ELDORET, KENYA: For Geoffrey Rutere, keeping dogs was initially just fun, but his love for 'man's best friend' is earning him loyal fans as he trains guard dogs for a growing client base.
The senior salesperson in the North Rift region is raking in profits from what began as a childhood passion. As a boy, he would keep a large pack of mixed breed dogs for hunting expeditions as well as protecting his father's homestead.
He keeps pedigree dogs that are trained to provide security. He also makes extra money from breeding and selling puppies on his farm.
"We keep and train German shepherds and Rottweilers," says Rutere who serves as the area sales manager for Mabati Rolling Mills Limited.
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Together with his wife, Joyce Wamboi, they have engaged a trainer who works with the dogs from when they are just a few days old.
"The dogs we keep are registered under the East Africa Kennel society and are sourced from the best breeds in South Africa. Their parentage is well documented and one has emerged best in dog shows," says Rutere.
The dogs are trained on obedience to take instructions from their handlers, and also how to behave when there are visitors.
"The dogs are naturally aggressive and protective of their owners. They are trained on how to attack intruders and maintain security."
At the time of the interview with The Standard, there were 17 dogs at the farm. When they exceed this number, they are sold, with a trained dog aged above eight weeks going for between Sh40, 000 and Sh50, 000.
To ensure they reach their maximum potential, the dogs are fed a special diet. New-born puppies drink only milk, before starting a special weaning diet from the age of four weeks.
"We first introduce them to soft food, including yoghurt, minced meat, vegetables, rice and pellets. Beef is introduced when the puppies are six months old. Their diet is well cooked and the dogs are fed every morning and evening," Rutere says, adding that the dogs are cultured not to consume food from strangers.
"We want to ensure that we produce the best trained dogs. We intend to expand the venture and have between 50 and 100 dogs that can be hired out, especially to security firms that already have trained handlers. Our urban areas are growing fast and there is a high demand for security," Rutere says.
"In our plan is a website that will enable firms make orders easily," he said.
According to Internet sources, the most popular breeds used as guard dogs include the bull mastiff, German shepherd, Rottweiler, Caucasian shepherd, Hungarian sheepdog, giant schnauzer, Airedale terrier, black Russian terrier and American Staffordshire terrier.