Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Dogs prove they really are man's best friend

DOGGY DO-GOODERS A charitable organization is using furry friends to bring a little happiness to people's lives as well as teach them some animal awareness

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

King Wang, center, takes a class of dog lovers through the motions at a Dr. Dog training session.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAIWAN DR. DOG

Dog experts believe that incorrect ideas regarding the treatment of dogs is one of the main reasons that there are so many homeless puppies in Taiwan today.

"Many people think they are treating their dogs correctly but in actual fact they are not," said experienced trainer King Wang (王昱智), who owns two labrador retrievers.

Wang is a trainer at Taiwan Dr. Dog (台灣狗醫生協會), a charitable organization established in 2001 whose program provides sick and lonely patients with regular close contact with dogs.

The organization gives patients the opportunity to receive love and affection from the animals while promoting awareness of abandoned dogs and other pet-related problems.

As a staff member of the group, Wang is responsible for training puppies for "animal assistance therapy."

He embarked upon a career with dogs because he wanted to understand what his pooches were thinking and also to prove that they were useful, Wang said.

"My own family members used to believe that dogs were simple animals. I wanted to prove them wrong," Wang said. "Actually, dogs can do a lot for human beings."

Piper Hsieh (謝舒萍), another trainer who owns two labrador retrievers, said the most difficult task for trainers is communication with dog owners.

"We encourage owners to have their dogs on a leash and also to carry out crate training, but many owners oppose it," Hsieh said.

Leashes help to tame dogs so they do not feel easily threatened and "crate training" helps the dogs to develop good habits in their living quarters, Hsieh said.

Taiwan Dr. Dog was created to promote animal-assistance activities and therapy with the goal of improving the physical, mental and spiritual quality of society through companionship with animals.

Jill Sheng (盛宜), the organization's administrative director, said there is a strict screening process for all Dr. Dog's dogs.

The dogs have to pass health and hygiene examinations, obedience evaluation and the "Dr. Dog Screening Test," which focuses on testing behavior in different conditions and their manner around other dogs and people.

After the dogs pass the tests, their owners are required to complete dog handler workshops and practical training before the owner and dog team is certified as a Dr. Dog team volunteer.

Wang's work is to train the dogs and their owners.

He said that obedience training would also be good for homeless dogs and that he would love to dedicate himself to this task as most people love obedient puppies.

"If I trained homeless dogs, they would be more obedient and it may help them to find an owner," Wang said.

"When you say I am training dogs, I would actually say that I am training their owners," He added. "We encourage owners to take advantage of positive reinforcement when training puppies, instead of negative reinforcement or punishment. It means that we encourage our dogs to follow orders instead of forcing them to do so."

Chief Executive Officer of the organization, Ho Cheng-chien (何承謙), told the Taipei Times that each qualified "Dr. Dog" possesses a license which is valid for one year. To continue in the service the owner and the dog must re-take the test annually.

Currently, there are 70 qualified canines. These dogs and their owners team up every weekend for volunteer services at 19 different organizations, including homes for the elderly, hospitals and centers for the mentally handicapped.

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