Man's best friend - and dancing buddy
FANCY a foxtrot with Fido? More Singaporeans have taken to dancing with their dogs.
The sport - called musical canine freestyle in the dog-training world - has been picking up speed here, adding to a plethora of quirky activities, like doga - yoga for dogs - said dog trainers.
Dog trainer Sunny Chong has been running such classes at the roving Sunny Chong Dog Training School for over a year.
He started out with just 20 participants in the first half of last year. This number, he said, grew to almost 100 in the second half.
"Most used to feel it was a waste of money. But now they seem to think, why not give it a try?" said Mr Chong, who charges $150 for a package of five dog dancing lessons and five agility lessons.
At first, he said, customers found the dance classes too complicated. "So we specially designed an elementary-level class for dogs without any form of prior training," said Mr Chong, adding that the sport has since taken off.
This year, he even has one dog owner forking out $1,000 for one-on-one dog dancing lessons for her poodle.
The APawz DogSports Academy has also bought into the trend. It had noticed dog owners trying their hand at the sport in the later half of last year and decided to offer classes this year because of the demand.
The dog-training school's founder, Ms Jazz Ng, who has been a trainer for over 10 years, said that dog owners view the activity as one of a slew of new dog tricks and see it as a challenge. It also leaves room for creativity, she said.
Musical canine freestyle typically involves a mixture of obedience training, tricks and heelwork, allowing for creative interaction between dogs and their owners - just like they are sharing a dance.
APawz charges $390 for six weeks of basic foundation dance lessons while SuperNova Academy of Dog Sports charges $380.
"You will see great teamwork and bonding between the dog and its handler in a well choreographed routine," said Ms Shanice Tan, training director at SuperNova Academy. "It can take one's breath away."
The 38-year-old has seen demand increase from one student in 2009 to 30 over the course of last year.
The trick to get owners motivated?
Upload the videos onto YouTube, said Mr Chong. The dog trainer, who has had 17 years of experience, started doing this in 2011, beginning with videos on agility and obedience. He said that it gives owners a sense of affirmation.
"Owners love to show off how clever their dog is at being able to do impressive moves or tricks. It serves as motivation to press on," he said.
Ms Karen Leong, 53, a student at Sunny Chong Dog Training School, said the dog-dancing lessons helped her bond with her three-year-old Pomeranian Nik.
"I am a dancer myself and to dance with him was enjoyable," said the personal assistant. "It didn't even matter if we got all the steps wrong."