Old dog learns new tricks

By ZAWADI MUDIBO

Tucked in a little known village on the outskirts of Naivasha town is a most unusual school – Wa-madogs Dogs Training Academy. The proprietor, Mr Timothy Githogori, has made a name for himself over the years by training people including ambassadors on how to handle dogs.

The Wa-madogs name, slang for ‘he of the dogs’, was given to him by the residents because of his love for canines. The nick-name had become the only reference the locals knew him by after a while and he took it up as the academy’s official name.

For the training service alone, each of his students pays Ksh50,000. After successfully completing their course, they can buy trained dogs from him, some of which go for as much as Ksh2 million. This is how the Standard Eight dropout has managed to make a tidy fortune for himself.

“I come from a very poor background. We were 17 siblings and you can imagine how tough our parents found it to cater for us all. The farthest I could go with formal education was primary school,” he says. This humble beginning built in him a determination at a young age to make a name for himself especially with the stigmatisation he faced due to poverty. 

Since he did not have the opportunity to get a white collar job, he says he had to make do with what life offered – a dog’s life quite literally.  “I have always been a fighter and from the onset I was clear about my destiny, my upbringing notwithstanding,” he says.

But his success did not come easy. He says he was forced to take up jobs paying meagre wages just to put food on the table. The search for better paying jobs took him to Tanzania where, after a stint as a marketing officer, he worked for an Indian family as a dog handler and discovered his passion.

“I travelled to Tanzania as a marketing officer for a local alcoholic drinks company. I didn’t have the book knowledge, but I was street smart,” says Mr Githogori. He would make sales of up to 30 million Tanzanian shillings a month.

“My boss knew I was not learned but believed in me. My character kept me on the job,” he says.

When he was later hired by the Indian family and after discovering his fondness for the canines, he says he had no choice but to pursue a career in dog breeding. “I saw it as an opportunity to exercise my love for these pets. Nothing fulfills me more than when I do what my heart yearns for.”

Disappointed by the way most people mistreated dogs, Mr Githogori was convinced that people needed formal training to enable them relate mutually with man’s best friend. “Every time I sell a dog to a client I am not at ease because it’s difficult to tell if they have a clue on how well they should take care of the animals. In fact, that is why I opened an academy, to train those willing to learn at just Sh50,000.’’ Yes, for him Sh50,00 is small change.

Githogori says when the market is prime he rears over 400 dogs. Currently, he has more than 73, which he terms a shortage, given the high demand. “I started the business with an initial capital of Sh60,000 which I had saved. Since then, I have never looked back,” he says.

With the cash, he bought two dogs in Tanzania and started the enterprise, which he estimates is now worth over Sh25 million. When he started breeding dogs for sale, he did not set out to make thousands of dollars in profit. All he wanted was to do something he enjoyed that could pay his basic bills. But some few years down the line, he is all smiles as he counts the fortunes from his business, thanks to a growing pet culture in Kenya, inspired by a burgeoning middle class and search for domestic security.

“You can imagine the white men and ambassadors you see around come to me seeking trained dogs,” he says. Recently, he says, he exported a trained German Shephard to Australia for a cool Ksh2 million.

The proprietor says before venturing into dog breeding, he did his research and found out that many people wished to keep the canines, especially for security reasons, but were ignorant when it came to caring for them. 

Prior to opening the academy, he hosted dog bazaars in various towns around the country in a bid to take his service closer to his potential clients and create market awareness. Looking back now, he says the bazaars proved to be a wise marketing strategy. 

 

The popularity of the bazaars earned him customers in Naivasha, Kericho, Kitale, Eldoret and Nairobi. 

From earning Ksh35,000 per month as a sales agent almost 17 years ago, Mr Githogori now says he makes hundreds of thousands of shillings each month from the sale of his canines, hiring them out, cleaning and grooming them for clients, not to mention training people on how to handle them at the academy.

 “I have done a lot with proceeds of this business. I have bought land, built houses, a home and much more. I don’t regret venturing into the business,” he reveals. “In spite of the perception as an odd job, it has been the right one for me.” 

His current stock of breeds includes Rotweiller, Dobermann Pinscher, Chihuahua, German Shepherd, Matis Dog, Japanese Spitz, Mastiff and Great Dane imported from South Africa recently.

His love affair with dogs has seen him interact with influential people in the society including President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family, Othaya MP Mary Wambui and senior police officers. 

His venture is not without a few challenges, though. He says training kits are hard to come by. The best quality kits, he says costs no less than Ksh300,000 each and are rare to find in Kenya, forcing him to improvise. He sells puppies aged three months to three years, at which time prices depend on whether or not the dog is trained.

 “The lowest amount we fetch is Sh30,000 for a puppy. In stock I have a Boer bull (a large cross-breed of the Mastiff and indigenous African dogs), which weighs 75 kilogrammes and is selling at Sh1.5 million,” Mr Githogori says. His market ranges across the country, East Africa and Europe. “The initial dog was bought at Sh1.5 million by an Australian who heard about my profession, though I was reluctant to sell it as it was the best breed,” he says.

The big- gest challenge is to feed the dogs as the puppies require almost Sh30,000 per month. “The puppies feed on eggs, milk and liver. To get those, I rear milk goats and hens.” The animals also get vaccination to protect them from diseases such as Parvo Virus and rabies. 

The dogs are trained how to track, sniff and guard. Though Mr Githogori is not professionally trained on dog rearing, he has diverse knowledge, being a frequent user of the internet. He also buys research materials and books, which have helped him to breed and train the best dogs around.

“I challenge young people to embrace entrepreneurship as a source of livelihood. Follow your passion and you will not regret,” says the 40-year-old. He urges young people to take up any available job opportunity and desist from waiting for white collar jobs. 

 

“I always say no money is labelled dog breeding, plumbing, sewer cleaning, doctor or architect. We all have diverse opportunities which we must carefully explore,” he advises.  

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