I don’t want my dog to protect me, I want to protect my dog, says dog trainer El Rahim Jaffer


El Rahim Jaffer (centre) with some of his dog trainers. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

He is not sure how far back it goes, but El Rahim Jaffer says that many Rwandan’s views towards dogs aren’t encouraging. At least in past years.

But he is determined to change people’s perceptions, and is optimistic about the revolution.

“Many Rwandans do not really see dogs as pets,” says Jaffer. “They are mostly there for a purpose; like cats keep mice away, dogs are for security.”

“This is something that I would like people to understand, that dogs are more than security,” he says.

Born in Kigali, Jaffer left in 1992 for Belgium, and went to Canada in 1996 before coming back here in 2016.

Being a graduate of Animal Behaviour College and certified in First Aid for pets from Toronto, Canada, he introduced a business called PETS + Ltd in Rwanda in August 2016, aiming at providing all types of pet services and products in the country; dogs and cats mainly.

His company currently trains and walks dogs from their owner’s homes and teaches people to train their dogs to be good pets to live with.

Jaffer’s vision is, “making all Rwandans see that dogs can actually be great creatures”.

According to him, however, many people he talks to seem keener on security training services, something that he’s against.

“I’m not here to provide a service that people want; I’m here to create a service that people will need,” he says, and recognises how big the challenge is and that it may take him years, but he’s still optimistic.

So why is he against the idea of owning dogs just for protection?

A pet dog can protect the owner, but Jaffer is only against the way it’s denied its rights.

“A pet dog can also be a security dog; however, I’m not fond of having a security dog that is caged or chained all day; or is locked up the whole day and let out at night without getting any human interaction,” he says.

“That’s why a dog becomes aggressive and crazy and sometimes, the dog bites people. But it’s our fault because we have caged it,” he says and adds that his philosophy in life is that ‘he doesn’t want his dog to protect him; but he wants to protect his dog’.

Jaffer says the techniques used to train dogs sometimes apply to humans.

“It’s funny but in a lot of cases, yes it does work. For example, I have a two-year-old daughter and I have used some of the methods that I have used on dogs, and it works.

“My methods do not include anything dominating or aggressive, which means I don’t even yell at a dog. I do not want to create fear. I want a dog to want to do something for me,” he says.

The caretakers during a walking routine. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

According to Jaffer, a pet can teach the community to be friendly, and that’s why they use those techniques that are 100 per cent effective because that’s exactly what people want.

Dog training is so important because “you don’t really need a dog that bites or that’s afraid of people.”

“People should treat a dog like a member of the family,” suggests Jaffer. “A dog can sacrifice its life for the owner.”

For Jaffer, dogs should mainly be for companionship. He doesn’t like how some people tell him “my dog is not aggressive enough”.

He also says that it is important to own a pet, but not just because a dog has for so many generations been man’s best friend, but because past studies found that dogs lower stress levels in humans who own them as pets.

He adds, “I think everyone in the world should own a dog because they help the world.”

Jaffer reveals that Rwandans who love dogs mainly want foreign breeds. But those breeds are expensive.

He says that he’s had a few local customers, but most of them gave up up due to the lack of understanding concerning the training.

Moreover, expectations are high and impatience occurs.

“Being one of the most professional dog trainers, people expect a lot from you. I wouldn’t say that I’m a magician, some problems are so deep, and some people are so impatient, that’s the worst part,” he says.

Jaffer envisages that his ambition will definitely give Rwandans a new view towards dogs and that locals owning dogs as pets is something that is growing steadily.

They’re targeting more Rwandan customers through good services provided.

The company is currently training 35 dogs as pets and is hoping to expand by opening a clinic with a wide variety of pet products and services.