Dogs can be a man’s best friend – if they are well trained and do not cause a havoc in the household by chewing up shoes, digging up the garden, pooping everywhere and running out of the house every time the gate is opened.
Most owners innocently take home a beautiful puppy, only to discover that owning a dog is not a simple affair.
Thankfully though, there is a solution to a potential nightmare - professional dog training.
“Dogs need training the minute you take them home. Slowly but surely, they will learn to listen to your commands and respect you as a master,” says professional dog trainer Mohd Badri Mohd Mokhtar, 43.
Though it may look easy to train a dog to sit, stay, and fetch on command, in reality, it takes a lot of patience and passion to get our four-legged friends to obey.
The Malaysian Kennel Association (MKA) chief trainer for Selangor/FT and obedience training chairman is also the proud owner of seven dogs, big and small, young and old.
“I started with two and my pack has grown to seven. There is Bobby, seven years old, a black Labrador male who is in Open class competition; Ben, four, a mixed breed between an English Cocker and a Golden Retriever; Brandy, three, a yellow female Labrador; Bonnie, a six-month-old female Doberman; Billy, a one-year-old male poodle; and last but not least, Patches, a female mixed breed we adopted,” said Badri, who has been an MKA trainer since 1990.
From the time he started out with dog training “just for fun”, there have been thousands (yes, literally) of dogs who have passed through his skilful hands.
“Animals have fascinated me since I was young. I got a little kid (baby goat) from my dad’s kampung, and I still remember whenever I approached his pen, he seemed to recognise me and would walk towards me.
“As I grew up and frequented the circus, I found the animals very amazing as they would do anything the trainer commanded of them; it still captivates me.”
Badri finds infinite joy in keeping dogs. “You return home after a long day at work and they’d be wagging their tails, so happy to see you. I return their affection by playing with them for at least half an hour everyday.
“You feel relieved of all pressure when you see their antics, not to mention the sense of security they give you,” he says.
Calling it quits three years ago at a big local telecommunications company to turn this hobby into a career, Badri is now a full time operator of Pooch Mobile, a franchise business from Australia.
“I was a systems analyst after graduation but realised that was not what I really wanted to do. Of course this life-changing switch resulted in a lot of objections from friends and family.”
Pooch Mobile specialises in giving dogs a good cleanup, or basically bathing them. With over 100 customers in and around the Klang Valley, two Mobiles have been added to the fast-growing business since it started about 18 months ago.
“I hook a trailer to my car and do my rounds by appointments. In the trailer is a special bathtub which the dogs climb into. I then will hose them with our special shampoo, rinse them, clean their ears, cut their nails, brush, blow-dry and deodorise them,” explains Badri.
Apart from being the chief trainer at MKA, he has also been appointed as special projects director for the next term, which ends in 2005.
This dog enthusiast shares about his passion of 16 years and how dog training can be a more fulfilling alternative to a nine-to-five desk job.
What does a dog trainer do?
Well, apart from training a dog, you need to size up its behaviour and know what type of dog it is. You need to find out the reason behind the fierce or timid demeanour. This is something you cannot find in a book, as books would tell you that this breed is this and that but from my experience every dog is different.
You also need to know the owner as well, the type of person he is and why he has chosen this particular breed and not another. We will explain to the owners what needs to be done when the puppy is brought home. It is advisable to start its training at a young age as this is the time it picks up habits, good or bad.
We need to know the temperament of a dog; the best way to find that out is from people who specialise in the breed. By talking to them, you can find out a lot about how to handle your own dog. To sum up, the following is what you need to know:
· DOG psychology (how and what they are thinking);
· VARIOUS breeds including mixed breeds;
· CHARACTERISTICS of owners, why they choose this breed (it will tell a lot about one's character);
· DOGS' health and nutrition; and
· TYPE of training suitable for owners and dogs.
What qualifications do you need?
This area is vast and wide. I will begin by explaining within the MKA's context and our own qualifications and later, on other areas as well.
In the MKA, the following is needed to become a trainer.
i. Attend MKA obedience classes for at least two sessions. First, the basic class followed by the competition classes. There are four competition classes in total – Pre-Novice, Novice, Intermediate and Open. Thus it will take anything from a year to five years depending on how you want to condition your dog for competition. When you qualify in the following classes, certificates will be issued stating that you and your dog have been judged and are now qualified to attend the next higher classes.
ii. Upon reaching the Novice level, you are then eligible to enrol in our train-the-trainer scheme. By now you will have learned from the trainers about the important aspects of dog training.
iii. Once accepted, you will assist the trainer in conducting classes for the year, three sessions a year. The trainer will then grade you and send in a recommendation to the chief trainer on how well you are doing.
Dog training requires more than just one method and it involves a lot of trial and error because every dog is different. That is why we need to expose the trainers to different types of dogs all the time in order for them to learn and understand the various ways a dog thinks and acts. You will then need to attend at least two to three sessions of Obedience seminars conducted by MKA throughout the year.
iv. The fourth session will be held the following year, and you will then be given a class to train and will be graded by the chief trainer. Grading is as follows:
1. Knowledge in training
3. Public relations with members
5. Enthusiasm in teaching
At the recommendation of the chief trainer to the obedience category chairman, a trainee who has gone through all the four stages will then be approved as a qualified trainer, based on the discretion of the MKA Board of Directors.
What are the career prospects?
This is what I consider as a stepping stone to bigger things if you want to make dog training a career or if you want to work with dogs.
You could join the police force’s search and rescue team, the army’s dog unit, security dog training or even conduct private dog training classes.
Just remember that you never stop learning when it comes to dog training, even as a professional trainer.
What kind of personality best suits this job?
You must love working with dogs and have lots of patience as they are just like humans, some are quick learners, and some are not. When working with dogs, you must respect their ability and their sense of space; do not over do things with them; and never ever scold them for nothing or, worse, physically abuse them. Reward the good and reprimand the bad using verbal cues because they respond to different tones better.
Before I started with MKA, I was more interested in golf than dog training. Somehow I found that both are related. When I am playing golf, I sometimes get very angry and impatient when my swings are not right. I would then try to have a little patience and go easy with my swing, and it would actually work.
Dog training is also the same – you have to have patience.
What is the best part of your job?
When I see my students smile from cheek to cheek when they know they’ve found a friend in their dog. At least I played a part in helping them bond with their best pal.
And the worst part?
I honestly cannot think of anything. Getting bitten, probably, but when you’re in this game you should already know how to be quick to avoid such accidents. As for expectations for owners, these are always high, and they get impatient because they have the wrong dog to start with.
What is the income range?
For training a dog you could start with RM1,500 up to RM3,000 a month, depending on the type of training given. That is one dog, but if you do two to three dogs, that's a lot!
As for Pooch Mobile, I charge RM45 for every wash.
How involved is your family in what you do?
My wife, Hakimah Amanda, also trains and is MKA's obedience judge at all levels.
On the other hand, my daughter, Emeilee, prefers participating in dog shows to obedience training. She is currently the junior Handler champion in her class for 2002 and 2003. She trained Ben for the Pre-Novice and Novice competitions in 2001 and 2002. I encourage her so that she is able to be independent and enhance her communications skills.
What is the difference between training big and small dogs?
For a start, dogs don't know their size. Ever seen a small terrier bark at a full-grown bull mastiff? But of course due to their size we use different methods. The risk of a small dog biting you is higher as they are agile while big ones are clumsier. Respecting their abilities and space would make training a breeze. Whenever you approach a dog, big or small, always be cautious and don't try to be clever.At first it will be difficult but dogs tend to know if you have been around them for years. They will then respect you as the pack leader and submit to you.
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