collars. In fact, any tool can be used aversively. A standard flat collar and leash in the wrong hands can be used to choke or hang an animal. A martingale collar used incorrectly can also choke a dog.

Why are aversive training methods harmful?
There are three main concerns.

  1. The physical and mental harm the animal suffers. For example, when an electric shock is emitted from a shock collar, the animal experiences pain at that point in time. But not only that, the animal now has to endure the fear of expected future pain. This can cause a lot of distress. A prong collar is designed to cause discomfort and pain. One particularly horrific training method employed by some dog trainers is to hang or choke a dog so as to cause suffocation.

  2. Aversive methods generally do not address the underlying causes of unwanted behaviour. If, for example, a dog is barking excessively, beating the animal every time it barks does not address the root cause of why the animal is barking. This not only causes unnecessary pain and distress for the animal but is unlikely to resolve the problem. The method also does not provide the animal with an alternative and acceptable behaviour to perform. In some cases, it may be reinforcing the unwanted behaviour. If one shouts at a dog every time it barks, the dog may enjoy the attention and continue barking.

  3. Aversive methods can lead to the development of other problem behaviours, including aggression. 

Does that mean aversive methods do not work?
While it may be possible for aversive methods to achieve the desired results, we believe that the process matters as much as the outcome. Just because a tool seems effective does not mean it is the right one to use on your pet, especially when there is the potential to cause significant harm to the animal. Since there are equally, and often more effective humane methods available, there is no reason to resort to aversive training. 

Why are aversive methods still commonly used?
One reason is that there are still many dog trainers who teach and promote these methods. Another common reason is that these methods are often touted as quick and easy solutions to behaviour problems.

What is wrong with quick and easy? Not everyone has the time to manage their pet’s behaviour problems.
We do empathise with pet guardians struggling for time. There is nothing wrong with quick and easy in itself. We would love to promote something that achieved results fast if it were truly beneficial for handler and pet. However, aversive-based training methods can cause significant harm to the animal, may not actually be solving the problem, and may even lead to the development of other behaviour issues.

Would you not prefer to employ a method that produces more lasting results in a way that does not cause pain or distress to your pet? With a method that is enjoyable both to you and the animal? A quick and easy forceful fix today may result in another problem tomorrow. You will end up spending much more time than you initially thought. So ‘quick and easy’ isn’t really so.

It is also not true that force-free methods always take more time, rather the skills of the trainer are a key factor in resolving a behaviour problem.

Finally, keeping a pet comes with considerable responsibilities. It requires time and patience to meet these commitments. 

But it works! I used a prong collar on my dog and my dog doesn’t pull when out for walks anymore. A shock collar has stopped my dog from barking. This was what a ‘professional’ trainer advised and also, nothing else worked. Why is this wrong?
The first point to address is that ‘nothing else worked’. This is a very common refrain of trainers who use aversive methods who say they only employ painful or fear causing methods because all else has failed. There is a diverse group of dog trainers in Singapore and while some will only use aversive methods as a ‘last resort’, there are some who use them as ‘go-to’ training tools. Be wary of both groups, especially the latter.

If your trainer informed you that there are no other options available other than aversive methods, it may be that they have reached the limit of their knowledge and are unaware of alternatives. It is also possible that they have a misunderstanding of, and a lack of experience with humane and force-free methods. Some prefer to stick to what they know well.

Yes, it is possible for an aversive method to work. However, in many cases, the animal is merely suppressing the unwanted behaviour in the presence of the aversive tool to avoid the negative outcome, and the tool will need to be used in the long term. This means the animal may be repeatedly subjected to pain, fear, or distress over a prolonged period. Also, some animals get used to the pain and may thus require increasing levels of force to be used on them to achieve the same results.

With aversive methods, the animal is made to perform a wanted behaviour or to not perform an unwanted behaviour out of fear of punishment. Stress levels are high during training and can persist even after. There is a much better alternative for both parties, where the animal performs a behaviour that is rewarding for them. When your pet is having fun, they are willing to work harder.

Is a person breaking the law if he/she hurts an animal during training or while disciplining it?
Yes. There have been cases in the past where individuals, including a dog trainer, had action taken against them for harming animals in the name of training and discipline.

In 2016, a man was charged in court for kicking, punching, and choking his dog in an effort to discipline it. He pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was fined $8,000.

In 2019, a man was caught kicking his dog, lifting the dog from the ground by its leash and grabbing its neck and pinning the dog down. He was found guilty of animal cruelty, fined $10,000, and banned from keeping pets for one year. 

Recently, enforcement action was taken against a dog trainer who hung and strangled a dog till the dog turned blue and spluttered a few drops of blood.

I have seen a dog trainer or pet guardian hanging and choking dogs, or using similarly brutal methods. What should I do?
Hanging (animal off all four legs) or choking dogs (either with equipment or with bare hands) is unfortunately not uncommon. The industry even has a term, ‘helicoptering’, for hanging and choking dogs such that they struggle at the end of a leash and thrash about in fear for their life.

Remember this case from 2015? The guardian was trying to discipline his dog and his method of choice was to hang and choke the dog into submission. Thankfully, the SPCA was able to take in the dog and we eventually found it a loving home.

These are clearly cruel methods that have no place in animal training and must be punished under the law. The same applies if these acts are carried out by a “professional” animal trainer. 

If possible and if safe for you to do so, stop the handler from hurting the dog. Collect as much evidence as you can, including pictures and videos where possible, and lodge a report with the SPCA here.

Why is the SPCA asking for a ban on the electric shock collar?
The SPCA is continuing in its call for a ban on the use of the electric shock collar, as the device is harmful and has no place in animal training. Its use is already banned or significantly restricted in numerous countries and jurisdictions such as Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and parts of the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia. Many animal-related professional organisations around the world are also against its use.

What kind of training does SPCA advocate?
We advocate humane, force-free, rewards-focused, and evidence-based approaches to animal training. Examples of this are the use of rewards such as food, toys, or praise to promote desired behaviours, as well as to encourage the learning of alternative behaviours in place of unwanted behaviours.

What are the benefits of force-free training?
The humane approach is backed by modern scientific understanding of animal psychology and behaviour. We believe this approach is not only effective and achieves long-lasting results, but is also kinder. It makes training more enjoyable for the animal and the human while encouraging the development of a strong, positive human-animal bond.

Force-free methods are used by trainers and organisations all around the world in a wide variety of settings.

How do rewards work?
Rewards motivate a dog to make good choices. The reward reinforces the good behaviour that we want, and the dog is more likely to repeat that same desired behaviour in another similar situation. With consistent practice, the dog becomes more reliable and fluent in making the desired choice. 

Can I still use rewards-based training if my pet is not food motivated?   
Yes, you can! Ways to train a pet without treats: 

How do I resolve behaviour issues such as excessive barking, pulling on the leash, chewing of furniture, and toileting in the wrong place? Can these really be solved with force-free methods?
The force-free approach works for both obedience training as well as behaviour problems. There are free resources available to you online.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) has both written content and some videos on pet care, including material on how to address common behaviour problems.

If you prefer to learn by watching, Zak George, a US-based force-free trainer, produces good and easy to understand videos covering a very wide range of topics linked to behaviour.

If you need further help, please contact a humane and qualified trainer for assistance. 

Do reward-based techniques work if I don’t have the time to practice with my pet every day? 
We must acknowledge that when we bring an animal into our home, we have a duty to spend time on training and teaching the animal what is acceptable behavior. No method will work if one is not committed.  

Training, however, doesn’t always have to be done in stand-alone sessions and can be easily worked into a daily routine. For example, you can teach and practice a ‘sit’ when putting on your pet’s harness and leash. Or teach your pet a trick while waiting for the lift. These mini training sessions can really add up!

Can force-free methods solve my problem immediately?
Generally speaking, no. You should also be very skeptical of methods which can solve a behaviour problem fast. Some of these may “solve” one problem but lead to the development of others. 

Animals’ personalities and behaviours are complex, just as in humans. How many of us can solve our own ‘problem’ habits with one quick-fix solution?

Modifying an animal’s behaviour and teaching them what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour (largely human-created rules) takes time. Helping our beloved companions face their fears and challenges in a kind, patient, and consistent manner will lead to the development of a strong and positive human-animal bond and a much happier animal.

Will my pet put on weight if I keep giving him treats? Wouldn’t this lead to obesity-related health problems?
Reward-based training, even when treats are used, does not have to result in weight gain. 

If you have used up say 25% of your pet’s daily caloric needs with treats/favorite food during training, then reduce their meal intake to 75%. You should also keep an eye on overall nutritional requirements, being careful not to provide an excess of low nutritional value treats. There are plenty of healthy treat options available. Consult your vet if in doubt.

You can even use a portion of their daily meal for training or enrichment games! Why feed a dog in a bowl when you can place that food into a puzzle toy, providing your pet loads of fun while burning off excess energy at the same time?  

How can I find a humane and force-free trainer?

There are no qualifications which guarantee a trainer uses only force-free approaches. There are also no certifying or accrediting bodies in Singapore who can vouch for a trainer’s methods.

Besides using the above poster as a guide, ask the trainer about their methods and if they use any aversive methods or tools and ask them for a list of their professional qualifications. It is important you thoroughly assess the trainer and their methods before engaging them and making any payments. This can help you avoid situations where you inadvertently expose your beloved pet to things like smacking, jabbing, choking and hanging. 

Is there a list of dog trainers in Singapore you recommend?
The SPCA does not maintain a comprehensive list at this time. To produce and maintain such a list would require significant resources as trainers and their methods would need to be thoroughly assessed.

So in lieu of a list, we have produced the above guide on how one can find a humane trainer. But due diligence is required when selecting one.

How much do dog training lessons cost?
Dog training costs largely depend on the experience and qualifications of the trainer, complexity of the training, number of hours, location and whether it is individual or group training. A private lesson can cost anywhere from $80 – $350 per hour, while group classes range from $40 – $150 per hour for a six to eight-week programme.

My pet was trained using “traditional” punishment-based methods. Can we now take up force-free training? 
It is never too late and you should certainly change your approach to a force-free one to avoid aversive methods. In fact, many pet guardians and trainers have done so. And your pet will love you for it!

I have tried engaging a force-free trainer for my pet for a behaviour problem, but it did not work. What should I do next?
You can go back to your trainer to discuss why the problem has persisted and what can be done. There are no easy solutions with behaviour and modifying an existing habit will take time, patience and a consistent approach. Sometimes, we need to change the approach if something is not working and consider consulting other professionals such as veterinarians. It is possible you may have missed something (e.g. an underlying medical condition) so it is always useful to review the whole situation again if the desired results have not been achieved.

If the issue is still not resolved, you can consider getting a second opinion from another force-free trainer as each trainer comes with their own expertise and experience.

My trainer calls himself a ‘positive’ dog trainer and says they use positive reinforcement methods. But some of their methods are harsh and make me uncomfortable. What is going on?
This article sheds some light on the issue.

Have studies been done on humane and aversive methods or on devices such as the shock collar?
Yes, you can find a good summary of the scientific literature here.

Credit: Dr Joanna Makowska

For several decades, SPCA has seen cases reporting the use of forceful and punishment-based animal training methods in Singapore, predominantly in dog training. These include beating, kicking, choking, and hanging.

Here are some cases from recent years:

Case 1
In a 2017 case, a dog trainer, in an effort to discipline a pet dog, used the animal’s leash to hang the dog, with the animal thrashing about in fear for its life. The trainer then grabbed the dog by the neck to strangle it, with its eyes turning bloodshot and tongue blue. Despite furious protests from the dog’s owners, the trainer continued with the abuse while mocking them and saying that their dog would never learn if they were so nice to their pet. He only stopped after the owners informed him that the dog started spluttering
blood. The case was referred to the then Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and enforcement action was taken against the trainer.

Case 2
A Japanese Spitz dog in a 2015 case was similarly hung by its owner, who was trying to discipline the animal. Thankfully, an eye witness managed to obtain video evidence and the SPCA was able to take in the dog with the help of the police. The video went viral online with many condemning the owner’s actions. The dog was eventually rehomed.

Case 3
In 2016, a man was charged in court for kicking, punching, and choking his dog in an effort to discipline it, with the abuse caught on camera. He pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was fined $8,000 by the court.

Case 4
A man was caught on video kicking his dog, lifting the dog from the ground by its leash and grabbing its neck and pinning the dog down. Earlier this year, he was found guilty of animal cruelty, fined $10,000 and banned from keeping pets for one year.

World Animal Day 2020 Webinars

3 OCT, 11:00AM — BASIC DOG TRAINING
Speaker: Angie Tan, Puppylove Dog Training
4 OCT, 11:00AM — GUIDE FOR PUPPY OWNERS: BEHAVIOUR
Speaker: Dr Haoting Chow, SPCA Locum Veterinarian
8 OCT, 8.00PM — INTRODUCTION TO CANINE MASSAGE
Speaker: Karen Lim, Canine Massage Practitioner and Co-Founder of Paws Fur Life
10 OCT, 3:00PM — GUIDE TO HARNESSES
Speaker: Angie Tan, Puppylove Dog Training
11 OCT, 1:00PM — ADDRESSING COMMON DOG BEHAVIOUR ISSUES
Speakers: Cheryl Goi & Al Chong, M.D.T (My Dog Trainer)
17 OCT, 11:00AM — PET FIRST AID
Speakers: Dr Angeline Yang & Choo Zheng Hao, Co-founders of VetMobile, SPCA Locum Veterinarian & Nurse
18 OCT, 11:00AM — “DO YOU HAVE A VELCRO DOG?” – ANXIETY IN DOGS
Speakers: Dr Haoting Chow (SPCA Locum Veterinarian) & Dr Daphne Ang (Veterinarian)

SPCA Singapore presents a series of pet care webinars this October. We will be sharing force-free training techniques, pet first aid, and canine massage.

Click the Zoom links below to register — there will be Q&As for all sessions!

For full list of World Animal Day deals in October (pet portraits, embroidery & more), click here.

1. Basic Dog Training Webinar (3 Oct, 11.00am)

Want to learn the basics of dog training? Our first webinar has got you covered! Learn how to teach your dog its name, how to sit, how to get used to wearing a harness, and how to walk comfortably on a leash. We will also talk about why we advocate a humane and force-free approach and how you can get started on this journey.

Register here.

2. Guide for Puppy Owners: Behaviour (4 Oct, 11.00am)

Starting off right sets you and your canine companion up for long-term success. Recently obtained a puppy or about to get one? Then this webinar is for you. In this session, we will cover a puppy’s development and how to socialise and train your puppy. You will learn how to help them grow into well-adjusted dogs while minimising the potential for the development of behaviour issues.

Register here.

3. Introduction to Canine Massage (8 Oct, 8:00pm)

In this webinar, pet parents will learn how to massage their canine companions, why massage after exercise is beneficial for dogs, and how it can strengthen the bond between humans and animals.

Register here.

4. Guide to Harnesses (10 Oct, 3.00pm)

Ever thought of getting a harness for your dog or have questions about whether a harness is right for your pet? In this webinar, you will learn all about harnesses, and the differences between the various tools you can use to walk your dogs. Stay tuned for a giveaway at the end!

Register here.

5. Addressing Common Dog Behaviour Issues (11 Oct, 1.00pm)

Most pet parents need assistance with a behaviour problem at some point. We are here to help. Our speakers will address common behaviour issues such as excessive barking and toilet training fails. Come with questions and we will do our best to advise.

Register here.

6. Pet First Aid (17 Oct, 11.00am)

Want to be better equipped with a first aid kit for your pet? Join us to learn simple skills and techniques that you can apply. What you learn may one day save an animal’s life!

Register here.

7.  “Do you have a Velcro Dog?” –  Anxiety in Dogs (18 Oct, 11.00am)

Is leaving the house a traumatic experience for both you and your pet? Do you return home and find things damaged by your pet? 

These could be signs that your pet is experiencing anxiety. Join us as we discuss anxiety in animals and how it can impact their quality of life. Know the signs and understand how we can help our pets feel more comfortable and confident about being home alone.

Register here.