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.
"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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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)
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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.