Extreme pet pampering: Music enrichment classes for dogs?

SINGAPORE – Fancy sending your dog to enrichment classes?

Pet-related services are upping the ante for “pawrents” who want to offer their furkids the best in life amid rising pet ownership in Singapore: active dog licenses here went up from 70,000 in 2019 to 72,000 in 2020, for example.

Luxury cruises like the Royal Albatross have even introduced dog cruises, which cost more than $200 a head for owners and between $30 and $100 a dog, depending on their size.

Alongside their owners, dogs get to enjoy a three-course meal featuring an entree of Atlantic salmon tartare; a choice of chicken, beef or duck for the main course; and organic fruit gelato for dessert.

Not everyone believes pets require expensive pampering to be happy, though. Ms Jessica Tay, 18, has a four-year-old ragdoll cat, Sojirou, and while her family does spend on premium cat food and grooming, it does not on extra services.

“I don’t think pampering is necessary – just providing your pet with good care and love should be enough,” says Ms Tay, who is waiting to enter university.

On the other hand, engineer Charles William, 36, estimates that he spends more than $400 a month on his dog Groot, including sending the mixed-breed maltipoo and pomeranian for enrichment classes.

“Investing in my dog’s upkeep and enrichment benefits his cognitive and physical needs,” Mr William says.

For those who have the means and desire to treat their pets, here are three services that take pet care up a notch.

Send your dogs to school

In Ms Joy Chia’s music class, students know how to hit their tambourines and jingles on cue.

They are also dogs.

Ms Chia, 41, runs Pawsible Enrichment School, where owners send their dogs to attend classes from 9am to 4pm. There, they learn to count, play music and make art.

“My interest has always been looking at how dogs can be more integrated into society,” she says.

She received formal training from the Karen Pryor Academy, graduating in 2013 with a certificate in dog training.

The mother of three runs the school with her husband, though most of the training is done by her. She has a shih tzu named Pica.

Each class, consisting of 25 to 30 dogs, follows a unique lesson plan that caters to the dogs’ pace. The sessions cost $70 to $100 each.

Over a decade since the school’s opening, Ms Chia has created a curriculum that “teaches dogs to help understand us better”, and is always on the lookout for ways to improve her lessons. She teaches enrichment classes to more than 100 dogs a month.

Dogs learn “basic manners” in their first two years of schooling, which includes socializing with other pets, before progressing to “creative training”, which ranges from understanding dialect to making cards for their owners for occasions such as Chinese New Year and Mother’s Day .

“I love music, so I taught the dogs how to play different instruments, and that was really fun because some of the families I know play the tambourine or jingle with their furkids,” Ms Chia says.

She feels the biggest difference between merely training and enriching a dog is that enrichment focuses on the holistic development of the dog, in terms of physical, emotional and mental well-being.

She maintains that dogs are capable of more than we give them credit for. “I believe dogs can sense more than us. I don’t mean sniffing, but sensing.”

For example, one of the dogs at the school, D, is able to sense his owner’s arrival by car minutes before he turns up.

“When D starts pacing around, I will receive a text from the daddy saying that he is three minutes away. This became so consistent to the point where I told the daddy: ‘You don’t need to tell me any more, because D will.'”

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