After more than 2 months, we thought it was time to bring Amber to NEX playground again! This time we decided to meet up with Toffee and his family to train him on some basic interaction as well as introducing Amber to them for the first time.
We had walked and played with Amber for about 40 minutes in the morning, she did really well, even showed some of her tricks to a Malay man, he was watching Amber from a distance and asked me if she knew how to sit, we proceeded to doing a series of tricks after sitting and he was so impressed that he was laughing during the whole performance, we were very proud of Amber :)
Whenever we are preparing to go out, Amber would make a sad little face knowing that she cannot tag along, however this time round she was very excited because she had seen us cleaning her carrier, she was fidgeting and even stayed flat in her carrier while I was changing the pee pad inside. Although it was fun to watch Amber being happy, her energy was so high that she just couldn't stay put, this already gave us an idea in mind how she would behave later on when she reaches NEX.
We reached NEX at about 6pm, it was a sunny evening but with slight drizzle. Upon reaching the playground we were disappointed, not only was the ground wet which we could understand because of the rain, it was also very dirty, we could see small branches scattered around the place and also plenty of dead leaves all over the playground, even saw a big pool of urine with a bunch of tissue soaked in the middle of the place just like that, the water dispenser was also flooded and seemed to look yellow. This was a big change compared to our first impression of NEX, we had already been there for over a year frequently and even on rainy days it had never felt like this, we believed that 3 things went wrong here, the rain, inconsiderate owners and bad management, with better maintenance this wouldn't be happening anyways. As I walked Amber in, some people were staring at her, wanting to touch and play with her, she tensed up the leash a little but I proceeded to walk her away from them, this was to show her that I am the one introducing the place to her and also made use of this chance to calm her down before letting her off leash, we saw 2 children with their terrier dog struggling and watching Amber in envy, one of the child then said this to his brother, "how come our dog cannot be like that dog (Amber)", we smiled and continued walking nevertheless.
In a short while, Amber's excitement level went down a little, I put her off leash and expected her to walk beside me for a bit, she did follow for a while but went off to smell another dog during the process, I called her with a firm tone and she responded, which eventually earned her rights to roam freely. Amber was wary of the dirty ground and pools of water, she would be careful not walk into these places and that actually affected her ability to interact with other dogs, it was pretty sad to watch her doing that.
Moments later Toffee and his family came, he seemed to have grown really well! We were kind of embarrassed to tell them about the place in it's current state, all we could say was that NEX playground wasn't this bad the last time we came, we actually proceeded to the other section destined for big dogs which looked slightly better, I did not understand why it was limited to big dogs even when most of the obstacle were short and perfect for Amber, but we went ahead anyways. We then proceeded to bring Toffee and introduced him to the environment, while walking we took the chance to explain about dog's body posture using the 2 other dogs that were present as an example, the children's terrier and a golden retriever, the golden retriever though looked bigger and stronger to most people, were actually much calmer and friendlier compared to the small sized terrier, we also explained about body languages of dogs and continued, this time introducing Toffee to one of the obstacle slowly. Most people have no idea and would just carry their dog onto the obstacles without introducing first, they would then find their dog being afraid and stressed whenever they are brought to these obstacles, dog playgrounds are supposed to be fun, sure there are some obstacles that may seem scarier to some dogs and would be harder to overcome than others, but if you find your dog being afraid of every single thing out there, it might have been a problem of how you introduce them. During the training we also noticed some people trying to listen to our tips to pick up some information, we should've actually spoke to them personally so that they wouldn't feel uncomfortable but we were so busy there wasn't time for introduction, we wanted to express our sincerity that there is nothing wrong with learning one or two tips from us, we would've been more than glad to share the things we knew!
We went to Doggiestyle cafe later on and managed to get seats for everyone, the staff had changed totally, no one was at the door to welcome us unlike before, it seemed pretty empty on a sunday too. While seated, we noticed 2 staffs staring at us for quite awhile, it's a feeling of "you need to order to sit" kind of look, we proceeded to hurry and look at the menu, which was changed totally! No more chi hua hua main course (Frankfurt), no more tofu pudding ice blend either, it seemed like this was the same cafe name with different management. We had expected the staff to proceed and ask what we wanted to order like before but they didn't, it was still acceptable till when i walked towards the counter to place an order, the female staff's face was totally black. She didn't smile, didn't reply when I made my order, instead just went ahead and key my order without speaking, not even a thank you, we did not know what was happening, seemed like this place (NEX playground) is turning upside down, this is one of the very few places in Singapore where pets are welcomed, you have a dog playground, a vet, a pet store and a dog cafe, this was also once a very crowded place, we had no idea what was happening but we could feel that it is not holding too well and may just close down anytime.
Can you differentiate who is Toffee and who is Amber?
Well since there were not much dogs around it was good for Toffee to experience socializing with dogs for a start, he had never been to places with a lot of dogs and we wanted to introduce socialization to him gradually, we walked him around the cafe for a few minutes, he was actually picking up really fast, I could see that there were no aggressive dogs at that time and asked to try letting him off leash, indeed Toffee was a very friendly dog, he was running, smelling other dogs and playing! It had been awhile since we saw a "normal toy poodle" that actually plays and run around like they should have been, nowadays the poodles we see are always very timid unlike what studies says about them, they are always carried everywhere they go like a baby, it was heart wrenching to see this happening to dogs that are taken in control by humans, who should've made their lives better and more enjoyable instead of the other way round.
Later in the evening a few more dogs came into the cafe, this was when we met a few dominant and protective dogs, we felt it was time to let Toffee experience and learn from this, we had agreed beforehand to let him handle this kind of situation himself while monitoring closely, he knew one of the dog was barking and shooing him out of it's "territory" but Toffee backed off a couple of steps only to return due to his curiosity, of course he was barked at again and he left after a few attempts. To humans this may seem like nothing educational but to dogs like Toffee they actually learned a great deal, if we were to pull him or carry him out of the scene he would never have learned to leave dangerous situations in future. Toffee also tried to correct other dog's bad behavior at some point, a dog was barking nonsense, by nonsense we mean barks that has no meanings, it was not a demanding bark but barks that are caused by bad habits. Toffee gave out a rough but soft bark towards that dog, the dog glanced at him but continued barking, Toffee made another soft bark and looked at his owner, his owner then said "No" and he kept quiet, but continue staring at that dog, it was really cute to watch him do this.
Amber on the other hand was playing with everyone she sees and asking for attention as usual, she was pawing for everyone to carry and play with her, and almost everyone she approached carried and played with her, which increased her excitement level even higher, even with a morning 40 minutes walk and run couldn't stop her. Though there were people praising Amber, we knew that it wasn't Amber's best behavior on that day, first of all she already knew we were bringing her out in the morning which got her excited before even reaching the place, also we had not brought her to dogs socializing places since the return of our trip, which was some of the reasons she was not up to her best behavior. However, we are still very proud of her, Amber is behaving better than 90% of the dogs we had seen out there, and the fact that she had never ever shown any aggression to any other dogs even if they were bullying her already made us proud, most important she is a high energy dog, which are the hardest to train. Even though we as the owner do not show our happiness in front of Amber, deep down we really understood and were impressed with her learning abilities and loyalty even though she find it hard to control herself at times. We found that Amber also loves to imitate other dogs, like how a pug jumped onto our table and attempted to eat the food we were having, Amber learned and jumped onto our table after a few minutes, she also tried to imitate Toffee by sitting beside him while I was teaching him some commands, we knew she did it for fun because she rejected my treats and there was no other reasons than to imitate Toffee for fun. Dogs learn to imitate each others action by watching, whether it is good or bad behaviors they follow, which is why we would correct the bad ones and improvise good ones, I would say that 2 dogs actually learn faster if you teach them right.
As it was time for Toffee's dinner, his owner placed the kibbles in a bowl and gave it to Toffee, a staff came over and said that we cannot feed our dog outside food even if it is a meal, he also said that the security staff outside was told to catch people that feed their dogs outside food in the cafe, and they can be fined up to $500, he seemed to be mentioned that the fine is to be charged to the cafe but we are not too sure, it sounded ridiculous. Well anyways Toffee ate so fast that he gobbled up his meal before the staff even finished his speech!
Can I? Can I???
We then saw Chanelle and her owner at the cafe, it was a pleasant surprise as we had not expected them to be there on that day, Chanelle looked afraid because she used to be hide in dark places, this was her first attempt to socialize so we had expected her to be afraid and hide again. We slowly introduced her to the place by walking her on a leash, she did not pull unlike previously, which showed her progress and improvements done by her owner, I then tried to bring her past the dominant dog at the other end of the room, she barked at the dog as expected but I corrected her and continued walking. The second round Chanelle only turned her head towards the dog, but she did not bark, and the third round she completely ignored the other dog, the other dog was still growling and barking at Chanelle but she ignored and walked pretty well! The only problem was that when I placed her off leash she hid under the sofa of her owner yet again, since we were busy monitoring Toffee we had to leave her to her owner for the rest of their stay. Chanelle was one of the Shih Tzu that had just finished her 3 sessions of training with us, she had quite a bit of trouble at first and was said to have improved after the training ended, we could feel the improvements but we knew there was much more to her learning abilities, she needs more patience, consistency and time, we are sure that with this she will become a perfect dog in time to come!
The whole outing was fun and exciting, not just for us but also for the dogs, Toffee and Amber had a great deal of fun and we heard that Toffee really tired himself out that day and slept well. Amber on the other hand was still energetic and wanted to play more, even during shower she was playing around with us, we brought her to our bed and she was tunneling our blankets for quite some time before we brought her back to her sleeping area!
We truly hoped to be able to meet out with Toffee and his family again in future, not forgetting to mention Chanelle too!
Click HERE to read their Testimonial on our training :)