At the Jinjiajun Dog Training Centre, it isn't just the pets that have to be taught how to behave, it's their owners too. Trainers at the upmarket dog school and kennels in Beijing spend almost as much time getting their clients to adjust their habits as they do schooling their pets. 'Often, training the dogs involves training the owners,' says Wang Weigang, a PR manager at Jinjiajun. The dog training business is booming in the capital because while more and more residents are keeping dogs, many have little idea of how to get them to behave. 'A lot of our clients are dinkies [dual income, no kids] - and they treat their dogs like substitute children,' says Wang. 'They love their dogs too much and don't want to discipline them. We have to tell them to stop spoiling the dogs and to behave better.' Chemicals company boss Simon Lee, for instance, admits that it's partly his fault that Mocha, his Wheaten Terrier, is a tearaway. 'I do spoil him. I give him inappropriate food and I let him jump in my bed, which isn't very good. I know I will have to change my behaviour too for him to improve,' says Lee, a Hongkonger who has lived in Beijing for 12 years. He's enrolling Mocha for a two-month training course at Jinjiajun. To soften the blow of being separated from his master, Mocha has been booked into so-called VIP accommodation. For 5,000 yuan (HK$5,600) a month, his terrier will get to share a two-room villa, complete with pictures on the wall and a terrace, with three other dogs and a trainer who sleeps alongside them. 'Mocha needs a VIP room because they have air conditioning; he's a long-haired dog and he can get too hot in the summer,' says Lee. Pampering their pooches is second nature for the people who bring their dogs to Jinjiajun. 'Most of our clients are rich. Some are CEOs of their own companies, or they are executives,' says Wang. Founded 12 years ago, Jinjiajun is the oldest dog training centre on the mainland, as well as the biggest and most expensive of the 10 dog schools that have sprung up around Beijing. A basic one-month training course at Jinjiajun costs 4,500 yuan, rather more than the 3,700 yuan average monthly salary for Beijing residents. Located 90 minutes' drive north of the capital in Pinggu district, it has a team of mostly twentysomething staff who learned their skills from dog trainers from Germany, the US, Japan and Taiwan. Their expertise is a key reason for Jinjiajun's popularity among Beijing's well-heeled dog fanciers. They must be part friend, part psychiatrist and part teacher to the dogs they train. 'We spend the first two weeks playing with the dogs and getting to know them. Once you know the dog's character, the job is much easier,' says Xi Yanna, a 29-year-old trainer originally from Jiangsu. Xi spends much of her time curing dogs of bad habits learned from owners. 'Sometimes, the owners will be having dinner and they'll let the dogs jump on the table and eat with them. That's very bad,' she says. Then there are the dogs that think they're the boss. 'The worst behaviour I've seen is when the dog leads the owner wherever it wants to go. That's completely wrong,' she says. Xi's pet hate, though, are the people who regard their dogs as mere accessories. 'Some owners do treat their dogs as toys. They dye their hair and put them in silly clothes, especially if they are small dogs. But dogs don't like to wear clothes or be treated like that and I'll advise the owner politely not to do that.' Owners often visit their pets at the weekends and most are pleasantly surprised by the change in their behaviour. Chen Yujie, a 22-year-old project manager at a construction firm, brought Han Han, his Russian Samoyed, to the training centre almost two months ago in an effort to get him to be more obedient. 'He has made a lot of progress. He's a lot quieter and better behaved. Before, he'd destroy things in the apartment and put his paws on the TV screen,' says Chen. Just as their owners are among Beijing's elite, so the dogs at Jinjiajun are a cut above the average mutt. Most are pedigree hounds and for a minimum fee of 10,000 yuan, the centre provides its own pure-bred dogs from around the world to mate with them. But not even a pedigree pet is guaranteed a place at Jinjiajun. The dogs must pass an interview before the centre will accept them, as if they were applying to an exclusive boarding school. 'We assess the dogs first for an hour and if we think they can't be trained, we won't take them. It all depends on the dog's age, breed and how spoiled they are. We do get some dogs that are so badly behaved that it's difficult to train them,' says Wang. 'In general, dogs raised in China are hard to train. They can be quite hot-tempered. When people choose a dog, they look for a good-looking animal but don't take into account their character.' Apart from obedience training, the centre also prepares animals to compete in the dog shows that have started to take place on the mainland in the past couple of years. And as the only dog training centre authorised by the China Kennel Union to train Alsatians, Jinjiajun offers an 'anti-terrorism' course. 'It's for people who live in big houses. We teach the dogs how to protect their owners. The trainers pretend to be intruders and we teach the dogs to bark loudly and warn the owners. But we don't train them to attack and bite people,' says Wang. Rising incomes are the main reason for the boom in dog ownership in Beijing, which has resulted in the number of registered dogs in the capital reaching 800,000, a 500 per cent increase since 2002. But changes in mainland society have had an impact too. 'People feel more lonely now. The effect of the one-child policy and the increase in older people living alone means they need to find an animal that can be a companion,' says Lu Di, director of the China Small Animal Protection Association. 'A dog is the best choice, because they are very loyal.' Many owners are equally faithful. Wang Yan paid 40,000 yuan so that Dun Dun, an Alaskan Malamute/Siberian Husky cross that she bred while studying in Britain, could return to Beijing with her. 'It was very difficult and expensive to bring him back. But it was totally worth the money ... although I haven't told my parents how much it cost,' says the 27-year-old accountant as she plays with her pet at Jinjiajun. Such devotion has enabled a whole industry to develop to cater to the needs of dog owners. From pet cemeteries and posh kennels, to gourmet pet food and designer clothes, there's never been a better time to be a dog in Beijing. The government, too, is beginning to change its view of pets as a bourgeois affectation. 'The government can see that the pet industry will create job opportunities as well as enable it to raise tax revenue,' says Lu. In changing their attitudes towards dogs, the authorities are simply catching up with public opinion. In the past decade, dogs have gone from being regarded as potential food to an integral part of many households in mainland cities. Now, their owners can't imagine living without them. 'I'm going to miss him while he's being trained,' says Lee of Mocha. 'But he's only six months old. We'll have many more years together.'