Sunday, June 08, 2014

German Shepherd Community in Kuwait

Adopting a German Shepherd has been a HUGE learning experience for me.  It probably would have been easier to get information on my dog and health, obedience, boarding, grooming, nutrition, etc. if I was back in the States.  Like everything else, I seem to like a good challenge (aka "drama").

I have always wanted a German Shepherd.  Never thought I would actually own one so fast.  But then, Mikey fell into my lap (almost literally - and then he peed in it....) and that was it; no going back.  God has mysterious ways of benefiting your life that you could never foresee.  Anyhoo, this background info is all in previous posts.

I discovered that there is a HUGE German Shepherd owners/trainers/breeders/competitor community in Kuwait.  Some are even showed  and compete and win in international competitions.  A lot of the dogs in Kuwait are originally from Germany and Slovakia and many don't understand commands in either Arabic or English.  I met one man who trains dogs using Hindi commands so that other people won't be able to command them.  (Dude, I speak English.  That's what my dog is going to be trained in.)

Some of the GS groups in Instagram

There are no online reviews of dog places in Kuwait; no doggy Angie's List.  Instagram has been helpful, but then a lot of their information is in Arabic as that is their largest target audience.  So... I've had to ask a lot of questions.

When I first came to Kuwait, I imported my sports car.  I knew nothing about garages or who the best mechanic was for turbo engines.  So, I started stopping people with the same car and asking questions.  Yes, most of them thought I was trying to hit on them (a few, I actually was).  Overall, I got the best advice from people with the same thing I have.

I have started my quest for information on German Shepherds in a similar manner:  'Who do I go to for....?'  'Who is the best trainer?'  'Where can I buy....?'    And in stopping GS owners (mostly men) yes, they do think that I'm hitting on them (one in particular, I am.  -- OMG he is like my George Clooney of the Kuwait world!  I see him on the internet and then in person and my heart does a pitty-patter).  

I digress (but OMG I have such a mad crush on him.....)

I have received a lot of very helpful information.  However, true to Kuwaiti culture, Kuwaitis (Arabs in general) are historically story-tellers (passing down stories generation to generation) and sometimes, well... things get embellished.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing; a double-edged sword.  If it is a positive story, great!  But unfortunately, human nature generally dictates that the majority of the time, there is a lot of trash talk.  Negative seems so much easier for humans to do.

Everybody talks bad about each other in the GS world here (with the exception of a few with integrity)! And I've heard that some of the breeders even steal dogs from each other!  (If you buy a purebred GS in the Friday Market and do some hunting/research, generally the true dog owner will pay a lot more than you paid for it to get it back; and the dogs are most likely either tatooed or microchipped.)

Yesterday, I was at the beach and there were 2 men together in a group of their friends down the way.  Each had a German Shepherd.  Each walked them down the beach at separate times.  I chat.  It's what I do.  It's what my mother does.  We come from a long line of chatters.  So, I spoke to each of them about their dogs, who their trainers were, who they recommended.  

Dude #1 was a humble kind of guy.  I told him who my dog's trainer is (Peter - LOVE HIM!) and he had nice things to say.  He mentioned another trainer, S,  and I said I wouldn't take my dog to him as I've heard bad things (that he hits the dogs).  He agreed.  We chatted a little. I played with the dog.  They walked on down the beach.

Dude #2 (Dude #1's friend) was less of a humble guy.  He asked ME who my dog's trainer is and then proceeded to trash him.  He went on and on about how he knows nothing about dogs; how it was him (Dude #2) who taught my trainer friends "everything they know" about dogs, blah blah blah... yada yada.  And (get this) that the dog-beater trainer (who his friend had just admitted hits dogs) was the "best in Kuwait".  (Seriously dude?)   I played with the dog.  They walked on down the beach.

Many people here directly trash-talk  my dog from the get-go (including some well-intentioned stupid friends - you know who you are!).  The most common phrase I've heard is, "He's not original German Shepherd." or "He's Egyptian." (not so much lately as Mikey is now around 50 kilos and Egyptian-bred GS's are smaller). When Mikey was a puppy, I got, "His ears aren't up.  He's not original GS." (GS puppy ears are always floppy.  They go up later at around 4-5 months of age.)  Or the completely incorrect, "Look at his tail!  It's so long.  He's not a real German Shepherd."  (A long tail denotes a show-line GS as opposed to a working-line GS.  I have learned that show-lines like Mikey are prettier and learn slower than their cousins who are bred for police/protection/drug detection work.)  And to all of those who have said that Mikey is NOT an "original German Shepherd:  I was just offered 1,000 KD by a breeder to sell him!  (Never going to happen for any price, but it was a compliment, regardless.)  Mikey is a pretty dog who is going to be trained for protection at home.  

(L to R) 1 month old, 3 months old, 4.5 months old, 6 months old

Look at that tail!!! Amazing, right?

Now, at 7 months old
Training in Kuwait starts at obedience and goes all the way up to K-9 police/protection training.  Obedience training should start for a German Shepherd at around 7-9 months (because they are still just puppies who want to play).  Serious training starts at around 14 months of age and that's when he'll start protection training.  (He's actually pretty protective of me right now which is instinctual and I like it - he just needs to learn when to stop.)

I was referred to my trainer from an internet group on Instagram (group_gsd_kw).  I researched their group first; they hold weekly gatherings for dogs and their owners, they educate the public on dogs at events, and are a great group of people.  

I interviewed trainers before I chose Peter (from Slovakia).  I went to their kennels several times.  I reviewed  videos to see how the dogs reacted to trainers  and how trainers reacted to the dogs.  There was no doubt in my mind then - or now - that I made the right choice.  I felt comfortable with Peter; he had a good, positive energy surrounding him.  Mikey is now totally in love with him (and I am sure I would be able to sense if anything was wrong in their relationship on any of my visits to see him at the kennels).  Ahmed S is Peter's training partner.  Ahmed is Kuwaiti and translates for Peter, as Peter speaks almost all Slovakian.  Ahmed never has trashed another trainer or group in Kuwait.  However, he did show me a dog that another trainer had worked with (and ruined by beating her).  That was evidence enough for me.  Dogs don't lie (not the 4-legged type anyways).

Mikey loves his trainer, Peter!  Bromance

I have a friend with a kennel in Kuwait who is with another trainer who I have heard mixed things about.  I am being more cautious about saying anything negative about anyone these days because if something is not evidenced as first-hand, you may not have accurate information and that can be damaging.

In 2010, I reported on a story and this particular trainer, N,  was involved.  The owner left her dog with him and the dog later disappeared.  It was an incredibly sad story and many people got involved to try to help find her family pet.   LINK HERE and LINK HERE.  I have been told since that the information provided in the owners story was inaccurate; the official procedures would not have allowed it to happen.  (But since the owner wasn't there at the time of the "raid" she could not have known either.)  My gut feeling was that her dog was used as a bait dog for fighting; it is better just to think that your dog has gone missing than to think about that atrocity.  

I have met N several times (he didn't remember me) and I didn't feel good about his energy on any of the meetings.  He seems to know good dog training (and didn't trash talk competitor trainers), but I wasn't comfortable with him.  [Sidenote:  He also touted himself as a psychic and later, when discreetly away from the group, asked me for 30 KD to "fix" the bad magic on me.  Innnnteresting.  I wonder how much the follow-up bad-magic-fixing cost me (I'm a believer, but I believe that true "healers" don't take money for their gift).]

You have to be VERY careful about who you leave your dog with.   There is a very large underground dog fighting community in Kuwait and you never know unless you start digging for information (and it should be from Kuwaitis). Understandably, even the animal shelters are reluctant to provide information on trainers; especially if it is heresay. 

Anyhoo, positive, positive, positive....

There are good people out there. There are people with integrity and ethics.  I've found a few and I'm happy to make referrals.  Likewise, if any of you out there have been to trainers/kennels/boarding facilities and would like to pass along the information, please let me know and I'll post it. .... Unless it is to trash people and then I'll just heed/appreciate your warning, but won't post it.


Anonymous said...

Your dog looks so beautiful Masha'Allah :)
I love your attitude of diligence , caution and respect in your search for what is best for your dog . In Arabic a saying by the prophet urges us to ask around and then follow what feels right in our heart :)

Anonymous said...

What an absolute beauty and that tail!!!! Mashallah.My husband and I have adopted a half husky/GS from someone called dogdom who rescued a pack. He's been pretty awesome and our little pup is now 3 months. She goes on play dates and has a GS friend who is only a month apart. I'm sometimes too scared to take our pup our for walks cos I get asked if she's for sale and worry she might get dognapped or some huge dog just wants to have fun with her. your trainer sounds pretty ace. Good luck with your not so little one you seem to be a doing a great job :)

Unknown said...

Hi, i liked your views on the GSD community in Kuwait. but im sure its like this all over. there are the good and the bad.
we are looking to adopt a GS for our kids who are 6 and 7 years old. i used to have a GS when i was their age here in Kuwait and probably my best memories he is always included in them.
if you here of or know of GSD for adoption or for a reasonable price kindly give me a call please. 55227097
thanks and all the best to you