Hanoians spend big on teaching young dogs tricks

By Nguyen Ngoan   November 7, 2021 | 03:44 am PT
Dog owners in Hanoi are willing to spend good money to have their wards professionally trained to be obedient and well behaved or even more aggressive towards strangers.

Two weeks after he had sent his puppy to a training center, Ngo Quang Thang of Long Bien District met his Golden Retriever again and noticed obvious changes.

"My dog is healthier, more agile and more obedient," he said, adding that he had spent VND9 million ($395.75) on the training course.

Ngo Quang Thanh visits his Golden Retriever at the dog training center. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

Ngo Quang Thanh visits his Golden Retriever at the dog training center. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

He bought the dog in July this year when it was just two months old. Untrained, it often peed inside the house.

Thang believes that it is important for dogs to form desirable habits and develop some skills at a young age. So when his puppy was five months old, he sent it to the PDS Professional Dog Training Center in Gia Lam District. Every weekend, he or his relatives visit the center and play with the dog.

Before signing the contract, he carefully reviewed the center's commitment and discussed at length what he wanted out of the training program. He wanted his pet to be more disciplined and in better physical health, as also receive the right medical care he needed.

Tran Le Thanh Tien, 24, a trainer and veterinarian at the PDS Professional Dog Training Center, said over the past four or five years, the demand for having dogs trained and taken care of at the center has increased.

The facility, established in 1996, trains about 100 dogs of many different breeds.

A short training course is a month long, while the longer one can last up to three months, depending on the needs of the owner.

Pets first get acquainted with the trainer, food and the living environment before they are trained to do tricks like standing, lying, sitting, shaking hands and "faking death".

Le Thanh Tien trains for a German Shepherd. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

Le Thanh Tien trains a German Shepherd. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

After finishing the course, the board of directors of the center will grade the pet's performance. If it passes, the dog can "graduate" from the school; if not, it will have to redo the course.

Each customer coming to the center has different needs. Some want their dogs to be better behaved, some want them not to bark when indoors and some want to get rid of their pet's habit of biting and scratching chairs and tables. Then there are owners who want their dogs trained to become fiercer and not timid.

Each trainer will meet directly with the owner to find out the latter’s wishes and aspirations. If they want the dog to be aggressive, the center will focus on early neurological stimulation that helps enhance the natural abilities of dogs. In contrast, a pet that needs to be more gentle and friendly will be trained to become more "socialized" with its trainer and other dogs.

"The price for a course is between VND8-9 million. But for dogs like Pitbulls or Tibetan Mastiffs, which are more difficult to train and need more experienced trainers, we charge VND12 million for each course," Tien said. "We can also teach dogs special commands, like attack to protect the owner, besides the basic tricks."

Tien said the most difficult thing in training was the first day of getting to know the pet. Many of them do not like strangers, so they attack the coach and do not allow them to get close. It might take trainers one to a few days to befriend some fierce dogs.

Training begins after the dog and the trainer have gotten to know each other. Every day, pets get to play around in the grass or concrete yard first the actual training begins, each session lasting 15-30 minutes. Trainers take care not to over-exercise pets because it can easily leads to the dog's disinterest and unwillingness to cooperate.

They are released to play in the field after each session and return to the cage to rest or continue the exercise a second time.

The diet for all dogs is the same and they all eat together. Their diet includes bran, chicken head or neck, liver and beef. Trainers also change the menu regularly so their wards don’t get bored.

"Currently, the center has 11 coaches, with each training 5-10 dogs," Tien said.

Two dogs during their training sessions. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

Two dogs go through their training sessions. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

Tien said coaches are trained for three months, from basic skills of getting acquainted and to full-fledged coaching. After graduation, they are awarded certificates and can receive dogs for training.

The important prerequisite for a trainer is to love the job and love the pet, he said.

"Each dog has its own personality that one has to relate to. So one needs to have a passion for this job before they can start teaching the dogs effectively."

Hoang Thai Bao, a 24-year-old animal lover, has applied to be a trainer at the center.

Given a choice between learning to train regular or fierce dogs, Bao has chosen the former because they are cute and more approachable.

At the moment, he is taking care of three puppies- a Husky, an Alaskan and a Golden Retriever.

"Sometimes I get bitten and injured. Since some of them are pampered at home, they get angry easily when they first arrive at the center," he said, adding that it can take a week or even a month for dogs to become less aggressive and start to get along with the trainer.

The bottom line is that "dog training is difficult, but for dog lovers, it is more a hobby than a job."

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