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AVS probing alleged animal abuse after dog’s skin turns red from e-collar use; trainer claims golden retriever had allergy

SINGAPORE — Accused of using training methods and tools that allegedly caused a one-year-old golden retriever to suffer a severe skin reaction, a pet trainer said that the dog had a suspected allergy to nickel on training collars that she recommended it wears.

Photos on social media showing a one-year-old golden retriever having a bad skin problem around its neck.

Photos on social media showing a one-year-old golden retriever having a bad skin problem around its neck.

  • A pet trainer is accused of mishandling a one-year-old golden retriever by advocating the use of e-collars on the dog
  • This was after photos emerged online and on social media of the dog having what looked like bad skin problems
  • The dog owner said that the animal was placed with the trainer when she went on holiday abroad
  • The Animal and Veterinary Service said that it was alerted to a case of alleged dog abuse and investigations are ongoing

SINGAPORE — Accused of using training methods and tools that allegedly caused a one-year-old golden retriever to suffer a severe skin reaction, a pet trainer said that the dog had a suspected allergy to nickel on training collars that she recommended it wears.

The trainer, whose identity is not known, said in a statement on an Instagram account called The Royal Tail that she proposed using prong and electronic collars on the dog because it was difficult to control "due to its excitability and large size" — it was about 30kg — and it was too strong for its owner to handle.

Photos had surfaced on social media showing the dog with what looked like red, inflamed skin around its neck. Online users were outraged by what they saw as animal cruelty.

In response to TODAY’s queries on Thursday (Jan 5) about this, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), which comes under the National Parks Board (NParks), said that it was alerted to a case of alleged dog abuse and investigations are ongoing.

A prong collar is made up of interconnected metal chain links that open towards a dog’s neck. With a tug on the leash or if the dog pulls on a leash, the prong exerts pressure around the dog’s neck.

An electronic collar (e-collar) transmits a form of electrical stimulus of varying intensities to the dog's nerves and sensory receptors but does not deliver an electric shock. It can cause pain to the animal at a very high intensity.

There is a perennial debate here and overseas on the use of such collars to train dogs. In 2020, the Government here said that it was commissioning a study on e-collars.

In this latest case, the trainer's name and the address of the training venue cannot be found on The Royal Tail's Instagram account. A Facebook account with the same name is no longer available for viewing.

TODAY reached out to the trainer on Wednesday but she did not reply.

She put out a response on a document labelled with Thursday's date and linked it to an Instagram Story on The Royal Tail's account. 


The dog owner who gave her name as just “Sally” told TODAY over the phone on Wednesday that she engaged the services of the trainer soon after a meeting around the end of August 2021.

Sally, a business development professional in her 40s, said that she was impressed by the insights that the trainer had provided and enrolled her pet for a “board and train” programme, which required the dog to stay at the trainer’s home located in the western part of Singapore.

She did not want to divulge the trainer’s name or give the address of the trainer’s home.

From the three-week programme, she saw satisfactory results and started using an e-collar on the dog that the trainer had recommended. There were no problems with that.

Sometime in May last year, she placed the dog with the same trainer for boarding because she was going on a 10-day holiday overseas.

About two days before returning home from her trip, she was told by the trainer on the phone that the golden retriever was scratching itself “quite a bit”.

Sally asked if there was an infection and the trainer said no.

She claimed that the trainer talked generally about dog allergies at the time but did not tell her how severe the condition was.

“Nothing she said was phrased in a way that (made it seem like) it was serious,” she added.

Upon returning to Singapore, she found out that her pet had “puncture” marks, swelling and a “bad smell”.

It was her friend who picked up the dog from the trainer because she was infected with Covid-19 after her holiday.

After seeing the dog’s condition, her friend took it to a 24-hour veterinary clinic. The treatment cost around S$500.

The veterinarian was unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the skin condition, but suggested that the wounds could have been made from tools that the trainer was using.

After the dog was picked up by the friend, the trainer sent Sally a WhatsApp message, offering to go to her house to shave the dog and clean up the wound. 

Sally replied that her pet was going to be taken to see the vet and there were no further interactions between them thereafter. 

Close-up views of "puncture" wounds on a dog's skin after it wore prong and electronic collars.

Sally told TODAY that the trainer could have done more under the circumstances.

“I just feel that if you know that something was wrong… I think as a responsible person, she should have just informed me about the severity of it and ask me if she could take the dog to the vet.

“I would think anybody would have done something like that. But of course, she didn't.”


In her statement linked to The Royal Tail’s Instagram account, the trainer said that in October 2021, the golden retriever underwent a three-week programme with her.

Its owner informed her that the dog had undergone training before without much improvement and was rejected from several daycare facilities due to its hyperactivity and reactivity.

As part of the consultation, the trainer then recommended that prongs and e-collars be used.

All was fine and there was no more coaching after the October session.

Then, in April last year, the trainer noticed skin reactions on the golden retriever via the client's Instagram account and asked how it was doing. 

The owner replied that the dog was taken to a vet for the skin conditions.

The next month, before the dog was dropped off for boarding, the trainer said that the owner told of how the dog had half of its mane shaved due to "an undetermined skin reaction".

"I verbally told (the owner) I suspected the dog might be allergic to the nickel in one of the tools (nickel allergy can be a common allergy in dogs)," the trainer said.

The dog was boarded and was in the process of healing, she added. No prong or e-collar were used in the early days of the stay.

However, to help the owner investigate whether the skin problems were caused by an allergic reaction to the nickel in the e-collar, the trainer placed it on the dog four times for short intervals over a few days.

The e-collar was not turned on when the dog was wearing it.

The dog started to show an allergic reaction even then, so the trainer told the owner that the existing e-collar strap was too small and tight for it. The owner then replied that it was recently bought and customised for the dog.

Another day, the trainer put a prong collar on the dog for 45 minutes for a walk. The dog started to itch a few hours later.

"I switched to a harness and the dog also presented with itching. I reported this to the client and she confirmed with me that the dog did scratch also while on harness."

The trainer claimed that the owner thanked her for investigating the cause of the skin reactions.

After these tests, from May 17 to 20, the trainer said that she did her best to provide “medical care and husbandry for the dog” to ease its allergic reaction but the dog was not cooperative.

When the dog was picked up from her place, she recommended that the training tools not be used on the dog for a while and for the pet owner to update her after going to the vet.

However, she did not hear from the owner after that. 


Last January, a new set of guidelines were launched — supported by AVS — that recommends science-based methods to train dogs more effectively without resorting to pain-inducing practices and tools that may cause distress to the animals.

The guidelines recommend the internationally supported “least intrusive, minimally aversive” approach in training animals.

This would be facilitated by a process that begins with an assessment of health, nutritional and physical factors that may affect a dog’s behaviour and removing triggers that may cause undesirable behaviour.

The guidelines were developed by the Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup, led by Mr Tan Kiat How, then Minister of State for National Development, and comprising stakeholders that included veterinarians, dog trainers and members of animal welfare groups.

In its statement on Thursday, AVS repeated its stance that it does not condone mistreatment of community animals.

It will take necessary and appropriate enforcement action against anyone who does not provide adequate care for their pet or has committed an act of animal cruelty.

People who are found to have failed in duty of care to their pets, including pet abandonment, or committing acts of animal cruelty can be charged under the Animals and Birds Act, it added.

First-time offenders who commit offences related to animal cruelty can be fined up to S$15,000 or jailed for up to 18 months, or both.

The public may report suspected cases of animal cruelty through its website at or call the Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600. 

Related topics

Dog pet electronic collar The Royal Tail

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