SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian dog trainer and former surfing champion is using the discipline of surfing as a way of teaching owners to build healthy relationships with man's best friend.
On sunny morning on the outskirts of Sydney, Mr Chris de Aboitiz heads out on the surf on his stand-up paddle board, joined by Rama and Millie, two rescue dogs who perform tricks, jumping on their owner's shoulders and back as he rides the waves.
The Sunshine Coast dog trainer, who is a former world tandem surfing champion, has been hitting the waves with his dogs for around ten years and has since taken to using it as a way to teach people to understand their dogs.
"Surfing is not just about training dogs, it is about understanding them and their behavior," said Mr Aboitiz. "When you are surfing with the dogs they are allowed to look around but they have to sit on the board and not move, or we fall off and get wet," he said. "Training dogs for everyday life is the same."
Mr Aboitiz travels up and down the Australian east coast with his four dogs, all rescued from shelters, using this unique method to teach owners and encourage them to take a more disciplined approach with their pets.
"So many dogs are given away because people don't have control, their dog turns from an asset to a liability. The ultimate result is to have less dogs euthanised," said Mr Aboitiz.
Mr Aboitiz said he has had a positive response from dog owners, some of whom had taken to the waves with him, while others have embraced his training but stuck to land.
"People make a lot of mistakes in training their dogs, who end up being dominant over them. Training the dog is the easy part, you also need to train the owner" he added.