PETALING JAYA: Guard dogs are increasingly in demand, thanks to the rising spate of crime and greater concern for the safety of lives and property.
Many upper-class households, exclusive clubs, large companies, law enforcement agencies, estates, jewellery shops, warehouses and commercial complexes are securing the services of guard dogs.
The dogs are a supplement to guards and alarm systems.
The likes of a German Shepherd, also known as Alsatian, Rottweiler, Doberman, Boxer, Terrier, Melonios and Labrador are much sought after for their discipline and skills that range from static security, detection work, human-tracking, patrolling and rescue work.
Guard dogs, which are either brought in from Europe, the United States or bred locally, are in demand for several reasons.
"For one, guard dogs don't sleep on the job! They are very reliable and cannot be bribed!" said Gwen Kennels proprietor Edmund Marc De Run, who has a breeding and training centre in Batu Arang, Selangor.
De Run, 60, who has been in the business for over 35 years, said guard dogs were also intelligent animals.
He recalled that his dogs were a hit for payroll escorts in the sixties when they were hired out for only RM2 an hour.
"Today, hiring a trained dog can cost up to RM1,500 a month while buying one will cost between RM2,000 and RM20,000.
"It may cost several hundred ringgit a month to maintain each dog but the returns are worth it," said de Run who started his business in 1973 with 22 dogs imported from London.
He said there was a great demand among tin miners for his dogs which were able to sniff out thieves who attempted to smuggle out pure tin ore concealed in cigarette tin cans.
G-Pet Guard Dog Services managing director Carlos Huertas said there were easily over 1,000 guard dogs in the country.
"As a guard dog has a life span of about six years, the turnover is high," said Huertas.
His firm is not hiring out guard dogs because of the risk of injury to the animals
"We concentrate on supplying trained guard dogs to security firms and enforcement agencies, many of which are setting up their own 'K9' units.
"I believe there is an important bond between humans and animals that we can use to enrich our lives. I have never met a dog that I could not find something positive about," Huertas said.
He added that guard dogs were trained as man's best friend by instilling passion, love, obedience and response to commands.
"Training involves teaching the dog against attacking friends and other pets, destructive chewing, unnecessary barking and toiletting.
"The dogs are boarded in a hygienic environment with plenty of ventilation. Grooming involves a bath, ear cleaning, nail curing and a brush.
"Air-scenting search dogs are trained to scan the air currents for human scent or track for forbidden items like drugs, firearms and explosives," said Huertas, who runs his facility in Shah Alam, Selangor.
M-Guardians K9 operations manager Leo Pui said poor security in an establishment could result in rocketting insurance and operational costs because of burglaries.
"You may also suffer losses from vandalism, theft and pilfering that can affect your profits," said Pui.
He advised businessmen and individuals to allow guard dog firms to take care of their security needs while they focussed on more important things.
"We are committed to meet the critical trust placed on us by providing dedication, professionalism and integrity in our supply of guard dogs," said Pui, whose firm is based in Miri, Sarawak.
Sunny K9 Sdn Bhd managing director Sunny Tan advised people not to take security for granted.
"Protect your family and property from intruders, burglars, rapists, kidnappers and murderers. Don't wait until it is too late!"
"It's true! Most of us take things for granted and believe that bad things happen only to other people," said Tan, whose outfit in Tanjung Rambutan, Ipoh.
Tan said one should always be prepared for the worst, especially with the threatening crime rate.
Former Army Dog Unit commander Captain (rtd) Kung Boon Chin said guard dogs must be regulated by the local authority and provided proper food, a kennel and an equally trained dog handler.
"If improperly handled, guard dogs can be a liability and sensitive especially in a multi-religious society like ours."
Kung, who used to operate Captain Kung's Guard and Dog Sdn Bhd and later JKL Security Sdn Bhd., now runs Detag Sdn Bhd, a company dealing with electronic security equipment, in Shah Alam.
Kung said trained dogs could detect the slightest sign of danger to safety.
"Thus, they complement guards very well," he said.
Stephen Guard Dog chief trainer Stephen Anthony from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur said his firm could supply any number of dogs to customers as he had a ready supply from abroad.
"We can airfreight the dogs and get them acclimatised quickly with their new surrounding and owners," he said.
Asian Professional Security Association president Datuk Rahmat Ismail said many security firms established their K9 units as the business was lucrative.
"Besides, guard dogs complement guards and security gadgets, thereby enhancing the safety of lives and property," he said.