HomeDogsA Detailed Guide to Owning and Caring for a Singapore Special Dog

A Detailed Guide to Owning and Caring for a Singapore Special Dog

Henry B. from SOSD Singapore

Around the world, millions of stray dogs roam the streets. They’re known by names including mongrels, mutts or mixed breeds. But here, you can adopt one of these dogs, affectionately known as our Singapore Specials. 

If you’re a HDB owner that’s looking to own a bigger dog, this unique pooch might be the one! Learn more about them with our comprehensive care guide. 


We’d like to extend our thanks to the following representatives from Singapore’s Animal Welfare Groups (AWG) for their valuable insights:

  • Christine Bernadette, Co-founder of Causes for Animals Singapore (CAS)
  • Dr. Siew Tuck Wah, President of SOSD Singapore

  • Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information that should not be used as a substitute for professional advice from a vet. For an accurate diagnosis of your dog’s health condition, please consult a vet. 

    infographic for Singapore Special

    Physical Traits

    Weight15 - 20kg
    HeightUp to 50cm
    Life expectancy15 years or more
    CoatComes in all types of coats, colours and patterns

    Note!
    As the Singapore Special is a mixed breed dog, it’s not possible to pinpoint a single characteristic that they all share.

    Your dog could have inherited physical features from either of its parents or even somewhere down their lineage!

    Personality Traits 

    Similar to humans, each dog has a unique personality! A part of it is determined by their temperament, which is found in their genetic makeup. 

    But with a mixed breed dog, this is often difficult to predict. You could get an active pup that loves being the centre of attention, or one that relaxes in the afternoon sun.

    That’s the fun part – you never know what to expect! With that said, here are some traits that you may be able to expect from your Singapore Special. 

      Affectionate

    Like any dog, if you give lots of love and attention to your Singapore Special, he’ll definitely become your new best friend! They become attached and loyal to the people they spend the most time with. 

      Intelligent

    As they’ve been fending for themselves since they were puppies, Singapore Specials are quick-witted and sharp. They pick things up fast and will also remember whatever you say or do to them. 

      Adaptable

    Due to their mixed genes, they are thought to adjust better and faster to a wide range of living conditions. With proper care and attention to their needs, Singapore Specials will settle in well!


    Tip!
    To understand how to care for them, talk to the adoption centre about the dog’s specific behaviour traits and needs.

    When your dog first arrives, try to keep the environment quiet and calm until he’s used to his new home. This means that they should be kept away from excessively active or unruly children.

    Caring For A Singapore Special

    Zorro from SOSD Singapore

    Zorro from SOSD Singapore

    Staying in a HDB Flat 

    These lovely dogs are HDB-approved! Under Project ADORE, Singaporeans who live in HDB flats can now adopt larger dogs of up to 50cm with proper ownership conditions. 

    Grooming needs

    Regardless of fur length, your Singapore Special needs basic grooming to keep their coats shiny and healthy. 

    It’s also recommended that you send them to a professional groomer at least 4 times a year. 

    • Bathing 

     How often: At least once every month
    Use lukewarm water and dog shampoo that’s suitable for their age, coat and specific needs. After a thorough rinse, dry them off with a soft towel or a blow dryer.

    • Nail clipping

     How often: Once every 3 – 4 weeks
    The rule of thumb is to trim their nails such that they don’t touch the ground when your dog is standing up straight.

    • Coat brushing

     How often: At least once a week
    The brushing frequency depends on their coat length. If your Singapore Special has longer fur, brush them more often to get rid of loose furs and prevent matting or tangles.


    Tip!
    They may be a bit frightened or reserved at first, so keep them calm with gentle patting motions and a soothing voice when self-grooming. These practices help them get used to it and view grooming as a positive experience.

    To help you out further, here’s a guide to DIY grooming tips and hacks!

    Exercise needs

    As they’ve spent so much time roaming the streets previously, rehomed Singapore Specials definitely need their exercise fix!

    Activities like walks, runs, hikes and even agility training are recommended. Aim to take them out on a daily walk for at least 30 minutes. 

    To switch it up, bring them to play at dog parks or for a refreshing swim. You can also check with the adoption centre for any concerns regarding their physical conditions. 

    Diet For A Singapore Special 

    They say that the way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach. As such, it’s important to feed your Singapore Special to keep them satisfied and in good health. 

    Christine (from Causes for Animals Singapore) advises that a healthy, balanced diet for them should include:

    • vegetables 
    • protein (chicken, pork, beef or fish)
    • fat, and
    • carbohydrates.

    The portion and food will vary according to your dog’s age, size, unique dietary needs and activeness. 

    To beat Singapore’s sweltering heat, you can also consider making them some delicious dog ice cream as a special treat!  

    Training A Singapore Special 

    Gimmy from Causes for Animals Singapore

    Gimmy from Causes for Animals Singapore (CAS)

    New owners must enroll their Singapore Specials in basic obedience and socialisation programmes by approved dog trainers by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS). 

      Obedience training

    You’ll be taught how to teach your dog basic obedience commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘recall’, ‘stay’ and ‘heel’.

      Socialisation

    For this segment, you’ll learn how to guide your dog in social interactions. This includes walking through crowds, interacting with other dogs and reacting to distractions.

    Dr. Siew (Founder of SOSD Singapore) mentions that training them will take time. Singapore Specials, especially those that have just been rescued, may be more afraid at first.

    Here are some tips that you can take into account:  

      Be patient

    One of the most important things to take note of when training a Singapore Special is patience. These dogs have been out in the streets for the majority of their life, so adjusting to a domestic life may take more effort.

      Maintain consistency

    Always use a firm but positive tone when training your dog. This encourages them and also educates them on appropriate conduct.

    Whenever they display good behaviour or reach a milestone, reward them with a well-deserved dog treat!

    Common Health Issues  

    Simba from Action For Singapore dogs

    Simba from Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD)

    Due to their diversified genes, Singapore Specials, or other mixed breed or street dogs, are believed to be more immune to illnesses as defective genes naturally disappear. 

    A 2018 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) found that purebred dogs were 2.8 times more likely than mixed breed dogs to develop genetic disorders. But this doesn’t mean that Singapore Specials are completely invincible to common health issues that dogs face.  

    Here are some health issues that they may be susceptible to.

    Hip dysplasia 

    This is a common skeletal disorder that occurs more frequently in large dog breeds. For dogs with this condition, their hip joints don’t fit or aren’t fully developed. 

    This results in their joints grinding against each other, causing them to deteriorate over time. 

      Symptoms:

    • Loss of muscle mass in thighs 
    • Difficult in running and jumping 
    • Limping or swaying motions when walking

      Treatment:

    Patellar luxation

    Patellar luxation is another common skeletal condition where the dog’s kneecaps slip out of position, causing them great pain. 

      Symptoms:

    • Constant limping and swaying motion
    • Loss of energy
    • Weak legs 

      Treatment:

    • Surgery
    • Medication
    • Weight management  

    Cancer

    The common types of cancer that dogs develop are osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma and mast cell tumours. 

    Cancer treatment will vary based on the age, overall health, type of tumour and the cancer stage. If you suspect your dog has cancer, bring him for a checkup as early detection helps to prolong their life. 

      Symptoms:

    • Lumps and bumps underneath their skin 
    • Odours emitted from parts of their body
    • Swelling of abdomen 
    • Weight loss 
    • Lethargy 

      Treatment:

    • Surgery 
    • Chemotherapy 
    • Radiation therapy 

    Lens luxation 

    When lens luxation occurs, the dog’s lens loosen due to the weakening of fibres and move around within the eye. 

    The issue should be treated quickly and it could lead to more complications such as glaucoma or permanent blindness. 

      Symptoms:

    • Conjunctival redness
    • Clouding of cornea
    • Depression and obvious expressions of pains
    • “Dislocated” lens 

      Treatment:

    • Surgery

    Skin allergies 

    A common condition that dogs face are skin allergies. This mainly comes from food, contact and flea dermatitis, and environmental allergies. 

      Symptoms:

    • Itchiness and scratching 
    • Inflamed red skin
    • Sneezing 
    • Constant licking

      Treatment:

    • Food: Hypoallergenic dog food, diet plans 
    • Contact and flea dermatitis: Medication
    • Environment: Change of environment, medication 

    Price Of Owning A Singapore Special 

    Damien from SOSD singapore

    Damien from SOSD Singapore

    Project ADORE 

    Project ADORE is a scheme that allows HDB flat owners to adopt Singapore Specials — local mixed breed dogs of up to 50cm in height with no weight limit.

    Interested parties can only keep 1 dog per flat and must also follow specific ownership conditions:

    • Sign a Code of Responsible Behaviour (CORB) which mandates that your dog doesn’t cause nuisances to your neighbours
    • Enroll in basic obedience training by AVA-accredited trainers at point of adoption (about $250+)
    • Make sure your dog is sterilised, microchipped and brought for routine vaccinations
    • Apply for a dog license

    One-Off Costs

      Licensing

    It’s mandatory for all dogs to be licensed under the rules of Animals and Birds (Dog Licensing and Control). This helps in contact tracing if an outbreak of an animal-related disease occurs. 

    You can apply for a new dog license via the Pet Animal Licensing System (PALS) portal.

      Sterilisation

    Sterilising your dog helps to prevent complicated health problems and unnecessary breeding. This will set you back around $150 – $500. 

    Female dogs are generally more expensive to sterilise as compared to male dogs. 

      Microchipping

    A microchip is like a personal identification that can’t be removed. It helps you locate your pet in the event that they go missing. 

    This procedure costs around $50 – $90. 

    Recurring Costs 

    • Food: $120+ per month
    • Grooming: $50+ per session
    • Medical and dental checkups: $50+ per consultation 
    • Routine vaccinations: $30 – $60 per vaccine

    On top of these, you should consider additional costs for things such as dog accessories or pet insurance

    Fun Facts About Singapore Specials 

    Bebe from ASD Singapore

    Bebe from Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD)

    The Singapore Special is a type of dog, not a distinct breed

    A common misconception is that the Singapore Special is a breed of dog. It actually refers to any local canine that’s been bred on our streets. 

    They’re a result of generations of natural mixing between different breeds of dogs. Dr. Siew believes that some of them descended from German Shepherds or Rottweilers due to their larger sizes. 

    They’re known as the “kampong dogs of Singapore”

    Sometimes referred to as mongrels, the Singapore Special came from kampong or farm dogs that weren’t exactly pets. 

    Singapore’s urbanisation changed their surroundings and resulted in them becoming strays. Yet, they’ve been highly adaptable to the altered conditions and are able to fend for themselves since young. 

    Frequently Asked Questions 

    What is Project ADORE?

    Project ADORE stands for ADOption and REhoming. 

    It’s an enacted scheme supported by 5 Animal Welfare Groups (AWG) in Singapore to allow and encourage the adoption of rescued mixed breed dogs. 

    How long do Singapore Specials live for?

    You can expect a Singapore Special to live for 15 years or more. To keep them healthy and by your side for a long time, make sure they’re fed a proper diet and get enough exercise! 

    Early detection is key to preventing potential illnesses and complications. If you discover some abnormal behaviour from your Singapore Special, take him to a vet immediately.

    Are mixed breed dogs healthier? 

    Due to a wider genetic diversity, mixed breed dogs are perceived to have better health and longer lives than purebred dogs. Due to inbreeding, purebred dogs tend to be more vulnerable to common recessive or genetic disorders. 

    Are mixed breed dogs more aggressive?

    Due to their experiences in the streets or wild, mixed breed dogs may be seen as more aggressive or guarded. This is very much untrue! 

    With proper obedience training and a comforting environment, they can be just as intelligent, affectionate and friendly as any other purebred or domesticated dog. 

    Adopting A Singapore Special 

    Adopting a Singapore Special could be one of the best decisions you make. You award the chance of a loving home to one of these darling dogs and in return, you receive an irreplaceable friend for life! 

    Before you decide to commit, speak to the adoption centre and raise as many questions and concerns as you can to understand them better. 

    Article by:
    Andrea
    Contributors:
    There's nothing Andrea loves more than dancing and playing the Sims 4. She is highly intrigued by astrology and enjoys fantasy novels of any sort. You can often find her obsessing over adorable animal videos.
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