Kundai Marunya Lifestyle Writer
She puts on a white fur coat, snug white gloves in her hand, a sign that winter is here.
On a leash and walking beside her is a white poodle. They match well, from the color of their “coats” to the way they walk gracefully.
The animal is his best friend and they seem to click well. This lady’s behavior is not unique.
Dogs are man’s best friend.
People fall in love with them for different reasons; some are cuddly, others smart, protective, fun to be around while others just make great fashion accessories.
Relationships then differ, with people opting for different races for their varying skills and characters.
So fashionistas, especially women, opt for Chihuahuas and Poodles which are fashionable, lively and alert.
Security companies and businessmen opt for German Shepherds for their noble character, loyalty, curiosity and high intelligence, Boerboels and Rottweilers for their large size, obedience and territorial nature. These and many other reasons have over the years strengthened the relationship between dogs and humans.
In the relationship, great value has been created with men willing to part with thousands of dollars to own a breed of their choice.
Due to the demand for different breeds, many people are turning to dog breeding for commercial purposes.
Zimbabwe has caught the virus, with a number of herders farming mainly in urban areas over the years.
The trend has broken the monopoly of dog breeding, which was largely dominated by veterinary corporations. Individuals are now converting their backyards into breeding spaces.
Among the rising wave of entrepreneurs is Revai Mazani who breeds German Shepherds and Rottweilers in Waterfalls, Harare.
“I started breeding dogs in 2015 after my dad bought me two Rottweiler puppies to breed.
“When he brought them home, they weren’t for breeding but for our safety as we had been plagued by burglaries for a long time,” he said.
It was by pure coincidence that Mazani became a breeder producing at least eight puppies a month.
“When my dogs grew up they naturally produced six puppies. I didn’t want to keep many dogs so I started looking for markets to sell them to, that’s when I found people were willing to to part with an average of US$400 for a purebred puppy,” he said.
Mazani, who had just finished high school, ended up selling her puppies, investing the proceeds in female German Shepherds and another female Rottweiler. He built more kennels and researched the best way to breed dogs.
“As I spent more time researching dog breeding and growing my business, I discovered my passion for veterinary work. a degree in veterinary nursing,” Mazani said.
He now works with the help of his brother so he can have more time to focus on his studies.
A walk through the high and low density suburbs in the morning or evening will guarantee you a view of dog herders walking a group of dogs on a leash.
With a continued rise in burglary and theft cases, most breeds are Boerboels, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers, among other favorite security dogs.
Dogs are high maintenance, however, as they require constant vaccination against diseases such as rabies.
“You have to constantly vaccinate your dogs and feed them properly,” said Dr. Sean Rusike, animal rights activist and veterinarian.
“You have to be very careful about what, how and when to feed your dogs. It is always important to feed them at least twice a day, a light meal and water in the morning to prepare them for running in the heat and at least five kilograms of hot dog food in the evening.
Dr. Rusike encouraged dog owners to include plenty of protein.
“It’s not that starch is bad for dogs, but if they want to grow up with strong bones, they need lots of protein,” he said.
To avoid expense, some breeders own only one male dog which they rent out to mate with others at the owners request.
Arcadia-based breeder Edgar Meares says owning a purebred male is lucrative.
“It will be surprising how many times my Rottweiler is engaged to mate. There are dog owners who only own females because it is expensive to keep males and females, so they opt for the hiring my services which only cost US$35,” he said.
Meares’ dog is also committed to crossbreeding with different breeds.
“My dog isn’t always hired by those who breed for business, but also by people who love Rottweilers but can’t afford to buy a pure one,” he said.
Even though dog breeding brings in a lot of money for many people, many breeders fail to invest in research and education on the best way to care for dogs.
This has drawn criticism from animal rights activists as to whether backyard farming should be encouraged or not.
“There are laws that require dog breeders to be licensed and there are strict requirements for a breeder to be licensed. Due to greed, many breeders ignore them and breed in their backyards without knowing how best to do so or what facilities the dogs need. Responsible authorities should make enforcement of these laws a priority so that animals are not harmed,” said Dr Rusike.
He added that there are dogs like the German Shepherd that require a lot of exercise and therefore need ample space to roam.
“I really don’t encourage backyard keeping of such breeds, but when people keep doing it, they should take their dogs for long walks and exercise,” Dr Rusike said. .
Although for some they remain best friends, dogs have evolved into the main source of income for many.