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By FOO JEAN-NI
alltherage@thestar.com.my

IF you’ve watched Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan on TV, you’d be tempted to think that dog training is as simple as saying “tsst” all the time.

The fact that Dave Teoh became a professional trainer at the age of 16 doesn’t help change that perception, but maybe Dave’s first encounter with a Belgian Shepherd will.

“It was just my first day training the dog, and I got bit on my thigh while taking it out for a walk,” Teoh recalled. “I was hospitalised for two weeks, and I still have a huge scar now.

“It was very painful, but it taught me a lesson I will remember forever – never let your guard down.”

So dog training is definitely no walk in the park; but now at 18, and having trained over 70 dogs, Teoh is a skilled professional whose services are highly sought after. And he hasn’t even finished his O-Levels yet!

Clients pay him up to RM3,000 for a three to four week “course”, which involves around 15 30-minute sessions at the dogs’ homes.

“Other professional dog trainers would usually have their customers bring their dogs to their training centres. I go over to my customers’ homes to train their dogs so they do not have to adjust to two different environments – mine and their owner’s,” he explained.

And he doesn’t just help train dogs to sit, stay or do some cute tricks – he also gives “protection training”, where he teaches dogs (among other things) how to identify intruders, and how to take them down.

Awesome as that may be, the most satisfying part of the job for Teoh is being able to help improve the bond between man and dog.

“My goal is to help dogs overcome behavioural issues, and help owners understand and communicate with them better. I feel proud when I can make a difference and help both of them,” he said, adding that owners have a huge part to play in avoiding such problems in the first place.

Teoh’s career in dog training started when he scored an apprenticeship with Juergen Knobel, a third-generation German dog trainer currently based in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

“I first visited Juergen’s house, which was built as a dog training centre, when I was 14. I was ecstatic when he agreed to take me in as a trainer.”

In the future, Teoh hopes to set up a training centre just like Knobel’s.

“I definitely hope to form a professional dog training team, or maybe even build a fully-equipped dog training centre. But I’m not going to rush things. I’ll take it step by step.”

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