If your house is robbed or there are discussions about robberies in your neighbourhood one of the first things people in Kampala will ask is, ‘do you have a dog?’
Long considered the best, friendliest and most affordable way to keep unwanted intruders at bay dogs are certainly a lot friendlier than higher perimeter walls, window bars, electric fences and less expensive than most askari services.
Guard dogs have been used for centuries as a both a deterrent to would-be thieves, and as an alarm system to alert owners that there is a trespasser on the property. Originally, they were bred to accompany and protect people carrying gold and other precious metals, and their effectiveness ensured a long tradition of dogs providing guarding services. In some cultures, guard dogs are still used to protect valuable assets such as livestock from attack, as well as establishments like homesteads.
But in modern-day Kampala what do you need to consider if your friends and neighbours have recommended that you get a guard do? We’ve got a checklist of things you should think about as you set about your search and help you find the right dog for the job.
Attack Dog vs Watch Dog: A lot of people – especially after a robbery – think that they want an attack dog. A dog that will go after people entering the compound but it’s important to remember that without specialist training an aggressive dog is going to be aggressive with everyone – your family and friends as well as trespassers. If that is what you want make sure you have a way to keep the dog away from people you have over for a BBQ and don’t raise your children’s expectations that a cuddly friend is coming into the house. A watch-dog on the other hand can be a more family friendly dog that will bark at strangers and raise an alert without necessarily being trained to attack.
Breed of Dog: Some breeds are naturally better-suited to guarding. Typically, larger breeds such as Dobermans and German Shepherds are used by police canine units. German Shepherds and cross-breed of German Shepherds tend to be preferred breeds for guard dogs in Uganda. Female dogs are considered by many to make better guard dogs owing to their maternal instinct to protect their families from would-be predators. However, regardless of which sex of dog you go for, it is important to get them spayed or neutered to ensure that hormones don’t compromise their training.
Budget: Don’t forget that it’s not just the cost of the dog to consider. Have you budgeted for vet’s bills for vaccination etc., food, shelter for dog if it is to be outside in all seasons, and the costs of training? Dogs can be expensive, particularly if you go for a pure bred one, so ensure you are aware of the costs before you embark on getting a dog that you cannot afford to keep.
Dog training: This will depend on your guarding needs, and to an extent on the breed of dog that you’re going for. A lot of new outfits offering dog training have sprung up in Kampala, but it is vital that you do your research before signing up with one. Some of the big guard services offer dog training but it is worth asking for recommendations on individuals or firms, and it is important to enquire about the methods used to train the dogs as you might not agree with the punishments doled out. If you want general training check out this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AtoZMobileDogTrainingUnitKampala
Where to Find a Guard Dog: Perhaps the hardest part of getting a guard dog is knowing where to start. If you’re only going to be in Kampala for a year or two it’s best to think about how the dog will be cared for after you leave? If you’re not picky about wanting a purebred then your first stop should be Uganda’s Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (https://www.facebook.com/USPCA). These folks do an amazing job and have some really great animals that could be perfect for you. As you ask around or visit dog breeders also make sure that they are being responsible as many of these ‘puppy mills’ dump dogs or keep them in inhumane conditions. If you come across a disreputable breeder make sure to let others and the USPCA know.