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Surfer dogs on crest of wave

Gone are the days when a dog's idea of a fun day out at the beach was to bark at the waves -- now no cool canine can be seen without their surfboard, writes Pete Wedderburn

Owner: Raquel Noboa, from Lahinch, Co Clare

Animals: Her dog, Bruce, is one of Ireland's first surfing dogs

Background: Raquel's enthusiasm for dogs has led her to develop a new sport and website for dog owners in Ireland.

Raquel used to work in hotel management and she's now in the information technology industry, but she's always been a dog lover. In the past year, she has begun to develop her interest in dogs into two new directions: first, a new sport for dogs in Ireland, and second, a new website for dog lovers.

The new sport sounds bizarre: dog surfing. Raquel often walks her dog, Bruce, on Lahinch Beach, a two-mile long stretch of sand on the west coast of Ireland which is well known as a popular spot for surfers.

The Atlantic rolls on to the beach producing a huge range of waves, attracting novice, intermediate and experienced surfers.

Raquel was used to meeting surfers jogging in and out of the water, but when she saw a dog leaping into the waves behind his master, then hopping onto a surfboard, she realised that something new and interesting was going on.

She did some research and discovered that in other surfing locations it has become popular to surf with dogs. YouTube has dozens of videos of dogs surfing. Events have been organised to encourage dogs to take to the surfboard around the world, from California to Australia.

Raquel linked up with Lahinch Surf School and together they organised Ireland's first ever Dog Surfing Day in September. The event was used to help raise awareness and money for Irish Guide Dogs For The Blind and the dogs that turned up were given a free surfing lesson and trial session.

Many dogs have natural surfing ability. When out paddling in deep water, they're happy to clamber aboard a nearby surfboard to take a rest from their vigorous doggy paddling. And they have excellent balancing skills. They're able to stand steadily on the surfboard as it coasts towards the beach.

While she was publicising the surf day, Raquel looked into ways of reaching the dog-owning community in Ireland. She knew from her hotel management experience that websites such as Tripadvisor.com have been successful in creating an active consumer-led online encyclopedia of the range of resources available for travellers.

She expected to find a similar type of website aimed at Irish pet owners, but to her surprise, there didn't seem to be one. This was confirmed for her when a close friend took on a dog and had difficulty choosing a local vet and groomer. This led Raquel to set up a new website, www.mypetreview.com, where she looks for honest views from pet owners on the services they use, from vets, to grooming parlours, to dog training, pet day care and even pet-friendly accommodation and restaurants.

Mypetreview.com has been running for nearly six months now.

The website turned out to be a useful platform for publicising the successful dog surfing day and it's gradually accumulating a database of reviews. Meanwhile, Raquel is focusing on an even bigger National Dog Surfing Competition for next year; she's looking for a sponsor to help to promote it. If you have a water-loving dog, it's never too early to start with basic training on that surfboard.