BEST OF BREED
Everyone thinks they have the best dog... and none of them are wrong.
-- W.R. Purche
By ALMA J. BUELVA
NESTLED high above the hills of Antipolo inside a private subdivision is a place where giants roam.
Alert, strong, quick and majestic, these giants demand respect. It would be wise to approach them with caution, especially during initial encounters. Their imposing appearance, however, belies their friendly nature. When their guard is down, the Alaskan Malamute and Caucasian Ovcharka are as playful, affectionate and loyal as any dog can be.
A good number of these furry giants call Goliath Kennel their first home. Established in July 2014, Goliath Kennel has raised the bar in breeding these large dogs, emphasizing quality over quantity. The same goes for their carefully evaluated customers.
This kennel of Gino Abaya focuses on compassion for the animals, care for their future and (good) relationships with buyers. At any given time, Goliath Kennel houses around 15 to 20 dogs. But one can't just walk in and expect to leave with one. To get a giant, one must pass through the eye of a needle which is Abaya's set of conditions designed to ensure a good future for his dogs.
“We want capable and responsible homes with the ability to support, develop, improve and help the puppies reach their full potential. This coincides with our 'nature and nurture' creed,” said Abaya.
“We have repeatedly denied selling to people who we felt were unfit, with an intention to make pasikat (show off) or with puppy milling tendencies. Of course, we cannot guarantee a 100 percent fool-proof screening process that's why we have a notarized contract with all our buyers that if the puppy is neglected we will have the right to buy them back, or if the case is criminal we can repossess the puppy without having to pay for anything. This is for the safety of everyone with the well-being of the puppy in mind,” he added.
A GIANT FOR A PET
In sizing up clients, Goliath Kennel also considers a person's lifestyle to determine which giant dog will be the right fit.
Abaya said both breeds are working dogs but Alaskan Malamutes are marathon runners while Caucasian Ovcharkas are more like personal body guards.
Abaya's advice is: “If you are a health buff who love training for fun runs, get a Malamute. If you're somewhat lazy and want or need home protection and companionship, go for a Caucasian.”
“Alaskan Malamutes are gentle giants. They are okay for first time dog owners and will bond well with the family. Make sure that the owner has an active lifestyle and can give at least 30-45mins walk time daily to release the Malamute's energy, otherwise say goodbye to your slippers, shoes, chargers and anything they can nibble on. It's in their DNA to run and work. They cannot act as guard dogs, no matter what people tell you,” said Abaya.
“Only a mismanaged or physically abused Alaskan Malamute will bite a human being. They can grow up to 120 lbs and 31 inches average. Giant dogs do not know that they are big. It's important to train them not to jump on people when they are excited, otherwise they might accidentally cause physical injuries to a person. Try to train them early not to walk ahead of you or they will be dragging you wherever they want to go,” Abaya added.
As for Caucasian Ovcharkas, Abaya said this livestock guardian dog is meant to be enjoyed by its family exclusively. This breed is not for first time dog owners.
“Caucasian Ovcharkas are highly protective (not aggressive) of their property, flock, pack and loved ones. They require only brief 10-minute walks. They find joy and happiness knowing what's going on inside their house. All visitors should go through them, that's why they find comfort in sleeping at doorways or gates. They also have the tendency to find the high ground and survey from there. They are instinctively protective even without training. The energy will come out whenever there's a threat, otherwise they are happy guarding the house, the owner or any living thing they deem weaker than them,” said Abaya.
Those who were fortunate to acquire an Alaskan Malamute or Caucasian Ovcharka from Abaya are required to give the Goliath Kennel Club Exclusive, a private group among buyers, a quarterly update on their puppies. The group was formed as a venue for sharing breed ownership experiences, providing 24-hour help and assistance and building friendships.
Group members are entitled to free dog lodging and grooming every time they visit the kennel. They also get first dibs when new puppies become available and before they are made public.
“We have repeat customers who have already gone through the screening process before. Some of them have bought up to four puppies but they must follow the guideline not to inbreed,” said Abaya.
At present, there are previous buyers from Cavite and Cebu who are planning to breed responsibly. Abaya welcomes this by educating and guiding them on how to do it and become partners of Goliath Kennel.
It's easy to see why people would crave to own a giant Alaskan Malamute or Caucasian Ovcharka. They are awe-inspiring specimens of canine might and beauty. But while they are easy on the eyes, taking care of them is not easy on the wallet.
Abaya has done the Math: P10,000 (monthly upkeep per dog) x 12 months x 12 years = P1.4 million.
“We average between P70,000 to P80,000 a month on dog food alone. Add the cost of veterinary care, preventive medicines, vitamins and supplements, toys, water, cages, sanitation, shampoo and other things” and it becomes staggering.
However, money doesn't seem to be an issue for a lot of people. Abaya said his puppies usually get sold out within the first six weeks (from birth). Demand is such that Abaya mulls an official Goliath Kennel Waitlist to help them plan out their giants' breeding program.
“We try our best to find a home first before having puppies...All our adults are not for sale and from time to time we try to keep one puppy as pet only and serve as mascot since we trained them all to entertain guests. Over the years, I have raised around 60 puppies that found their people. We stand by our decision not to be a puppy mill but we keep trying to broaden our reach to find out if there are still capable and responsible homes (for the dogs). If this is no longer possible and there are no more capable homes, then the breeding should cease as well,”' Abaya said.
Goliath Kennel has a sprawling outdoor space with a great view of the city. The total lot area is about 1,400 sqm, mostly appropriated for the dogs' use. Still, Gino told MetroPets of their plan to move tto a bigger (seven to 10-hectare land) and higher location in the Sierra Madre region for better elevation, cooler weather and cleaner air. Both giant breeds after all originally came from cold countries.
To help both giant breeds acclimatize, Abaya said the imported ones are kept in air-conditioned kennels for 24 hours from four to six months.
“They get slow exposure (from sunlight) and well-monitored walks during 5 a.m and 5 p.m before they get to somehow adjust. Those born in the country seem to have adjusted well beginning from inside the womb. They drool and shed less and are more energetic to run longer even at noontime,” Abaya said.
Perfecting the breeding of the Alaskan Malamute and Caucasian Ovcharka is a work in progress. Abaya said they are open to breeding other “Goliath” dogs someday, but “until we have mastered and improved the lines of these two, have done our extensive market research and have remodeled our accommodations, other giant breeds will have to wait.”
They also plan to open a non-profit animal shelter and rehabilitation center for injured and neglected giant breeds in the future. Abaya and his dog handlers have rescued, rehabilitated and re-homed a handful of neglected giants from irresponsible owners in the past.
This is something that strengthened their resolve to steadfastly sell only to qualified buyers because even giants can suffer in the wrong hands. But if you prove to be truly worthy of these dogs, you'll soon discover that they are actually gentle giants. A real man's best friend – upsized.