NEXT to having a perimeter fence, many people consider keeping a dog a good security measure. Yet few home owners understand that dogs, particularly guard dogs, need training to enable them to behave appropriately.
Some people give their dogs substances such as marijuana or red chillies to make them aggressive so that they can attack intruders at night, but expert dog trainers’ say that this only harms the animals.
A study conducted in Nairobi in March 2017 found out that most dog owners (78 per cent) kept them for security, followed by a combination of both as pets and for security (18 per cent), as pets (3 per cent), while only 1 per cent said they kept dogs for breeding purposes.
Unfortunately, many dog owners do not provide proper shelter for the animals and feed them only on leftovers. Mr Tom Simiyu, a dog-master and trainer at BM Security in Nairobi, says it is important to take a dog for training in discipline and understanding, as well as on security.
“We train all kinds of breeds. The best breeds are German shepherds; they easily cope with the family, either as pet or guard dogs,” says Mr Simiyu who has been a trainer for 22 years.
The nature of training provided depends on the purpose for which a dog is kept, he says, adding that even pets must be trained in discipline and to obey commands.
The dog owners are also taught how to manage the animals. “We ask people with dogs to build proper kennels for them as well as train them to socialise with the animals. During training, we give them basic knowledge about dog handling, feeding, and washing, “Simiyu says, adding that the charges depend on the service the client wants.
The training also depends on a dog’s age. “For attack training we take dogs aged 18 months while command and obedience training are given to dogs that are at least six months old.
Since finding a good guard dog can be difficult, some people hire them from security firms. Mr Simiyu explains that while they don’t sell guard dogs, they hire them out. But before they do, they visit the home and sign a contract with the home owner on the terms of engagement. “We recall the dogs after seven days for retraining,” he adds.
While some people avoid keeping dogs for fear of being attacked by the animals, Mr Simiyu says a dog will not attack its owner, unless they mistreats it. Proper care includes feeding, housing, visits to the vet which include regular vaccination, treatment and parasite control (control of worms, ticks and fleas).
There are suitable dog foods in pet shops and supermarkets, some of which are ready to serve but there is nothing wrong with feeding the dog on what you eat, the experts say.
Dr Diana Onyango, a vet scientist at the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care for animals (KSPCA), notes that there is a common mentality among Kenyans that one should not put too much effort in taking care of a dog.
“If a dog is well taken care of, it will not go outside the compound to wander around,” she says, adding that a well-maintained dog makes an efficient guard dog.
In an attempt to raise awareness about animal welfare, KSPCA organises an annual event known as the Shaggy Dog Show every November, where dogs compete in various categories such as the happiest dog, fancy dress, best family dogs and of course, the shaggiest dog.
However, if you wish to keep a dog as a pet or for security, there are a number of issues you should be aware of. Ms Jennifer Makena, an expert in dog breeding and handling at BM Securities, says that keeping the animals as well as their kennels clean is very important.
“Wash the kennel using bleaching agents such as Jik to kills parasites and wash the animals with soap regularly, “she suggested. Ms Makena notes that most puppies tend to die at the age of four months, an age at which they are prone to attacks by a viral disease known parvovirus or parvo, which few survive.
Also, give puppies toys to chew on for their milk teeth fall, she adds. “Puppies should be dewormed when they are four weeks old, then when they reach six weeks you vaccinate them against parvo and rabies and also give them immune boosters,” she says adding that you should have them vaccinated regularly.