At Big Barker we love highlighting organizations that are doing important work to help support dogs. We sat down with Veronica of The Working K9 to talk about her organization and how she has been able to help save dogs from the Meat Trade to where her love of helping dogs comes from. Learn more about Veronica's story below by reading some of the questions we asked her and the answers she submitted.
What is something that you wish more people knew about training a dog/puppy?
I wish more people would have a game plan before said puppy comes home. There’s a misconception that puppies “start” training later on in their life (typically after 6 months is what I hear) but that’s entirely untrue. Training starts day 1. Finding a well qualified balanced trainer is important beforehand so you know what to expect and have some level of routine in mind.
What's your background (what jobs did she have before, did she study anything specific, etc?)
I was born in Ottawa, ON, however, I have family roots (and was raised) in Czech Republic. I lived in Canada for almost 3 decades and then I moved to Tampa, FL when I met my (now) husband. I grew up on the family farm, constantly surrounded by animals; cats, ducks, rabbits, dogs, the neighbors cows, - you name it. I always wanted to study veterinary medicine however quickly realized that amount of studying was absolutely not for me.
I started a full service pet care company in 2011, when in my late teens, which quickly grew to be the largest full service pet care company in the province of Ontario. I managed 25+ staff, hundreds and hundreds of clients, and was simultaneously delving into the world of dog sports with my personal pack of dogs at the time. Full speed ahead, before I knew it we were teaching, training and competing, so I figured that we should split the two “main” services up so in November of 2018, I started The Working K9 “officially". After a decade of phenomenal success in pet care, and having The Working K9 in two countries - it was time to go big or go home; we said goodbye to Happy Tails in April of 2021 and grew The Working K9 internationally.
Now that we’re closing the 2021 year, I summarize myself/The Working K9 with a few sentences: We are a full service training company, teaching, training and competing in both Canada and the USA, with our show, sport, and working dogs. We have trained with and under some of the most influential national and internationally recognized names in dog training, we have been on the board of several local and international rescue organizations, and have the most amazing supporters and sponsors surrounding us. We truly wouldn’t be the company we are today if it weren’t for our “Working K9 Crüe” as we like to call it. The Working K9 offers a wide range of services from helping you purchase a purpose-bred puppy, adopting a shelter dog, or training the dog that’s sitting in front of you, to helping you get started in dog sports, helping with your competitive training or even purchasing a fully trained protection dog.
Where did your love of helping animals come from?
If we want to go way back, it's definitely inherited from my late great-grandfather. He was a holocaust survivor and had a heart of gold - especially for his farm animals. He passed away when I was very young, however my family to this day still talks about him and how I most definitely got my love of animals from him.
What's the best part about The Working K9?
That we don’t sugar coat a single thing; we are as real as real gets, and sometimes that includes telling clients not what they want to hear, but rather what they need to hear. I think our clients chose us and love working with us because we are the definition of straight-forward.
What's one of the harder parts of running a training organization?
To be honest, it's distinguishing myself between everyone else in such an unregulated industry. Second to that, it would have to be something along the lines of having to tell clients what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. There’s nothing worse than trying to explain to a client why their Labrador will never be a protection dog, if they don’t quite understand how genetics work and how genetics have such a huge role in how a dog turns out.
What's your favorite memory at The Working K9?
I would say I’m constantly making new memories. I am always in awe of the people I meet. I have met and trained with some of the coolest people on the planet in my opinion. I have had some experiences people only dream of having because of my dogs and where this passion of mine has led me.
What's the best way to get involved or support The Working K9?
One of my soft spots is actually rescue. Although I have a pack of purpose-bred show, sport and working dogs, I also dedicate a lot of time to rescue’s. I have been on the board of a few local and international rescue’s and try to help until this day however we can. We offer free services, discounted services, we try to donate items as well as funds, and so much more. Many people these days (if they’re newer to following us) likely know me for my involvement in helping save dogs from the Chinese meat trade and define the literal term: rescue. We work with a few organizations to help take in dogs from some of the most horrific places on earth and try our best to give them a life they deserve. It doesn’t always end the way we want, however if we are able to change the life of one animal, all the work that led up to that is worth it. In 2021 alone, we have been able to directly help a handful of dogs find their forever home, after being fostered and trained by us, and have also been able to take in 2 opossums, 2 baby kittens (we ended up keeping), as well as 2 squirrels. I’m sure I’m missing a few animals but you get the point! We have one foster currently in particular whose video went viral - his name is Angelo. Angelo was rescued from the Chinese Meat Trade by Plush Bear Shelter & Malinois Rescue League and has been getting trained for about 7 months now. He is available for adoption however requires a very special home.
If you wanted to get involved with or support us here at The Working K9 there’s several ways to do so that include but aren’t limited to:
- Like, follow and share our social media posts and information (Instagram, Facebook, website) - We would also appreciate sharing any of the posts we make on adoptable dogs, on your social media platforms.
- Go to our Amazon page and go to the “foster donations” tab - anything you buy from here you can ship directly to our house for the fosters (address and other relevant information is in the description area of that tab).
- Call our favorite locally-owned pet store in town (Downtown Dogs in Hyde Park) and order an e-gift card for us to use during our next visit for our foster dogs.
- Call our vet clinic to put a donation towards our account to use on the dogs in our care. They are an amazing team who do all of the medical care for our personal dogs and foster dogs (and other animals, too!), called North Bay Animal Hospital located in Tampa, FL.
- And finally, we know the organizations we currently work with like Citrus County Animal Shelter, Malinois Rescue League, and Plush Bear Shelter would love a monetary donation - you can do so by going to their websites directly.
There’s so many ways to get involved with either joining our team, working with us, training with us, helping out our foster efforts, and more. Anything you can think of, we support! Social media buzz is truly the best way to spread the word about our company - and it doesn’t cost anything!
Do the dogs come in with joint health needs?
Oh yes, on the foster/rescue side we get dogs who almost always need a plethora of medical care. I’ve actually never had a dog - or animal - through my doors who didn’t need medical care. We currently have one dog in particular, Angelo who’s mentioned above, who has hip dysplasia, SLO, has an enlarged spleen, missing 8 teeth, has an amputated toe, and more. Until his quality of life deteriorates, there's no reason to live life any differently aside from making sure he has plenty of safe exercise, a comfortable and appropriate bed and crate to lay in, and of course a healthy diet. Quality of life is the most important and Angelo is very much living an excellent and happy life with us.
How is the Big Barker bed going to benefit the dogs that will use it?
Because we have 1 bed to share amongst several dogs, we will rotate their use on it. Our personal dogs who are all show, sport, and working dogs will love using it to help with rest, relaxation and mainly healing after a long day of training. Our fosters will benefit from a Big Barker bed because of it’s proven design helping dogs with joint problems - or helping prevent them!
Thank you to Veronica and everyone at the Working K9 for helping support these amazing dogs and for all that you do!
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