First S'porean to train as guide dog instructor has also trained wolves, hyenas and more

Catherine Robert
The New Paper
July 2, 2016

He has trained wolves, hyenas, pumas, otters, raccoons, owls, civets and snakes as part of his job at the Night Safari.

Now Mr Wesley Paul, 36, is about to take on dogs. And he will be training them for a much bigger task than just being good pets at home.

The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind announced earlier this week that Mr Wesley will be the first Singaporean cadet to be sent for a guide dog training course in Australia.

The course, which will span 18 months, is set to make him the first Singaporean guide dog mobility instructor.

He said: "I've worked intensely with animals for over seven years.

"It sounds like a short time, but I spent close to 15 hours with them every day and learnt the ins and outs of their character traits.

"I think that has definitely prepared me for this upcoming course and I am excited to see what it will take to become a guide dog trainer," he told The New Paper in an interview yesterday ahead of his stint at Guide Dogs Victoria, the largest breeders and trainers of Guide Dogs in Australia.

Singapore now has only one guide dog instructor, Ms Zara Linehan, a 35-year-old Briton who moved to Singapore in 2014.

Before that, guide dog owners had to travel overseas to be trained together with the dogs under the supervision of an instructor, because training was not available here.


Mr Wesley said: "I took this up because I love working with animals.

"Knowing that those skills as a trainer can come in handy for a good cause made taking this up a simple decision for me," he said.

"The change in environment will be the biggest challenge.

"It is a different country with different climate and conditions. Those conditions can act as distractions for the animal and can impact the training, so I'll have to get accustomed to the new challenges and find a way to overcome the hurdles."

Guide Dogs Association general manager Vanessa Loh said that the training Mr Wesley will go through will be essential. She said they have a constant waiting list of clients who need guide dogs.

"We either fly trainers to Singapore or a visually impaired person and a dog to Australia," she said.

And it can be costly.

Sending a team costs over $10,000 and flying a trainer in costs the association $200 an hour.

Mr Wesley's training will help the situation.

Also, she told The New Paper that Mr Wesley passed the practical rounds of his interview with flying colours.

"One of the rounds is for the candidates to guide a visually impaired person in folding origami.

"We noticed that Wesley didn't take over and get the origami folded. Instead, he continuously empowered them and guided them to fold it on their own."

"It proved that he is a very good communicator," she said.

Mr Wesley added: "I feel so privileged to be chosen from the pool of candidates, and I can't wait to get this show on the road."

About 20 people were vying for the job.

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