All paws on board: Australia's surfing rescue dogs

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All Paws on Board: Australia's Surfing Rescue Dogs

An Australian dog trainer and former surfing champion has taken to the waves with his rescue dogs to use the discipline of surfing as a way of teaching owners to build healthy relationships with man's best friend.

On a sunny morning at Palm Beach in Sydney, Chris de Aboitiz heads out on the waves on his stand-up paddle board, joined by Rama and Millie, two dogs he rescued from a shelter. His dogs perform tricks, jumping on his 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 the sport as a method of teaching people to understand their dogs.

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"It's about disciplining, it's just like raising a child. When they're on here they are not allowed to move. He's looking for birds right now, see how he's looking around. He's allowed to be curious but not move. So, when we're surfing with the dogs, they're allowed to look around but not do what they want to do. But, don't get me wrong, as soon as we get to the beach we throw the stick, we give them a lot of free time. So, you've got to have exercise and structure, but give them free time as well," Aboitiz said.

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.

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All paws on board: Australia's surfing rescue dogs
Surfer Dog Joey rides a wave in the small dog division during the 6th Annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California on September 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
TORQUAY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Jess Coles takes her 3-year-old dachshund 'Basil' for a surf in Torquay, Victoria. (Photo by Alex Coppel/Newspix/Getty Images)
A dog rides a wave while competing during the 5th Annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California, on September 29, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
***EXCLUSIVE*** DEL MAR DOG BEACH, CA - UNDATED: AUGUST CALENDAR IMAGE: Gus is a 2 year old English Bulldog who was adopted in March 2011. He took his first surfing lesson in July 2011 at Del Mar Dog Beach and proved to be a natural. Gus is looking forward to next years surfing season. Rather than begging their owners for walkies these extreme dogs prefer to catch a wave as this barking mad charity calendar shows. The beach bum mutts were captured taking to the surf on dog-friendly beaches near San Diego in the US. All the surfing dogs have lifejackets and the calendars producer, Dina Demeo-Grover, confirmed that if the surf gets too much for them the pooches were free to hop off the board and swim back to shore. However, most were having so much fun posing on their surf boards they could not wait for another chance to ride a wave. All money raised from the calendar goes to a variety of charities, whose work includes animal rescue, childrens welfare and aid for senior citizens. For more information see www.surfdogscalendar.com PHOTOGRAPH BY John W Grover / Barcroft Media /Barcoft Media via Getty Images
Surf dogs catch a wave at the 5th Annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California, on September 29, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Hanzo (L) and Kalani (R) surf in tandem during the 5th Annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California, on September 29, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Surf dog Toby rides a wave with a trio of rubber duckies during the 5th Annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California, on September 29, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR PURINA PRO PLAN - Hanzo, a seven-year-old Boxer from Montrose, Calif., placed second in the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Surf Dog Competition at Huntington Beach State Park in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Friday, May 29, 2015. Hanzo is fueled by Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ Formula. (Carlos Delgado/ AP Images for Purina Pro Plan)
Spectator Jennifer brought her hairless Chihuahua 'Schmiegelle' to see the surf dogs at the 5th Annual Surf Dog competition at Huntington Beach, California, on September 29, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - This June 8, 2012 file photo shows King, a nine-year-old golden retriever rides a wave while surfing in the Incredible Dog Challenge dog surfing competition in San Diego. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, file)
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He told Reuters that he finds people will sometimes choose euthanasia or give their pets away because they become too much hassle and they don't have control over them.

"Their dog turns from an asset into a liability and the easiest thing to do is taking it to the rescue and they're overwhelmed with dogs, they can't re-home them so they get put down, especially around holiday season, 'I'm going travelling, I'll just dump my dog'. So, we're travelling the coast, not only surfing but we are also going to rescue centres and educating the volunteers and staff to not just give love but give love and structure," he added.

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.

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