At the School for Dog Trainers, a significant part of our mission is to introduce modern, effective training techniques to canine professionals across the globe. Our International Scholarship program offers the opportunity for one individual to attend the 24-week Master Dog Trainer course, providing the most in-depth canine education available.
To merit consideration for the International Scholarship, applicants must be a citizen of a country other than the United States, and explain why they want to become a dog trainer and how they would use their knowledge after graduating from the School for Dog Trainers.
We received a number of impressive applications for the 2020 International Scholarship – making this a very difficult decision! In keeping with tradition, Greg Vaughn, Lead Instructor at the School for Dog Trainers, revealed the identity of the lucky scholarship recipient in a video message on our Facebook page.
We would like to extend our warmest congratulations to Javan Mwenje from Kenya! We’re excited to meet Javan in-person when he attends the Master Dog Trainer program in our Summer 2020 semester, and can’t wait to welcome him to our campus in North Carolina.
To learn more about his experience working with dogs, in addition to discovering how the course will benefit him, we interviewed Javan to understand his thoughts on his upcoming studies at the School for Dog Trainers.
Javan, tell us a little bit about where you grew up and where you currently live.
I was born to a family of seven in the rural parts of Western Kenya, Vihiga County. I was raised and educated in the local schools near my village. I can say I had a normal village life for a Kenyan, and am grateful for the support of my parents for providing me with a solid education and upbringing. I was an average student and after finishing my secondary level education in 2009, I moved to the city to face a new challenge.
In 2018, I began working with Action for Cheetahs in Kenya as a conservation detection dog handler, where I developed a passion and drive in wildlife conservation. In 2019, I was promoted to the position of lead handler and unit coordinator.
I usually stay at the ACK facilities either near Nairobi where we do basic training for the dogs in between field work, or at our field sites. We have a primary camp that is made up of tents, and a small office where we have a second set of kennels for training and field work in our northern Kenya Samburu base location.
During field work, we camp in tents while setting up a field kennel for the dogs. Field work lasts from five to ten weeks at a time depending on the area we are covering. Together with the dogs, we work in remote locations that most Kenyans only read about.
What was your experience growing up with dogs? Did you have them as pets as a child?
My love and care for animals comes naturally. When I was only seven years old, I rescued a puppy from a ditch that was full of water. I had gone to collect some firewood for lunch preparation in the thicket around our shamba (homestead) when I heard an unfamiliar sound in a ditch.
On closer observation. I saw a helpless puppy in the ditch trying to find its way out, but it could not, and that is how I got my first dog pet whom I named ‘Tricky’.
We shared a lot, but it was all built on the pillars of trust, loyalty and mutual understanding of everyone’s social space.
Please explain a little about your current role working with dogs in Kenya.
As a handler and a unit coordinator at Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, I am involved in selection of suitable puppies, and train and deploy in finding and discriminating cheetah scat against other carnivores.
I also train personnel, such as helping interns who find it interesting working with dogs to develop a career in the canine field and for scientific study. I also help to develop protocol and alternative (non-invasive) methods of biological material collection that help in conservation of endangered species, especially carnivores. This is a relatively new program in ACK, and I am proud to be a part of bringing dogs into the frontline of wildlife conservation.
In the United States, dog training is common. Is this the same in Kenya? Is there a big emphasis on dog training?
Dog training is an emerging opportunity in Kenya because of rapidly changing population dynamics and a growing middle class. However, it has not expanded very much because of limited skills among the trainers.
Further, most of the training has focused on security and contraband leaving other aspects lagging behind reducing the emphasis on canine training, care and husbandry. I hope to be a driving force in training and in promotion of quality dog care in Kenya.
For those of us who aren’t familiar with Kenya, what is the role of working dogs in the country? Is it common to see police dogs, for example?
Working dogs have been around for some time in security, and more recently, in the airports and shipping industry to search for illegal trafficking of drugs and wildlife trophies.
Kenya remains an epicenter of iconic wildlife species that are facing extinction due to many anthropogenic activities and illegal activities threatening them. As such, working dogs have been used on a limited scale to track poachers and traps.
However, wildlife conservation also includes research and it is my belief that conservation canines can play a role in the non-invasive search and collection of biological samples to increase our knowledge on the animals and assist in formulating policies.
The use of hound dogs for anti-poaching units and police dogs for tracking and security is also a growing field in Kenya. Many of the large shopping malls in Kenya now have search dogs at the points of vehicle entry. Military dogs are also used for explosive detection throughout Africa, especially in war-torn countries. It is an exciting time in this field and time for us to come together in the field to assure that the skill sets in the country are of the highest international standards.
How did you first hear about Highland Canine and the School for Dog Trainers?
The information about Highland Canine and the School for Dog Trainers was shared to me by the founder and our then project consultant, UK9 Solutions, and from the readings of Mr. Fred Helfers, author and trainer of canines.
Please sum up your feelings about attending the School for Dog Trainers at this moment - are you excited?
First of all, I am extremely grateful to the scholarship award team for considering me for the award that will foster my dream of becoming a well-trained handler and trainer.
I am very excited to be joining a highly ranked canine training school whose history in the field of canine training is well known. I must admit, I am also excited to visit the United States. Thank you once again to the School for Dog Trainers for making my dream come true!
Are there any parts of American life you’re looking forward to experiencing?
Greenville Zoo in South Carolina – because I would like to see an orangutan!