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Meet Maznah, the Muslim dog-trainer

 | February 20, 2011

It was five abandoned puppies that changed her life. And now Maznah believes that working with dogs is her calling.

PETALING JAYA:  Whenever she takes her dogs for a walk, she is bound to attract curious stares. And when she reveals that she is a part-time dog trainer, eyeballs pop out of their sockets.

This is because Maznah Mohd Yusof, 36, is a Malay-Muslim.

Hailing from Johor, the US-trained engineer said that her family never told her that dogs are “haram” (forbidden) for Muslims.

“There are different school of thoughts in Islam. Here, we follow the Shafie school of thought which does not say dog is haram but merely asks us to cleanse ourselves after touching a wet dog.”

Asked how her family felt about her “calling” to train dogs, Maznah said that most of them do not complain. “But one cousin asked if I was still a Muslim.”

Maznah, who holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, said she never enjoyed working as an engineer and was searching for something more “satisfying”.

“I worked as an industrial engineer from 1998 till 2007 in Penang. I believe that you must do things you’re passionate about and my job then was not giving me this satisfaction.”

Maznah’s fate took a furry twist in late 2007 when she and her housemate stumbled upon five abandoned puppies at the car park in Queensbay Mall.

“Two of them looked almost lifeless, so we immediately took them to a nearby veterinarian. When they recovered, the veterinarian suggested that we deliver them to SPCA.

“But we were shocked when SPCA told us that it might put the puppies to sleep since they are too young to be taken care of. They were just two-weeks-old. That’s when we decided to look after them ourselves and give them out for adoption after a month,” she said.

Heeding the call

However, Maznah grew attached to the puppies and decided to rear them. She named the quintet

Yusni, Golek, Ciku, Oren and Ross.

After moving to Rawang with her dogs in the same year, Maznah realised that for some strange reason, stray dogs were drawn to her house.

“Even those with dogs that are normally unfriendly to others, are surprised when their dogs are friendly with me. Then, I realised it was a sign that I should be working with dogs.”

She started by doing her own research on how to train dogs, gathering information from books and the Internet. “I learnt a lot from a book called Cesar’s Way penned by Mexican dog trainer Cesar Milan.”

On the training she provides, Maznah said that she is focused on basic obedience training and relationship building for now.

“Dogs also need exercise and discipline. Owners must realise that dogs are very energetic. So if you do not take them for exercise, that’s when they start giving problems like biting shoes.

“As for discipline, it is important that owners set certain routines as dogs like consistency. For example, my dogs know that 11pm is time for them to rest. I will just open their cages and they will enter into it themselves,” she said, adding that dogs are similar to children.

Based on her experience, Maznah believes that a dog is a “reflection” of its owner. “I knew one dog owner who was calm and patient. And these qualities rubbed off on his dog as well.”

Therefore, she added, it is vital for owners to spend time with their dogs to build a strong bond.

“I can say that it is the owner that needs the training rather than the dog. Owners must take responsibility to train the dogs, as trainers like me only come once a week. From there, owners need to follow up with the training to ensure the dogs get it. As I said, dogs like consistency.”

Maznah said people should stop thinking of dogs as just another animal. “They say that dogs are a man’s best friend. For me, they are my sidekicks and protector.”

“Owning a dog is a big responsibility, the dogs demand a lot of attention. Remember, it’s a partnership and there needs to be a lot of give and take.”

As far as Maznah is concerned, dogs are the most amazing creatures. To illustrate her point, she quotes a cartoon strip. “I saw this some time back, it said ‘dogs think of you as their God, while cats think they are your God.”


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