Once solely the domain of the army and police, dog training services in Vietnam have become more popular in recent years, with foreigners making up the majority of clients. “It seems that all foreigners with large homes have pets, mostly dogs,” said Ho Chi Minh City-based PDS Dog Training Center Director Nguyen Manh Ha. Ha said more than half of his customers were foreigners.
Tran Van Tien, a trainer at another center in HCMC, Vu Hung Dog Training Center, said most of his customers were owners or managers of foreign-invested companies.
At the PDS center, around 60 dogs – of breeds such as German Shepherd, Boxer, Rottweiler and Vietnam’s own Phu Quoc dog – are trained every day. Dogs are awarded graduation certificates after passing a training course that teaches them to protect their owners and guard the house. The courses usually take three months, however the time can vary depending on an individual dog’s bravery and ability to learn. “People who enter the house uninvited, take objects away or attack the dog’s owners will surely be punished by the dog,” Ha said.
Dog owners have to pay an average monthly fee of about VND1.5 million to VND2 million (US$88-$120) for a training course. The cost includes training, food and health care. Customers can choose to send their pet to board at the school or take them home each evening. For boarding “school students,” owners can visit their pets once a week. People can also buy a fully-trained dog from some HCMC training centers. Prices range from VND4 million ($240) to tens of million of Vietnam dong, depending on the breed of the dog.
A profession of sympathy
The Vu Hung training center’s head Vu Hung said a dog trainer needed to understand and accept the different temperaments of each of their canine students. “A trainer must be gentle because dogs cannot learn if they are frightened,” he said.
The more a trainer can make his students feel relaxed and comfortable, the more effective the training will be, Hung said. A dog has to take two two-hour training sessions a day, usually early in the day and in the afternoon when dogs are most active. But for lazy learners, trainers have to work harder and spend more time with the student, playing with it, talking to it and grooming it.
The training includes running, jumping over a bar and understanding verbal instructions and hand signals. “It usually takes a trainer a week to bond with a lazy dog before lessons can begin,” Hung said.
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