As the designer dog trend sweeps across Cambodia, dog trainer Rattana Hin is stepping up his educational game. Editor Marissa Carruthers finds out about his mission to promote responsible dog ownership. Photography by Enric Català.

Huskies, Labradors, Samoyeds and Rottweilers – these are just a handful of the designer dogs and pedigree breeds that can increasingly be seen strutting along the capital’s streets. And this is a trend that is causing dog trainer Rattana Hin huge cause for concern.

“In recent years, I’ve noticed as more local people are becoming financially stable they are buying pets,” he says. “The designer dog phase is happening now and there are lots of problems.”

He adds the majority of these breeds are not made for Cambodia’s hot and humid environment, while many dog owners are ill-equipped with information on how to properly care for their pet pooch. However, his main concern lies in where the puppies come from. In many cases, he says they are bred at puppy farms in Thailand – often in tough conditions – and can be unwittingly bought riddled with deadly diseases.

“Where do these designer dogs come from? Often from a dog farm,” says Hin. “We don’t know if it will live or die and that takes a financial and emotional toll on the owner. It also becomes a phase, look at Paris Hilton. She has a designer dog, puts it in her purse and when she’s done with it, gives it away and gets another. It’s like changing a Louis Vuitton for a Prada. I see this happening now in Cambodia.”

The animal welfare advocate advises that before buying a dog, it is essential potential pet owners carry out their research. “Before I buy a car, I learn about the car, the manufacturer, whether or not it is fuel efficient. Apply the same theory to buying a dog. Look at the breed and your lifestyle. Does it fit your lifestyle? Don’t buy a giant Schnauzer and live in a small cramped condo. Can you afford it financially and emotionally? Do you have time for a dog?”

Ensuring that pets are looked after is also vital, with regular vaccinations and inevitable trips to the vets needed. Hin advises getting dogs spayed or neutered and suggests an even better option to buying a designer dog is to adopt a rescued animal.

“There are too many dogs already in Cambodia that are homeless,” he says. “There are dogs running rampant on the streets that you could love just the same. It’s not a Porsche but it could be a Toyota. It will still have four wheels and you can still love it the same.”

Having been surrounded by dogs when growing up in Battambang, it wasn’t until he moved to America as a teenager that he was first introduced to the concept of dog training. “I was inspired by the fact that you can control a dog and get it to do certain things you want done,” he recalls.

He started volunteering at various centres before enrolling at a dog training school to learn about dog psychology, behaviour and body language. Before moving back to Cambodia in 2014, he attended a series of workshops in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, further honing his skills.

Business quickly caught on in Cambodia, with Hin building up a portfolio of private clients, educational work in schools, training Cambodia Police dogs and carrying out security training with guard and protection dogs. 

His most recent leap in spreading his responsible ownership message saw him take to the small screen, featuring in the second series of National Geographic Channel’s Cesar’s Recruit Asia. Fronted by dog behaviourist Cesar Millan, of The Dog Whisperer, the reality TV show sees eight trainers from across Asia compete to be crowned top dog.

After having applied for the first season and not getting selected, Hin received a call back ahead of the follow up series asking if he wanted to take part. “They said they wanted Cambodia to be a part of the show,” he recalls. “It was an amazing opportunity and I used the show as my platform to bring dog ownership responsibility on to the international stage and bring more awareness to Cambodia. I’m the first Cambodian national to be on the show.”

Despite being eliminated in episode five, Hin says he gained heaps of experience and welcome exposure. The show can be seen on National Geographic TV Asia’s YouTube channel, with Hin featuring in episodes one, two and five.

Despite Hin’s concerns over dog ownership in Cambodia, he remains confident that with education attitudes will change and pets will be properly pampered, cared for and loved, regardless of their breed or background.

For information, visit raymondsdogs.com and follow Raymond’s K9 Academy and The Khmer Dog Whisperer on Facebook.