Kept on a tight leash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2012, 12:00am


Some people make the mistake of having a pet dog without preparing for the level of responsibility involved.

The negative consequences are acutely felt in Hong Kong due to people living in small apartments, working long hours and having little or no areas for a dog to run freely.

'People need to learn more about dog behaviour before they decide to have one. Dogs naturally bark and use a lot of body language. But for some people, normal behaviour such as barking, play biting, jumping up and chewing are a great problem,' explains Beanie Tam, animal welfare supervisor at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (

Most problems come from dogs that lack socialisation skills when interacting with people or other dogs, Tam says. Many become over-active when their owner comes home late every day. This should not be seen as the dog having the problem.

'Owners need to be responsible and respect the needs of their dog. For example, all dogs need to be walked twice a day, every day. They need consistent attention and training from the principal owner not a domestic helper,' Tam says.

The SPCA runs three courses- puppy socialisation, basic beginner and intermediate obedience clicker.

The socialisation course is for puppies less than 18 weeks old, which have had their first two DHPPiL vaccinations. It teaches manners and obedience commands such as sit, down, leave it and stay and the ways to manage play-biting, housetraining, chewing and jumping up.

The basic beginner course is for dogs of more than 18 weeks, which have had up-to-date vaccinations including DHPPiL and rabies. It teaches commands such as sit, stand, stay, heel, loose leash walking, leave it and take it when invited. Food bowl guarding is also addressed.

The intermediate obedience clicker course is designed to improve a dog's responses using the clicker technique. This involves owners using a clicker device to give commands.

All courses are taught using a positive reinforcement method which focuses on training owners to manage their pet in a non-aggressive, positive and fun way, Tam says.

Using the idea that there should be no free lunch, owners are taught how to enable their pet to follow commands in order to receive a reward.

'We recommend a dog starts in a puppy socialisation course after its first two vaccinations. This could be when a puppy is 10 or 11 weeks old,' Tam says.

The SPCA has three training centres in Yau Ma Tei, Wan Chai and Sai Kung. The first lesson in all courses is a theory class that take place at the Wan Chai centre. Dogs are not required to attend.

All courses at all centres involve six hours of tuition and cost HK$1,800 for members and HK$2,100 for non-members.