A rugged dirt road leads us to Solomon Kimeu’s compound in Athi River. Tens of dogs in open kennels bark at us. We are scared at first, but Solomon says they are trained not to attack non-threatening people.
These dogs are different. They cost anything from Sh1.5 million because they can sniff out stolen money, narcotics and even explosives.
“I started this security dogs business about six years ago as a hobby. Now my dogs do blue-collar jobs. They are trained to work, even go into active terror attacks sites and deal with the attackers,” he says.
Solomon says German Shorthaired Pointers make good counter-terrorism dogs owing to their diminutive features and perfect sense of smell.
“Small dog breeds can be deployed in aeroplanes, ships, vehicles, among other places. On the other hand, large, heavily-built dogs like German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Malinois make good attack dogs owing to their stout physical structures which are fear-inspiring,” says Solomon.
He breeds and trains the dogs in Athi River but has a cozy office in Nairobi's Upper Hill where he runs the business and provides other security services.
“Before these dogs are deployed to various missions, they undergo specialised training on how to detect explosives and incapacitate the attackers. Their handlers are also highly trained,” Solomon says, adding that he sometimes crossbreeds them to get high-quality genes.
Any dog can make an exemplary counter-terrorism dog as long as it receives proper training and care, he says.
In his training ground, he has Boerboels, also known as the South African Mastiff, crossbreeds, English Springer Spaniel to Cocker Spaniels.
“A trained security dog ranges from Sh1.5 million to about Sh5 million, depending on breed, roles they perform and other factors,” says the 35-year-old dogs investor, adding the he mostly sells them in Mali, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and also locally.
His dogs man gates in high-end hotels and offices in Nairobi and he sometimes rents them out to protect high-level dignitaries visiting Kenya.
“The who’s who, whom my dogs have protected, have helped boost the confidence in my firm,” he says.
The dogs take 18 months to one year to mature and work for about seven to 10 years.
Even if they are security dogs, they need as much attention as companion breeds do.
“A handler must develop a close bond with their dog and that one dog should be handled by only one handler. Furthermore, they should receive proper medical attention to prevent them from getting sick,” he says.
Because he is pretty much well versed with Rottweilers, he discourages pet lovers from keeping them since they can easily attack, especially children.
“You can keep other breeds as pets so long as they receive proper care and attention throughout,” he says.
However, running the dogs business is not cheap.
“I fly in experts from around the globe who charge exorbitant fees to train these dogs,” he says.