Exotic Dogs, The New Status Symbol

Exotic Dogs

Dogs they say are man’s best friend. According to scientists, dogs are wolfs that were domesticated by humans thousands of years ago, but following popular religion’s teachings, dogs are a separate creation, as all animals are created by God.

However, when you look at our furry friends, they are the most common animal companion.

Dogs are not just used as pets; they have been useful to us in numerous ways. There are work dogs like the German shepherd which were developed to herd cattle. There are dogs used to detect illegal drugs at the airports and recently, some breeds have been trained to detect cancer in humans.

Dogs have really been extremely valuable to us.

In recent times in Nigeria, the value of dogs especially special breeds are not just in what they can do for us, but how they can elevate our statusin the society. Some now buy rare breeds of dogs for millions of Naira and take care of them with even more money. Many of these rare breeds do not do any work for the owners, they don’t even bark when they see intruders. They are merely kept for their exotic looks and beauty.

It is steadily becoming a thing of status to have a rare dog in your house and many people are now buying into the trend. The fad is now making some go out of their way in order to ‘feel among’, or ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Just some weeks ago, a popular actress went on social media to flaunt dogs that are not hers. The actress, Oge Okoye had posted a picture of two ‘Lhasa’ dogs and said they were her dogs. Not long after she posted the picture, she got bombarded by responses and people accused her of posing with someone else’s dogs.

The dogs named ‘King’ and ‘Twirl’ actually belonged to an American actress, Kenya Moore. The American actress also responded to the issue online. She said, “This is the height of ‘fake life’, what a world we living in. We have thieves in real life and now there are online thieves.”

This only goes to show how big the ‘dog craze’ is. If a popular actor can go as far as appropriating others’ dogs, then her need for being part of the dog trend is really important for her to stoop that low.

It is not new for Nigerians with spare money to own foreign breeds of dogs. What we have today seems to transcend the need to have a companion. Gone are the days of owning German Sheppard’s, Alsatians, or bull dogs. These dogs are now common and well circulated; hence are not fit for modern tastes.

Wealthy Nigerians now go for dogs that are hard to find and are extremely difficult to take care of. If you can take care of them, then you must be rich – which is the point in the first place.

Breeds that are desirable these days include, ‘Cho chow’, ‘St. Bernard’, ‘Boerboel’, Samoyed, Lhasa, and Cocker Spaniel. And if you are really rich and can afford the care, you may go for even more expensive breeds like; Tibetan Mastiff, Afghan, or an English Mastiff.

A St. Bernard puppy can set you back between, N350,000 to up to N1million, depending on the colour and the sex. For the breeder, the female is more desirable, but for the buyers, they prefer the male. These don’t have the risk of flooding the house with unwanted puppies and their abdomen do not droop permanently after child birth.

According to John Akpobome, a breeder, “the cheapest of the exotic dogs is the Lhasa and the Samoyed. Both breeds look alike and they are cheaper to groom and they rarely fall sick. You can get a puppy for as low as N250,000.” He however said that in recent times, the demand for the breeds have dropped because they are getting ‘common’.

“If you are thinking of going to the high side of the spectrum, you may go for a Tibetan Mastiff or its English cousin. A pup, starts from N1million and you may not get to buy one immediately. The English Mastiff is in high demand. If you want one now, you will not get it.

You have to wait for some months. I have customers who have paid in advance and are waiting for my bitch to give birth. One of these beauties starts from N1million Naira.”

According to Akpbome, despite the recession, there has been a sharp rise in the demand for rare dogs. He said he had sold one for over N2million once. “There are some people who do not want what is common in Nigeria. A client once asked me to help him get an American Eskimo and a Japanese spitz. I don’t breed them and I do not know who breeds them. I called some people who breed them in Abuja but they did not have as well. The client ended up importing the dogs and I heard she spent over N10m to get the dogs into the country.”

Buying the dogs is one thing, taking care of them is another. The cost of taking care of one of these exotic dogs can feed a whole village of humans.

Take the Basset Hound for example, though it costs less than half a million Naira to get one, you will have to shell over N300,000 a month to keep one alive and looking well.

Bassets are a large breed in a smaller body because of their shortened legs. Because of their dwarfism, they are typically kept and treated as larger breed dogs, such as giving them bigger meals and more expensive medications.

They are prone to the same ailments that large breeds can have. Bloat is common in Bassets, and their large ears are also more likely to become infected with bacteria and/or mites. Their droopy eyes can become infected if not kept clean, as well as the folds around their mouths and faces. As with other breeds, hip and elbow dysplasia are also concerns. All these are easily taken care of, but the medical bills mount.

Same goes for other dogs like the Chow chow and the Terriers. A single shot of anti bacteria can be as high as N40,000.

Grooming is another money guzzler. The beauty of the dogs is mostly in their hair. That is what differentiates them the most and what makes them most desired. So taking care of their hair is of high priority.

Curly coat dogs like the Labradoodle, Bichon Frise, and Biton need to get groomed on a weekly basis or else, their hairs will get tangled and they will look more like a Rastafarian. Proper grooming from vets who understands the breed’s peculiar grooming needs can be pricey.

For Bunmi Odu, a vet shop owner in Lagos, he says “I won’t take anything less than N25,000 if I am to groom a breed like Labrador or a Spitz for a month.” I have clients I bill higher because they want extra care for their dogs.

The most important care a dog needs is its food. But it is not just a one size fit all business for dogs when it comes to feeding. You cannot just go to the dog food section at the supermarket to buy a dog food and think it will be good for every type of dog.

There are some dog foods that can feed a wide range of dogs and there are some that are special to some other breeds. If you own an exoticdog, be rest assured that your choice will be on the special section. And the dog food is not enough. You still have to buy vitamin supplements and protein supplement for some breeds due to their peculiar needs.

With rising cost of human food, the price of dog food is over the roof. Almost all of the dog food in stores are imported, and with Dollar rates still high, dog food follows suit.

A-12-can of Pedigree loaf is sold for N5,400 and a two years old dog can finish all 12 cans in two days. Puppy food are even more expensive, you get same quantity of food at N11,500 for Pedigree baby Jelly. The food needs to be mixed with the food are supplements and a Gorilla brand protein supplement is N17,999.

Talking about feeding dogs is Akpbome; “for A start, the feeding depends on you. You will need  to spend at least N120,000 a month to feed dogs like Alsatians and Mastiffs. They are very active dogs and they require a lot of protein supplements. For some people, this may be expensive. Some even try to mix the food with what they eat, but we do not advice that,” he says.

He however says that there are some breeds that are not picky with their food and will still develop properly even when you mix their food. “Samoyed is a very good breed to manage. They are not so big so you don’t have to feed them much. They also develop well even when you mix their food. I will advice that you see a breeder to teach you how to mix their food before you do it. I know people who spend less than N25,000 a month to feed a Samoyed just because the blend their food properly with human food.” But not all breeds can do this.”

With this high cost of keeping exotic dogs, it shows that the taste of the rich has shifted to pets. Dogs are now ranking with Ferrari’s, Louis Vuittons and even Yachts and Rolexes.