Samy Velu Chandrasagaran is living out his dream as a dog behaviourist.

Prior to that, he was in the sales line for a prominent IT company for 12 years, and reached the pinnacle of his career as its sales director.

Despite his success, he felt that he wasn’t living life to the fullest.

But he was passionate about cooking and training dogs. “I am a very good cook,” he professes.

After weighing all the considerations, he decided to pursue his “ultimate passion” of working with dogs.

Five years ago, Samy made the career switch. He also sold off his condo unit, then bought a semi-detached house in Puchong Utama in Selangor. At last, he could bring his pet Beagle home. It had been staying at his parents’ place, since pets were not allowed at the condo.

“Then I got Leo (a Rottweiler) in as well. He was just four weeks old,” says Samy, 32, when we meet at his dog training centre, also in Puchong Utama.

Leo had been abandoned by his mother. “So I became his ‘mother’,” quips Samy.

Samy with Leo, the Rottweiler he had adopted as a puppy after its mother abandoned it.

Samy with Leo, the Rottweiler he had adopted as a puppy after its mother abandoned it.

On their walks around their new neighbourhood, Samy and his wife noticed that many of the dogs were chained or caged up. And they looked miserable.

“They were barking unnecessarily, jumping, just sitting there and looking so bored.” Their forlorn expressions tugged at Samy’s heartstrings.

“Since you like dogs so much, why don’t you do something about it?” asked his wife, Priyal Gunasagaran.

Samy then began offering dog-walking services to his neighbours who were unable to spend time with their pets. That included feeding the dogs, cleaning up their messes, and playing with them.

“It was to fulfil the dogs’ daily needs when their owners were not around, in the comfort of their own home,” says Samy, who hails from Chemor, Perak.

Six months later, on a client’s suggestion, he decided to open a dog-homeboarding and daycare centre. But first, he wanted to get certification in the area of dog-training.

Since there were no courses available locally on dog psychology, he looked online. He enrolled in courses such as Dog Psychology 101 run by Universal Class, and Understanding Dog Cognition and Emotion from Duke University. Those were his early credentials.

“I started watching Cesar Millan’s show. The online courses that I was doing complemented it.

“Using Cesar’s methodology and the knowledge I got from those online courses, I was able to manage my homeboarding dogs better,” says Samy. And he is aided by his “baby”, Leo.

Some clients asked him why their dogs were well-behaved at his centre but reverted to misbehaviour when at home.

Dog training in progress at Samy’s dog centre in Puchong Utama. Samy is a finalist for the reality show Cesar’s Recruit: Asia. — Photos: ART CHEN/The Star

Dog training in progress at Samy’s dog centre in Puchong Utama.

So Samy started making home visits to assess the dogs in their own environment and see how the owners treated their dogs. He offered solutions to their problems. That marked the beginning of him becoming a dog behaviourist.

“After doing that for one-and-a-half years, I told myself that if I wanted to be one of the best dog behaviourists around, I have to get my direct education from the best – Cesar Millan,” says Samy.

His wife played a pivotal role in what happened next. She found out that Millan was going to be in Singapore for a talk show, so she encouraged Samy to go see him and talk to him if the chance came up. She sent him a link to the talk show.

Samy with his wife Priyal (third from left) and the trainers at his dog-homeboarding and daycare centre.

Samy with his wife Priyal (third from left) and the trainers at his dog-homeboarding and daycare centre.

When he clicked on the link, it wasn’t the main story that caught his eye so much as a flash image that said: “Do you have what it takes to be Cesar’s Recruit: Asia?” He clicked on that – and the rest is history.

As it turned out, Samy not only got to meet his inspiration but also took part in and eventually became one of the eight finalists for the dog-training reality show Cesar’s Recruit: Asia.

“I am an ‘extremist’ – when I do something, I give my level best. I pay attention to detail.

“I am also a perfectionist. I am a strong believer that you must do justice to whatever you do. If you don’t, then don’t do it.”

He believes there are no bad dogs, only humans who lack understanding of canine behaviour. He aims to spread his knowledge and experience gleaned from Millan across Asia, and foster harmony between man and dog.

The other Malaysian who made it to the show’s finals is Steph Keong, who is based in Singapore.

Keong, also 32, was a successful accountant who had worked in several countries, including London, Malaysia and Singapore. While in London, she volunteered at the Battersea Dog’s Home.

So inspired was she after watching Millan’s TV shows that she started shadowing and learning from professional dog-trainers in London and Singapore.

After four years, she left her lucrative job for something more personally rewarding ­– to become a full-time dog behaviourist. She hopes one day to open a school to rehabilitate dogs and train guide dogs.

Each week in the series Cesar’s Recruit: Asia, two contestants go head-to-head to show their understanding of dog psychology and dog rehabilitation skills as well as the ability to communicate their message to dog owners. One will be eliminated and the other will proceed to the next level. Those who make it to the final round will be given passage to Millan’s Dog Psychology Centre in California, the United States, and ultimately the winner will be crowned Cesar’s Asian recruit.


Look for Samy Velu Chandrasagaran on Facebook at Malaysia Dog Training.

Cesar’s Recruit: Asia airs every Wednesday at 9pm on National Geographic (Astro Ch 553/HD 573) and Nat Geo People HD (Astro Ch 725/HyppTV Ch 503).