Little did Robert Nicole, owner of Roni’s Kenne know that his passion for dogs in his teens could earn him a living in his adult age.
Roni, as he is popularly called by his friends and business associates, owns a number of companies including a kennel, real estate agency and launderette which earns him millions of Cedis.
Though he refused to give specific details on his annual turnover it is obvious his dog business stands out.
In recent times in Ghana, the craze for exotic breed of man’s best friend, the dog, has become a lucrative business and this is where people like Roni welcome the new development.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that there are over 150 dog breeders engaged in the dog business in Accra alone while there is a growing population of dog breeders in Tema, Ghana’s industrial hub, Takoradi in the Western region and tamale in the Northern Region.
In Accra, young boys are seen in traffic intersections with puppies in hands especially targeting owners of private cars as they main patron. While areas near the Achimota forest, Cantonment, East Legon and Teshie are the main centres for the dog trade.
Mr Nicole, whose Roni’s Kennel is one of the leading breeders in the country, said the dog business is growing. More people appreciate the price of a puppy which until recently was compared to the price of a cow when mentioned.”
Mr. Nicole, who had his first set of dogs- a German shepherd and a Rottweiler- in his teens, says he never thought of keeping dogs for business. “It was more of a hobby.”
But after he crossed his female dogs with the male dogs of the same breed of a friend, he had seven puppies. Though he lost five of the puppies, he later sold them for GH¢100 each when they were eight weeks old.
For the second time when he crossed his dogs again, he had eight puppies of which six survived and then when they were old enough to be weaned off their mother, he sold them.
Then he realized his passion for dogs could turn into a profitable business.
Today, Mr. Nicole owns a big kennel with over 36 breeds of dogs ranging from Boerboel, Mastiff of different types such as Miniature Bull Terrier, Neopolitan, and the English Mastiff to the American Pit Bull, Great Dane, Chihuahua and the Japanese Tosu.
The dogs are reared on two plots of land at four different places: Dansoman, East Legon, Koforidua and Weija where 12 employees handle the care and sales.
And Roni explains that the dogs need enough space to exercise and move about in order to be healthy and strong.
Additionally, Roni’s Kennel makes use of the services of external trainers and private service providers who groom the dogs.
“We recommend very good trainers to our customers, we need the services of trainers.”
From four outlets in East Legon, Osu, Kasoa and Spintex, Roni sells the dogs to anybody who loves dogs.
Mr. Nicole’s customers include government officials, former presidents and their wives, expatriates, ministers, entrepreneurs and the general public.
The company also sells to security companies who prefer older dogs and specific breeds such as the Boerboel and the Ridge Buck. The price for a puppy depending on the breed sells between $200 and $300, Mr Nicole stated.
To attract customers, Roni’s Kennel resorts to various marketing strategies including verbal recommendation.
Besides, the CEO also researches constantly to keep trend with the bred in the system.
“There was a time when Boerboels were preferred by most buyers but people started breeding them with other dogs and the quality of dogs was not the best so the interest went down.”
For quality dogs, he advised buyers and potential buyers to make purchases from recognized breeders who would give them value for their money.
Among other businesses such as Roni’s Properties and Roni’s Cleaners, the 33-year-old also owns a dog food outlet, which is the main agent of an American and British company for Ghana and West Africa.
In future, Mr Nicole wants to expand his business to Takoradi in the Western region, Ghana’s oil hub and Kumasi in the Ashanti region.
More demand is expected as a result of the growing desire of individuals to buy dogs for keep as pets or for safety and the growing number of security companies in the country.
“I also want to bring in a plant that would manufacture and process dog food,” said the young CEO who also plans to set up a Ghana Kennel Club which seeks to wipe out breeders who are not “doing the right thing.”
Dr Jonathan Amakye-Anim, President of the Private Veterinary Association, in an interview, noted that some dog breeders keep dogs in terrible conditions and do not following best practices in the business.
“They do not keep the pedigree. They just cross any type of dog,” he said and cautioned dog breeders to register with qualified veterinary officers as well as ensure that vaccination was done by certified vet surgeons.
A pedigree is a dog’s family tree and may go to about four or five generations of the dog.
It lists the registered names of the dog’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents among others and include other information such as date of birth, color, registration number, call name, or titles earned.
Pedigrees are useful when planning a breeding program as knowing a dog’s ancestry, is necessary to help determine how closely related a dog is to another for before deciding to cross them.
Dog owners were caution to ensure that they feed their dogs with the right kind of food as “the sick and energetic dog must not be fed on the same food”.
A dog trainer, B. J. Kofi Cole, who has been taming dogs for years, believes the dog business would get better with more education.
The expert, who can make wild dogs calm and vice versa, noted that “people are getting to know about the role of dog trainer gradually.”
Duration for taming a dog by the man who can generate over 500 commands from the basic five commands a dog can obey, varies.
By Emelia Ennin Abbey