Doggone it, is that the way to train a pooch?
A DEBATE has erupted over how dogs should be trained, after a video which showed a handler being harsh with her dog during an obedience competition was posted online.
The dog handler was seen tugging at the dog's collar and pulling its ear while getting it to retrieve a toy at the event held at the Singapore Expo on Friday.
Music teacher Audrey Yeo, 27, who took the video and posted it on YouTube and citizen journalism website Stomp, told My Paper: "I was shocked and traumatised. I don't think it's illegal for them to train dogs in this inhumane way, so I can only post it on the Internet to get dog lovers to speak up for the dogs."
Ms Yeo has reported the incident to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
SPCA's executive director Corinne Fong said: "SPCA would assist the AVA in investigations if more information comes our way. But we should not be too quick to judge. The owner could be a novice owner who did not know how to handle her dog, but she's not using a spiked collar as alleged - the dog was not bleeding." An AVA spokesman said it is "looking into" the incident.
Attempts to contact the dog handler in the video were unsuccessful, but My Paper understands that she is the dog's owner, and not a trainer.
The dog obedience competition, organised by the Pets Enterprises & Traders Association (Singapore), saw over 60 participants this year.
Its public relations officer, Eric Lim, 50, said: "Nobody has reported the incident to us, but we saw from the video that she's just trying to train her dog and we don't think it's her intention to injure her dog. Different dogs require different training methods, just like children."
Professional dog trainer Patrick Wong, 50, who owns Waggie's, said: "It's very hard to draw a line between what's right and what's wrong. There are different ways of training. People are overreacting, and they're calling her all kinds of names online. It's too much."
However, other professional trainers pointed out that the methods used in the video, while common, are "traditional" and "unnecessary".
"It's an old-school method. We were trained to do this, but I don't do it anymore because there are many downsides to this 'pain and avoidance' training. The emotional state of the dog will be poor," said a dog trainer who declined to be named.
"Sad to say, many trainers still use compulsive methods, because rewards-based training requires a lot more knowledge and patience as progress depends on how fast or slow a dog is."
Many trainers these days - such as Dexter Sim, 42, co-founder of PUPS Dog Training School - advocate the use of positive reinforcement in training dogs.
He explained: "You are not domineering and the dog is likely to be happier to work with you. This also means a closer, stronger and better relationship with the dog."
While the incident took place during a competitive event, Ms Shanice Tan, 38, training director at SuperNova Academy of Dog Sports, said that competitions should not be a reason for using harsh training methods.
She said: "Dog competitions are considered dog sports, which are meant to foster a better relationship between the dog and its handler or owner."
Ms Michelle Chan, a trainer at Pup Pup 'N' Away, who is in her early 30s, said: "I don't think that, at any point in time, the competition should overtake the dog's welfare. Sure, I want to win, but I wouldn't hurt my dog to get a trophy."