Dogs put food on the table

Friday April 21 2017

Ezekiel Njuguna and Peter Ngige with some of their dogs. PHOTO | ROSE ODENGO

Ezekiel Njuguna and Peter Ngige with some of their dogs. PHOTO | ROSE ODENGO 

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Peter Ngige, 25, had a passion for dogs from a tender age. He recalls that when he was eight, his father sought to buy the family’s first dog.

They had just moved into their new home in Kitengela Town, Kajiado County. The area was insecure as not many people had settled there, hence the need for a guard dog. Ngige took the initiative and contacted a friend who had some dogs.

“I don’t remember the breed of the dog; it was a mongrel,” Ngige says. “All we wanted was a dog.”

Three months later, his father sought a better breed. Once again, Ngige took the initiative to look for a new dog. He found a local breeder who had breeding experience in Germany and informed his father about it. The family bought a German Shepherd, a breed best known as a police dog. The German Shepherd is a highly intelligent dog, strong, courageous and obedient, he notes.

This encounter with the breeder fuelled Ngige’s interest in dogs. With time, he and his elder brother Ezekiel Njuguna became so passionate about dogs that they would spend much time taking care of them.

In 2013, a few months after he completed Form Four at Kitengela Boys High School, Ngige and Njuguna, 29, who then used to run a hardware business in Kitengela, established a dog breeding business in the town, going by the name Penju Kennels. Penju comes from the fusion of the brothers’ names — Peter and Njuguna.

Ngige says they started the business with only two dogs. 

Why breed dogs?

We love dogs. Dog breeding aims at maintaining certain qualities in a dog breed and also rectifying some genetic faults of the dog. For example, there are some breeds that may have short legs; you can get a male and a female of the same breed with a better build to improve the quality of the dog. There is a science to it.

Where did you get the capital to start the business?

We started with the two dogs at home; we sold their five puppies at Sh25,000 each.

What do most of your clients look for in dogs?

Most people see dogs and think security. Others look for pets as companions. And finally, we have breeders, those who breed for commercial purposes and others who do it domestically to improve the breed of the dogs they have.

What is your take on puppy mills?

They don’t care about the animals; these people breed dogs just so they can get any dog to sell. They don’t consider the pedigree of the dog, temperament and they end up with some unhealthy puppies.

How far do you go to buy different dog breeds?

I am not at the level where I import breeds. Some pure-bred dogs can go for Sh300,000 to Sh400,000 per puppy. I get the best from local fellow breeders, who are registered at the East African Kennel Club in Nairobi.

How do you determine what dogs to breed?

We did a lot of research. We would attend dog shows organised by the East African Kennel Club, talk to veterinarians, visit other breeders and learn from them. We also researched a lot in the internet. We finally decided to breed German Shepherds — first because we had grown up with them, and secondly because there was a large demand for security dogs.

How do you find new clients?

We run a Facebook page, Penju Kennels. We also put up posters at agrovets’ and malls across Nairobi and Kitengela. We get a lot of enquiries on our Facebook page.

How much do you make from your business?

Our income is not determined at a monthly rate; it is more seasonal, based on when we have puppies. On average, a dog will give birth to four to six puppies and each is sold for Sh25,000 or higher depending on the breed, age and training of the dog, among other factors.

How do you get certification as a dog breeder?

We are in the process of getting certification, which takes some time. We need to keep submitting our breeding cycles and register our dogs with the East African Kennel Club. This will then be evaluated by the club members. Once approved, we then get certification.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

People generally don’t understand the value of dogs. They say Sh25,000 is too much for a puppy. We have also had issues with trainers. Some start their work, we pay them, then they disappear. Others don’t do a good job. And for some breed of dogs, when they give birth, an entire litter may die for various reasons.

What should one consider when buying a puppy?

First, be clear on what you want out of a dog. Do you want a pet, a good breeding dog or for security? Secondly, buy a dog from a recognised breeder and make sure they show you the puppy’s parents.

Get the puppy vaccination certificate, which provides the contacts of the certified veterinarian who performed the vaccination. There is nothing like a bad dog; it’s all about how you socialise it from the time it’s a puppy.

What’s your advice to young people still seeking a passion to follow?

You can start small with whatever is of interest to you.

We started this as a hobby and it grew into a business.