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[00:00:00] Hey, welcome everybody to the source podcast, everything working dog. I’m excited to record another week and have a great conversation with somebody that is very special to me and really a vital part in what we do at CCU and has been for many years. And, , I’m proud to, uh, not only be a friend, but also to see her come from literally no experience to where she is today and continues to grow each and every day.
I don’t know how she does it, but she does and she handles it and, , always available and always there for the dogs and information and just handling and managing the various aspects of the kennel. It’s remarkable to see where it’s come from. To where it is today. So I have Debra Clark on with me today.
How are you? Good. Thank you. . We got voice of reason with us as well and, , ready to get this thing kicked off.[00:01:00]
That’s all you have voice or reason. Come on. Yep. Hi, I’m Maya. I never have to introduce myself. That’s usually as far as it goes. This is 2024. You have to now you gotta you gotta get involved. You gotta people gotta know who you are. Um, so I’m on tonight to talk about the kennel like it’s, there’s all these things that we have going on in the background that no one ever sees, , things that are front facing.
But beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s probably one of the best things that’s ever talked about with CCU, especially with our clients. I get so many compliments about the kennel. And it’s not really about the looks or the aesthetics always, it’s about the care that you guys and your staff give to each and every dog that comes through the kennel.
And I always walk in the kennel and I go, Hey, you guys smell that? And everyone’s like, no, [00:02:00] what? Exactly. That’s exactly what I’m talking about and it doesn’t matter when I’m if I come in off hours on the weekends when you’re not there. Um, there’s been several times that I messaged you. It was like, man, these girls and guys have done a great job.
You know, I’m at the kennel at seven in the evening and I’m just like, man, it’s just so clean, so sanitized and the dogs are just so well taken care of. So we’re going to talk a lot about that. Talk about managing a kennel, a working dog kennel, which is Vastly different than, you know, maybe a luxury sweet kennel, but really a lot of the standards should be the same.
It’s just the types of dogs that we get in and the types of clients that we have that bring their dogs to us and give us an opportunity to trust us with their dogs, which is remarkable as well. Um, so that’s where we’re heading today. And I hope that everybody listening learns as always, at least one thing that can help them in the future.
So [00:03:00] Deb, can you please, , introduce yourself? Yes, I can. My name is, uh, Deborah Clark. I am the current kennel master or kennel manager for Custom K9 Unlimited, and I am coming up on my Six year mark almost, but coming up, don’t say it. That means we’re getting old at a very young age. Yeah, you did. You did.
Definitely a lot to learn from a young age. I think it’s important for people to know that this industry is riddled with people just like you, right?
That are now in positions now are impacting. Our industry and I think what they’re going to learn from this is that there’s an avenue. I get emails. I get contact all the time from people that want to get into the industry, but I’ll say that you took the first step to do that, right? Nobody gave you [00:04:00] anything.
You took the first step for whatever reason. And I want to talk a little bit about that. Why you even decided to get into this industry. What led you , to even want to get started in this industry? Yeah. So initially, , I needed a personal protection dog. I was living in Florida, if you remember. Um, and I’d been down there for about 10 months when I reached out and I was like, I’m coming back up.
Just when summer was ending, and you were like, cool, and, , that’s when I was like, I really just want a female German Shepherd, okay? And I didn’t know what a female was going to entail, and you’re like, we just got this dog. And so I started out. Um, because it was relatively the same price as becoming a handler for the full service , narcotics detection handler course.
And then while I was there, basically was like, Oh, this place is amazing. [00:05:00] Um, you know, in the old facility. I definitely felt a lot more comfortable, , as a, I mean, young woman, I was 21 at the time, so, like, all these, like, big guys are around, but I felt completely comfortable, and I was like, I would love to progress in there, and, uh, we just happened to have that opening for a, a kennel technician at the time, so that’s how I, Really started up into it, but originally I just wanted a personal protection dog and got sucked in.
Um, so You know, you kind of said, do I remember? Yeah, absolutely. I remember, you know, I remember very vividly, uh, even the conversation we first had about thinking on, or you thinking about coming on staff.
When I first proposed that to you, we were in the classroom and I said, well, what’s your plans? What do you plan on doing? Why don’t you think about this and getting your foot in the door there and then [00:06:00] seeing where it hit, where it leads.
And it’s vastly different, right? Even the training , like it was so different and it doesn’t seem like that long ago, like time flies. Definitely . When I was done with dogs and we didn’t have a whole bunch of dogs, I would be helping out in training. As long as I wasn’t in front of the students, I was perfectly fine. Um, and then when we did have surplus of dogs, I just remember everyone kind of chipping in to help me, or students were there to help, just like how we have now.
Now your mother hand at the kennel. Oh yeah. Definitely, and I teach classes, like, . Yeah, it’s remarkable to see the growth. . But, you know, that goes to putting your mind to something and working through the plan and really taking those small steps of changing.
Some habits and getting involved in just making those changes and taking, [00:07:00] being able to take the step forward to jump off the cliff, if you will, which now leads us to this, it’s just you taking those progressive steps in order to then be now, I mean, even the staff that we had back then, how little staff we had now, like, it’s just, yeah, it’s a totally different operation.
And now. Virtually everything runs through you in the kennel, like all the medical, those procedures have changed. We don’t even make any calls on the training side anymore. That’s all ran through you and your decisions and such like that. So that’s, that’s great to hear, you know, that somebody can come and get started in this industry.
Which is really a lot of questions we get. Well, how do I get started? Well, take the first step, you know, get training, get involved with an organization like us. I had somebody email me , asking how to get started and they lead off with, I can’t leave the house and I don’t want to take any fancy classes.
Well, [00:08:00] what do you want to become, right? , it may not be fancy classes, but it is learning and training. And I wouldn’t recommend putting your hands on dogs unless you’ve been trained, at least not professionally. .
So when it comes to, you know, the amount of now knowledge that you have and that you’ve amassed over these years now, and being placed in situations where you have to work with vets and all this stuff, you know, there’s, there’s always like. That split between hands on experience and the educational piece that goes with this, you know, and I know that you being the person you are, you do a lot of research, you talk to other industry experts in order to get the best answer.
I remember connecting you with a client of ours that was looking for some advice and. I mean, it literally took you two minutes to answer the email with a, a long mail of the right answer, [00:09:00] right? Yeah. That’s something that I wouldn’t be able to do. So, you know, how do you feel about when somebody wants to get, or has the hands on experience versus the knowledge base, uh, and, and the knowledge that you have.
Do you perceive a difference there or do you, would you promote one over the other? I definitely would say I have mixed feelings, almost a 50 50. Um, obviously I think hands on experience is amazing. Um, there are a couple of things like, especially in a kennel setting, and not just for working dogs, but you have to be able to see dogs reactions.
In person to learn body language. We try with photos and videos and little like gifts, um, to try and see like what the body language is. It doesn’t do it justice. That’s something you have to learn in person. Um, there are a ton of other things you have to learn in person as well. [00:10:00] and repeat or have that repetitive nature to learn those things.
But I also can’t knock the book smarts, even if I’m like, I hate testing or, you know, I hate having to try and remember this. It all comes back to, uh, like the book smarts is what has probably saved a lot of dogs lives in. The working world and, and, you know, in my kennel specifically with, uh, the term that I’ve been in as the manager, but most specifically, if I didn’t have the book smarts, my first dog Yachty probably wouldn’t have made it that far because I, we use her and, um.
Some of the classes for first aid and our kennel injuries class for teaching on bloat, her actual x rays, her photos of her stomach. When she went through that, if I hadn’t known about those things, um, then she probably wouldn’t have made it through that and lived on for another. [00:11:00] three or four years at that point.
So, I think it’s a half and half between the book smarts and the hands on experience, um, but I would say most definitely for working dogs, hands on experience is always going to, um, give you a better advantage than just having those book smarts. Yeah, I would definitely agree, right? Hands on experience reading these dogs and getting the experience, so.
Of the leash, the grooming and all those things. We can read it in a book all day long. We can learn the protocols that we set out, but then we got to reinforce that with the hands on, you know? And so with that being said, you know, looking at the online kennel master course that we offer, right, educationally, people rave about it because of the amount of information that’s contained in that course. So, would you suggest that course [00:12:00] over the hands on course or is there a difference between the 2 online or the people that take the online class really missing out or. What would you say?
Um, I would definitely say that they are not missing out on
anything but the practical exercise, there are different types of, uh, experience that you can get, like, you might have a dog that you are doing these things on because you’ve never cleaned their crate before and you’re learning all these things or a lot of People are already starting their kennels.
I know a lot of people who are already volunteering and helping out at other places like humane societies and whatnot as they’re going through here. I can name off a couple people who were doing that just volunteering to get experience. And there’s a lot of people that are Not just taking that, that course online and then just saying, Oh, well, [00:13:00] I’ve got the certification because I did all the book stuff.
They’re already actively out there searching for things. I think if you aren’t searching for things or actively involved in something though, then yes, you would probably be missing out. so it would be more to your benefit to come to like an in person course and get some hands on experience. If that’s all you plan on doing is that two weeks here, Get your book smarts and that experience, then yes, you should probably do an in person course.
Um, if you aren’t self motivated enough to go and get more experience for yourself. Yeah, you know, we have a lot of students that will go back and forth. Well, I’m just not good at the book smarts, but hands on. I’m great. Yeah. You know, we truly believe there. Those go hand in hand. Right, especially for our staff where we get questions from clients, we got to make decisions and we got to be able to [00:14:00] reliably make good choices based on what we’ve learned and do it consistently, right?
Because nobody should come into the kennel and get one answer from you. And get a totally separate answer from another staff member, we should all have continuity in that regard. And that’s very important because, you know, especially from a student standpoint, , as we know, well, so and so told me to do this.
So and so told me to do this. So we always try to have that continuity if you will. And I always take the default answer. Hey, yeah. Don’t talk to me about it. Go talk to Deb. , she has the right answer every single time. And unfortunately, that’s not my expertise. My expertise is training. So I defer those questions to her because she’s going to give you the right answer every time.
And if not, she has the resources to get the right answer, whether it’s through the vet or other resources that you’ve accumulated over the years. Yeah,, hey, go ask training this or [00:15:00] go ask Kendall this, um, they’re going to know for that specific thing.
It’s one of my favorite things hearing is when one of the trainers comes up like, oh, my student just asked me this. Can you give me the answer? I’m like, just send the student to me. Um, that’s probably the easiest way so that nothing gets misinterpreted anywhere. No, absolutely. And I think it’s something it took us a while to get to that point, right?
Because we each had our hands and things that we should have drawn the line in the sand with and said, Hey, I don’t deal with that. That’s a kennel. That’s a Deborah Clark thing, you know, but 1 of the best things I think that we did was take. Injury, take decision making on how a dog progresses through training, nutritionally, health wise, all those things, we took it out of the hands of the trainers and put it in the hands of you and your [00:16:00] staff.
My outlook is I got to get this guy in this dog through training. Yeah. And that takes that Kind of that approach out of it because when a dog’s injured or something’s going on, we put it in your hands to make the decision on whether that dog is allowed to continue in training, whether it needs to go to the vet, what needs to happen nutritionally and or medically in order to continue.
And I firmly believe that’s probably 1 of the best things that we ever did.
You got departments saying, hey, this guy has to be done by this period of time. And I remember a dog actually getting hurt, breaking her tooth. And you saying no, take them to the vet. The vet gives us the guidance on what we need to do. And that dog and that handler actually was out of training for several months
. I think one of the biggest problems, um, and it’s not like a problem in the canine [00:17:00] world. I mean, maybe it is, but within the company talking between or communication between training and kennel was always frayed because they’re like, oh, they can keep working.
They can keep doing this or, you know, hey, I’m gonna go right on your board. Don’t touch my board is my response now. But when we started kind of separating, okay, like you got to do an injury report, that’s going to give Deb all the information she needs or Deb’s going to do it, but this dog has got to get cleared before they go back in training.
Um, and I definitely think that was a great decision. Not because I’m trying to like, you know, toot my own horn or anything. Um, but more for just raising that. Care of the canines percentage, , I know for a fact when we started or implemented the weight management and nutrition classes and the actual weighing of the dogs, which was.
You know, [00:18:00] an idea that had been wanted, but needed to be implemented over the course of time, and then I was here to research and do that, that also led the way to make sure that we didn’t have those dogs where they’re like, oh, they’re working dogs. They can be a little bit lighter. Um, you know, and then their dogs, like, have all their ribs showing and you’re like, that’s not a little bit light.
That’s a lot light. So, yeah. We eliminated those types of problems as well. Um, like unless it’s an actual medical issue that the dog has something wrong that can’t just be fixed by, you know, messing with the protein and fat aspects of their food. Um, so I definitely think that was good overall for the health of the kennel because kennel technically owns so many dogs throughout the course of a year.
It’s not just clients dogs who are coming in, who are already on. Set schedules are set training plans and whatnot. Yeah, you know, the, the expanse of [00:19:00] what you guys deal with. Right. And I think a lot of people don’t realize, like, how many problems could arise or how many things that you’ve seen over the years through experience and why sometimes we make the decisions.
We do and how a dog comes in, you know, what is allowed with a dog to board with us, what’s allowed in the kennel, what’s not allowed in the kennel, uh, how long the dog can stay in a kennel, , notification of clients. If something was to happen, like there’s so many things that Go on in the background that nobody ever sees, right?
They just think, well, we just drop our dog off and then, you know, then we just pick it up, but there’s so many things that go on, um, behind the scenes that people just don’t get to see that you take care of. And of course you, and when I say you, I’m saying your staff, but you train them and get them up to [00:20:00] par with what the requirements are.
And that’s also been some downfalls, right? All right, so let’s let’s jump into that downfall. What I mean by that is there’s been staff that there’s so much to do. And we’ve learned over the years, or you have to give that information out in pieces because when we used to flood them and make them drink out of that fire hose, if you will, we had bad results and retention.
Definitely. Yeah, there is a lot of information, and again, going back to hands on experience, , if you’ve never dealt with working dogs before, that is, like, what I would equate to culture shock. , going from, oh, my cute little, like, shih tzu, or, uh, my toy poodle, , cause up until, like, even myself, up until the point of working for the company, [00:21:00] I think I had, Uh, raised one German Shepherd and he was like the sweetest boy ever and then it’s all little dogs.
I had never done anything larger than that. and then I come in and there’s, you know, Mastiffs and Rottweilers and Dobermans, huge 90, 115 pound German Shepherds. And again, going back to the types of training we used to do, there were also different types of dogs. More aggressive, coming from overseas, being imported, and so that’s when they’re big and stocky and have blockheads that if they grab you, you’re, you’re done.
But we had all these different types of things back then, and when you’re just blasting people, they’re like, okay, I have to remember to only groom a dog twice, twice a month, you know, and then they’re forgetting, oh, but I need to look out for this type of body language, and then they ended up getting hurt, or Um, you know, just getting so [00:22:00] stressed with everything that they had to do.
I’m like, okay, well, I know I have to do this and have to do this. Now you’re telling me I have to put it in a record keeping system as well or file it away? And yes, you are correct. The retention was not that great. Um, so moving that into smaller segments over the course of, you know, what we call the probationary period, about three months, that, that ended up being, instead of just like, here’s all the knowledge you need, we’re gonna see if you sink or swim, kind of using that period to guide them along a little bit more, , for close to two, almost that whole entire period, at least two months, , yeah, class, Here, then some practical experience, then another class here.
I think, you know, I’d mentioned it maybe earlier, maybe a couple of days ago. I am onboarding current staff right now, but this is I think, you Um, something where I don’t even [00:23:00] let them touch the dogs for the first couple of days. Like, you’ve got one set task, it’s clean a kennel properly. The moment you’ve cleaned that kennel properly 30 times, then you can take your first dog out.
When you take your first dog out, I’m literally gonna be right there next to you the whole entire time because I don’t want anything bad to happen, um, to that person or to the dog that I’m responsible for. So, just going one step at a time instead of You know, just do it, , kind of mentality for ’em. And yeah, that has helped definitely, I think retain, , some more people.
They’re not as, , stressed out, uh, mentally, , with everything that needs to be done. I feel like a lot of, , people, , coming into the. animal care industry are going to be more women, , young ladies to, you know, up to middle age. There are even some older women who are like, Oh, we’d love to volunteer, you know, help out.
Um, [00:24:00] but they don’t realize that these aren’t pets again, going back to their working dogs. So they’re not get down in their face and love on them kind of deal. They’re get in my face and I’m going to bite yours kind of dogs half the time. Um, and so with that, when you have. women who, and it’s, you know, a fact, we’re not as strong as men.
I can’t, you know, lift all these heavy weights or stop a 115 pound dog from dragging me across a field if he wants to. So when you have these younger women, you do have to be a bit more gentle with them than, you know, when you’re talking about some of the, um, and I said it just a bit earlier as well, there was all these men when I first got introduced.
I’m like, big, girly men, you know, working these dogs. When I first started as a 21 year old, I know I was intimidated. So now it’s like, hey, with these girls, we have to be a bit more on the soft side coming into the [00:25:00] working dog industry. Yeah, and that brings up an interesting point, Deb, because, um, even in the sense of, you know, there’s no doubt once you step in the door, you’re in the working dog realm, right?
Not every dog is aggressive or anything like that, but there’s always that chance and it only takes one. Yep. So what are some things that you’ve implemented to help safeguard against that? You know, obviously training, right? But I know there’s some other things that you teach and things that we adhere to in order to help mitigate risk.
Can you kind of touch on those things? Because I know somebody’s sitting in the background now going, man, you know, I want to get into this, but Yeah. What am I going to do when all my staff is getting ate up or, you know, I want to have these big bad dogs. And even now we don’t bring in and you touched on this.
We don’t bring in half the dogs. Of that type of dog anymore. Like it [00:26:00] just, it’s not conducive, right? It’s not safe. It’s just, you know, we’re, we specialize in these types of dogs, but we also have protocols specifically on how to handle these types of dogs now. So can you touch on that a little bit? Yeah, definitely.
So, um, again, very different from what we used to do, but the protocols we have in place now, or policies for handling these more aggressive dogs, one of the things, um, it. It sounds so like, , un macho or, you know, very hands off approach, but more risk, like, avoiding the risk. So if we’ve got newer staff or say we’ve got a young lady who’s 110 pounds, like, soaking wet and extremely petite, right, we’re not going to be like, hey, Can you go walk this 115 pound Rottweiler?
We’re going to tell the male kennel tech that we have go walk the Rottweiler. So kind of transferring that over to someone who might be better equipped to handle that [00:27:00] situation. Um, and then again in the kennel master course specifically we teach on and then I teach to our kennel techs anytime we’re training new, new staff is.
If you don’t know or you can’t read the behavior properly, um, or you’re just even the slightest bit uncomfortable at this time, like, you know, I’ve only been here two months. I’ve never handled this type of dog before. We’re not trying to throw you in off the deep end anymore. Go get a trainer if I’m not available.. let’s go back over those protocols. What? So you’re not throwing you’re not throwing these girls into the deep in the pool and say, hey, you better go get that dog now. Yeah, no, we try and avoid that, , especially with, um, this, the type of people that we’re currently employing, not saying that there’s anything bad about the type of people we have, but again, that softer approach, just doing one thing at a time.
Um, the second thing that we kind of do in order to, um, switch [00:28:00] that risk over so that we’re not having people consistently get up is, um. Positive control. So one of the main things that we’ve had problems with in the past in and in some cases, we do still do it. I know that the trainers did it with my dog when he stayed on vacation, which is just Opening the kennel door and letting the dog out.
If a dog comes back at you, or you turn away for a second, um, and you don’t have your eyes on that dog, and you’re maybe a newer employee, you’re not gonna know how, or maybe not have the, um, quick Response time that’s needed to protect yourself from getting eaten up. So always have positive control, which means putting a collar on the dog and then, you know, having your leash attached to that collar.
Um, so that would be the second thing. And then I think the third thing, let me interject real quick on that second point, right? Yeah, because this is what I’m thinking. If I’m listening to this right now. Well, that’s [00:29:00] great, Deb. But what if I can’t get the dog in a collar like the dog tries to eat me? What I mean, what do you do about that?
Definitely. So, um, if you have a leash, regardless if it’s a nylon, if it is a leather leash, um, or even a rope leash, I’ve seen them now. Where there are those tied rope or braided rope, you can still have a handle, put your clip side through that handle to create a slip, and you can slip a dog. Um, some versions of this that are used, this is the softer version where you don’t have any, like, um, hard, tension in that line.
It’s like the soft slip version of what maybe animal control or the humane society might use in the version of a catcher pole. They use a slip on the end of that pole to keep the dog away from them, and we use just that leash and our arms to keep the dogs away from us. But you can still slip the dog in order to keep [00:30:00] some type of tension around the neck to keep that dog away from you.
And if that doesn’t work, or that kennel tech can’t do that, what do we do? I would then go to moving back to employing the help of the kennel master, or we’re very lucky at our facility to have a full training staff if even the kennel master’s not available, or also for some reason I feel uncomfortable employing the help of a trainer.
Um, and I know that has been something that we’ve had to do in the past with dogs who are just simply too big for even me. Like, I’ll take on 115, but not 140 pound Mastiff, right? That is huge head, bigger than mine, and aggressive.
And aggressive, you know, who can cleanly bite through a shovel handle. Like, that’s insane to me. You grab my arm, um, even though, you know, I’m the kennel master, you’re still gonna [00:31:00] snap my arm cause I’ve got dainty forearms compared to, um, a guy who might have a little bit more. bulk behind him. Um, so that would then still be my result there.
And then as you kind of mentioned, we are, we do deal with these types of dogs where last resort or behavior modification. So if it was ever a case of Where the dog was so aggressive that we couldn’t be putting, um, a collar on them or a leash on them in, in any instance. Um, I believe as well that the trainer who is taking on that dog is also partially responsible because if they know they have a problem, they shouldn’t be putting my.
Staff unknowingly at risk of going in and trying to put the collar on like they’ve been taught to do and then not telling them, Oh, hey, they’re actually here. Because if you try and put the collar on, they’re going to eat you up. Um, so that would be another thing where the communication has to be sound [00:32:00] between the divisions.
Yeah, that’s right. And, you know, ultimately. I mean, even with any of this, uh, and we said it with Kwando, you also don’t want to make problems worse or make the environment a bad environment. So, you to have some people like, oh, just go in there and grab this dog and make sure he respects you. Yeah, but I’m here to be the first to tell you that doesn’t work all the time.
And on top of that, you don’t want to create a bad experience with the dog. And in my belief is the dog is here for a short stay in comparison to the rest of his life. So I don’t need to make the dog respect me. I don’t need to make the dog listen to me. All right. I don’t need the dog. I just need the dog not to hurt anybody not to hurt [00:33:00] itself and to enjoy their time here.
Yeah, and you know, that’s another thing in the in the thought process when we look at this and these dogs that need to be boarded. Nobody else will take them. And on top of that, we want to create a bad environment for him. It’s just not right. And so we have to consider all avenues to include, or all perspectives to include the dog’s perspective.
Rightfully so. He’s in a strange place. He doesn’t know anybody. But on top of that, we’re going to make him listen. No, absolutely not. We’re going to take an approach that makes it as enjoyable as possible, keep people safe, and make sure that the people handling this dog can actually handle this dog, and if not, you know, we have other forms and methods that we can use to get the dog out, give them some run time, give them some exercise, without making it a bad experience, because we don’t want to make the [00:34:00] problems worse.
We want to help fix the problems. Exactly. Yep. So, in a, in a brief recap, the three things that you do to make sure that we keep everybody safe and some protocols that you put in place to make that happen, because I know we were a little bit long winded, but in a nutshell, can you break those three out real quick?
Yeah, definitely. So, transfer your risk to someone else. more comfortable, more experienced or, you know, in the case of male versus female, more equipped or strong enough to handle a dog of a certain caliber. , always have positive control. Uh, that would be the second thing for sure. , and then the third thing would be then to Kind of like you were saying as well, , use the approach of, well, if we do have a dog that’s aggressive, we don’t have to make them like us.
So just take a step back, um, make sure that that dog feels [00:35:00] comfortable. We don’t have to make that dog feel comfortable with us and start pushing them around and, um, telling them what to do. , so just, just take care of the dog, , if that means the minimum where they’re getting their basic needs met there, , food, water, elimination of waste, and cleaning their kennel, then that’s good for us to make sure that they’re healthy during their stay.
Yeah, and you gave your, your staff a voice if they don’t feel comfortable with that dog, because that’s a lot of it too, when the dog senses that you’re not comfortable, you’re not confident, they could take advantage of those things too. And when your staff approaches a kennel and the dog snarling at the kennel and they don’t feel comfortable handling this dog, they back away, consult you, and then maybe we get training involved in order to help.
Mitigate any risk of the staff or the dog as well. Yeah so that’s I think that’s if you don’t get anything else out of [00:36:00] this podcast take those home and use them because It has made a remarkable difference for us in not only staff retention, but also workers comp claims as well Um, when’s the last time you had a kennel?
, a claim of workers comp in the kennel, uh, for the kennel, not sure about training side, but just can.
I don’t know about your people, but, uh, I believe that it was the beginning, , January, February of 2020, right after we moved to, uh, this new facility. Yeah, and it wasn’t even major. And I’ll say this. It was violation of which they’ve been taught. Yeah, but violation of policy. That is correct. It wasn’t if they were to follow policy wouldn’t have been an issue at all.
So it’s greatly diminished accidents for the staff as [00:37:00] well, which is really a plus because we’re keeping people safer. And if that particular staff member wouldn’t follow positive, positive control with this dog, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. Exactly. Again, and that’s why we, you know, have those policies there.
It’s just, again, kennel master, kennel, , kennel manager kind of deal here is how do you, you have to make sure you have the right people in there to know once I’ve taught you this, it’s still going to be enforced if I’m not around. so that’s another thing. Well, yeah, you know, that’s always, you know, one of those things where you try to stress the importance and we do it in training with our handlers and our trainers, here’s the importance.
And we teach from our experience, right? When people take your kennel master class, or they get the opportunity to work under you. They’re getting all this experience, right? The good and the bad. Experience, right? I’ve had bad experiences with dogs. [00:38:00] Likewise, you have, you’ve seen bad experiences with staff members that don’t listen and try to do their own thing and end up getting hurt or dogs taking advantage of the situation, you know, and or even the situations where you kind of push a dog to conform to what you do.
And we just seen the bad of that. You know, some of which have been, you know, learning from our own experience and some of which have seen other people’s experiences and go, Whoa, we don’t, we know we don’t need to be doing that or we need to stay away from that. So, they get that experience that you’re, you’re getting when you’re talking about thousands of dogs that you’ve seen and dealt with and consulted vets on and things of that nature.
So, that’s, it’s really remarkable to see that even some small tweaks. Three things that we’ve tweaked have made the biggest differences. It’s, it’s just crazy to think that. [00:39:00] And you always think, why didn’t we do this earlier? Because Deb wasn’t here earlier. Wow. Okay. I really will. You know, when you have somebody that’s dedicated to doing this, right?
Somebody that’s dedicated , to also empowering women. To to grow within this industry big things happen, right? Yeah. Hey, regardless of what anybody says A man will never see it from that perspective. I don’t care. You just won’t I have compassion I have three girls people know, you know, obviously I have a wife as well So i’m in a house of women, but I can never take that perspective wholeheartedly like you can’t And so you’re the voice, you’re the, the way that you can manipulate things that work for a woman in this industry and I commend you for that absolute 100 percent take 100 percent credit for that because it’s [00:40:00] absolutely true.
I take a man’s perspective, suck it up and let’s go. Right. I think I told you that in your class and you cried. I still didn’t cry. Let’s start saying that I might have been, I might’ve been a little bit panicked, but yeah. All right. I’m just joking. You didn’t cry, but you know, that’s, that’s the man approach, suck it up and go.
Right. But We have to take a step back and you mentioned training and even taking a step back and training and understanding that everything is not suck it up and go. We got to take perspectives and and see it from other people’s eyes. And that’s taught us really the most valuable lessons. And even when we’re teaching students and mentoring students, we just had this the last 2 weeks dealing with student problems, you know, amongst each other.
And it comes down to them communicating with each other. And then they come back a week later and look back and go, man, I learned so much [00:41:00] by the simple fact that I just needed to communicate and it’s profound, but yeah, it is really, but you know, as a kennel master, you obviously have a long list of growth and things that you can talk about, but you know, let’s, let’s be honest.
Not everything is, um, roses and smells great. Yeah, struggle there. Uh, so can you share maybe some struggles that. You know, you’ve had, um, over your time and, , maybe those are things that they can learn from, and maybe some ways that you’ve overcome those, you know, speak about how many you want. You know, if you want to do one or three, that’s your choice.
I’m 10 and I’m just kidding. But, you know, we all learn from struggles where, you know, nobody’s perfect. And you know, no company is perfect and we try hard, um, you know, as a whole as a team, [00:42:00] but you know, I’ll be the first to tell clients we’re not perfect. We try, try our best and we have a heart of, you know, trying to do the best and there’s nothing that we take lightly.
We don’t just shun things and go, Oh, well, Oh, well, it’s the way it is. Or, Oh, well, this, you know, we really take things to heart and, and I know you do too. So, um, yeah. So there you go. Well, I think one of the biggest problems was finding that sweet spot to retaining people, um, and then accompanying that very closely would be finding the right type of people to hire into the kennel.
Again, I am, again, like you said, all about empowering women, um, as a woman myself and quite a young one when I started in a different era of training where I grew, grew in the company with, you know, suck it up and go with the rest of the guys. I’m [00:43:00] trying to be much more. Calm, um, but then I also have to say, well, a little bit, you know, these dogs are dangerous.
If you don’t pick it up fast enough, um, or can be dangerous if you don’t pick it up fast enough. So those would be 2, 2 of the problems that we’re well on our way to fixing. , but then you run into this generation does not want to work. , so, well, I call them out this generation. Yeah. So, but it’s a problem as well, just finding people to apply it at least if they do want to work, they don’t want to work in animal care, um, finding people to apply and using, you know, those avenues.
So, all 3 of those kind of clump in together there into the right type of people, retaining them, um, and, you know, finding them to hire them in the 1st place. As regards to the kennel aspect, uh, finding the time to [00:44:00] research when I was understaffed in order to benefit the kennel more, um, I think it, it took roughly six months to go through and create one class for weight management, which was something we really needed to start implementing back a couple of years ago and, uh, I could never find the time.
I was like, well, I just lost my kennel tech, and that was the only one I had, so now you’re gonna have to wait. But then we had dogs on trial food, and we had like three different dogs on three different trial food, and I’m like, this is going to be three months, and I have to make sure I’m documenting this, so finding the time to research to benefit the kennel better was extremely hard when the kennel was understaffed, um, because we had the retention problem, so again, kind of ties all back in together there.
When you do find good help, you’re able to complete more As a manager, instead of just as another worker who’s taking care and doing what you’re supposed to be [00:45:00] doing. and then I think one of my personal biggest problems was, finding everything. we’re talking about hands on experience, uh, finding all these new experiences by myself, , because I, I’ve networked.
A small amount through social media, um, and talking to other handlers when I first started to other people who were managing kennels and I was like, oh, my gosh, they don’t look like they’re having the problems I’m having. Um, but finding the time to. Not do everything myself, even if I was understaffed. So if someone was like, hey, we’re going to need you to do this or do that or calling me on my off days, not not realizing how to have an off switch so that I didn’t burn out, um, was extremely hard during the understaffed seasons.
But then when we were staffed. I was, like, so happy to get back into the research and the stuff that I [00:46:00] really needed to do for the kennel. Um, so those would be, like, the major problems there that kind of all tie back into retention of employees, uh, within the kennel setting. Um, so Now that that’s been fixed, it’s been smooth, smooth, smoother sailing.
I wouldn’t say smoothest, but smoother sailing, , for those problems there for other people to be mindful of, , especially if you’re a new manager, , because I remember having to make my way up, you know, you’re like, , you’re gonna start as a kennel tech, and then you’ll be the kennel master designee, and then when you hit your two two year mark, you’ll be the official kennel master due to the experience that you have.
And I was like, huh, two years, I still need more experience. Um, but throughout that whole entire time, for the most part, from about that six to eight month mark, there was a couple months in there where I was the only person, so it was like, Pedalmaster who? I’m the only [00:47:00] one here. Um, so that was a very big learning curve, um, at the beginning there. I remember days and still taking days in the kennel, you know, not only does it ground me, but it also keeps me in the loop as to what you deal with on a day to day basis, and I never want to lose that perspective because it’s important for all of us to understand, we were joking about it today, Maya and I about everybody taking someone else’s job for a week.
You know, and getting a feeling for what everybody else does because we sometimes lose perspective, right? So that we can have understanding of what everybody else does and sometimes just inherently we lose perspective. Like we think that everybody else has it easier, you know, but everybody plays a function and without that function, the team would not operate.
And you know, I, I don’t ever want to lose that perspective of the kennel or the [00:48:00] store or what Maya does or what, you know, anybody deals with account tech, you know, I want to know and make sure that we always keep that perspective because I think a lot of leaders lose that perspective of where they came from.
And when we lose that perspective of where we came from, you know, who are we to sit up on this high horse and go, hey, just do this or make changes without talking with everybody and getting that input. And, you know, that doesn’t just go for our industry. I have a. Opportunity to talk to many different people in many different industries from business leaders to law enforcement to, you know, higher to the executive level, all the way down to the deputy that, you know, feels like nobody cares about him and I don’t, I don’t want us to lose that perspective.
And, , we talk about it as an executive staff and I say executive staff, but management staff, like we want everybody to feel like they’re never [00:49:00] by themselves or that there’s somebody that doesn’t care for them. And their manager takes them out and, you know, gives them, you know, a day, a lunch and just tell them that they’re appreciated because they, they really are.
And, and I never want us to, to feel like that. I remember years ago, someone telling me, I just, you know, I don’t know if you’re going to let me go or not. And I’m like, Whoa. Where’s that coming from? Like you should never work at a company where you got to feel like when’s my last day of work. And if we’re not doing a good enough job to make sure that you’re not feeling that way, like we’re really missing the boat.
And that’s why I love the perspective that you give from a woman’s perspective. We go, Hey, I’ve been there. I understand it. Like, so let me come up with ways and training that I can mitigate some of the things that maybe I felt when I was in your position and I don’t want you to lose that perspective and I want to encourage others, especially leaders to, to not lose that.
[00:50:00] Perspective and I really value that. Everybody in the organization has ideas and has input and has different experiences or different visions or different perspectives that we can all learn from.
And it’s important to have that, that eye or that ear for that and encourage that. Don’t ever be scared to say something. We had a situation not too long ago from one of the kennel attacks and I won’t mention any names, but she was scared to mention some of her personal feelings and I’m just like, no, whoa, please let her know that no, no means like Yeah, it’s not right.
So we joke and we play. But at the end of the day, like everybody’s part of the team. At the end of the day, I really respect it because. There’s never a time that I worry about the kennel and the care of the dogs and the treatment of the dogs. And quite frankly, I don’t worry about you. I really don’t because I know you got it handled.
[00:51:00] So we got the new respiratory thing, Deb, that like, it’s been like very hot topic. I know we’ve gotten a couple of clients that have reached out to us and said, Hey, what is, what is this? Should I be worried? Um, you know, what does it look like in your kennel? Like we’ve had some that have asked that and, you know, we never know what, Is going to come about right when we first started dealing with the federal government on some other contracts like they wanted these tests and these things done like there was a whole list of stuff that we had to put together to try to make this happen.
Um, that was vastly different than what we were used to because of the amount of money and resources they had that they could do all these things on site. But this new respiratory disease, , that’s , kind of circulating right now, as we know, we never know what, what’s going to, what’s new out on the horizon or whatnot.
So, in the [00:52:00] kennel, what, how do you make sure that your staff was prepared for these new things and how do you stay on top of these, um, potential outbreaks and things of that nature? From the kennel perspective, how do you stay on top of those things? Yeah, so we do have all of our policies still in place for proper procedures for sanitation and cleaning.
So those aren’t going to change any. , basically, all of our policies that we have at the kennel, we already have sanitation protocols. We already have how to clean a kennel.
So our cross contamination protocols between the different kennels are not going to change. We’re not going to add even more disinfectants and make things super hard. The disinfectants we have are kennel, kennel safe and actually approved by one of our longstanding veterinarians that we work with.
So we’re not changing that anytime soon. it’s like when people were like afraid with COVID. [00:53:00] Bleach takes care of COVID if you have it in the right ratio, okay? So don’t freak out and start doing all this extra unnecessary stuff. So we kept all of our cleaning protocols and sanitation protocols the same, but we do have to be a bit more vigilant.
So our veterinarian told us on one of our last visits, that this is just like Bordetella. But it’s the killer version. All the same signs and symptoms you’re looking out for, but once you take your dog in for treatment, you know, They’re showing more dangerous, , symptom signs that can actually end and, well, instead of my dog just needing, like, a breathing treatment, now they’re in the canine emergency room or ICU getting 24 7 care because it’s You know, they could stop breathing in the middle of the night.
So same signs and symptoms just, , exacerbated to be to a point where it could harm them for more than just a [00:54:00] couple of weeks. It could kill them. So what we’re looking out for is all those same signs and symptoms of, , Kenilcoff, Bordatella, in any of the dogs who are coming to our facility, , and, you know, we tell it to the students when they’re going out places, especially when their dogs get released to them, don’t take them to dog parks.
When I’m traveling, when we’re transporting dogs, I like to go somewhere where it’s lit up, but I still won’t take a dog into like the gas station, like dog parks that they have on the highways. So we don’t know how they’re cleaning. We don’t know the other dogs that have been there steer clear from areas that could potentially harbor that respiratory thing.
Cause I mean, if we’re thinking about it in the span of like two months, it went from Oregon on the other side of the U S. Down to this side, because it was just traveling with people across those roads and highways. So we’re looking out for those signs and symptoms and then staying [00:55:00] away from risky places.
And we always urge our, our clients, like, if they feel uncomfortable bringing their dog in for boarding, Get them an extra Bordetella shot as some extra coverage. They have six month boosters. They also have a canine influenza, which is another respiratory shot vaccine that you can get for dogs. Just give them a full rounded coverage there before you bring them in for your peace of mind, but we’re never going to skimp on our procedures and policies that we have in place, and we’re not going to put your dog at risk.
If we say, hey, we have a dog who’s coughing, like we’re quarantining them off, or we’re quarantining our kennel, like you can’t come in, we’re not going to put other people’s dogs at risk, just because we might need 40 more dollars a night to have a dog board with us. so that’s kind of what we tell clients when they ask about this.
Unfortunately, according to the research right now, there’s not much else they can do [00:56:00] to really stop the spread of it. Just. Treating it as if it’s a more dangerous version of Bordetella. Yeah. And that’s why, you know, the vaccination protocols are so intense facility and there’s nobody coming into the facility without full vaccination, , even, , students or, you know, running cert, their dogs have to be fully vaccinated, before coming in.
And, , sometimes clients get irritated at times with the way that we require them and we require vaccinations from a vet from any handwritten or, you know, Hey, I got the file. I understand that, but for our peace of mind to ensure that the vets, and I think you found one time, um, Yeah. That were somebody who tried to, , try situation records and, you actually called the vet and the vet was like, absolutely not.
[00:57:00] We did not give these vaccinations. Yeah. The vet was like, we’re seeking legal action against this person for forging records in the past. to other companies. so and using the same signature and scans and stuff. so that was a crazy situation. And, I think I have in the past, a lot of people are like, Deb, you’re a mother, a mother hen. There have been at least two people who are like, at first when you were like, Oh, we have to have them directly from the vet. And we’re like, Oh, but you know, we’re not doing anything. You offended us by saying, well, if you don’t give me the copies, I’m going to have to call your vet.
And they got offended by that. I’m like, this is for the safety of. all the dogs inside the kennel. , you know, I always refer to it as my kennel. I’m like, this is my kennel. Your dog’s not a part of my kennel yet. So I don’t care what you’re doing. My dogs need to stay safe. So I’m going to call them. and then once they realize, you know, we do this for everyone, not just targeting one specific person, those, those records and, and those, [00:58:00] um, medical.
Vaccines have to come from a vet as well. Like we don’t take self given vaccines, uh, but also we have to have that record directly from the vet, because unfortunately people in the past have proven to be, untruthful. So that’s something we just have to ensure everyone’s staying safe. Well, you know, on top of that, right, if Maya brings her dogs to us, at least she knows that we’ve taken the steps to ensure as much as we can in all possibilities that her dogs are going to be healthy or at least be around other healthy dogs that we know.
Right, Maya? 100%. I mean, one of the reasons that I actually, I was bringing Dottie, my dog for training, um, before I ever boarded with CCU, but one of the main reasons that I felt comfortable bringing them to training was because before my dog ever set foot on property, I had to make sure that my vet.
Sent over all of her vaccination records. So that way they could make sure not only were the dogs they’re [00:59:00] safe, but I also interpret it as keeping my dog safe . But you know, it keeps my dog safe and it keeps. All of the other dogs safe who are eventually going to have incredibly important jobs whether that’s detection patrol tracking a service dog So yeah, 100 percent it is It makes me way more comfortable than paying the same amount really for somewhere that doesn’t require those vaccines for a fraction of the care that I’ve seen just in the kennel that the technicians and Deb provide.
Yeah you know the the crazy thing is is from the client side of it and I deal with a lot of that. We had a lady that says she owns a kennel and says she wanted to bring her dogs for training, but she administers all her own vaccines and all that. And, you know, I told her, you know, I’m not saying you don’t, right?
You very much could just like we could very much give our [01:00:00] own vaccines. But the reasons why we don’t is because of the optics, right? As an example, I’ll give you this example. Now it’s my word that we gave vaccines. Appropriately and remember, I’m trying to protect our best interest in the eyes of someone else.
But when I go to a 3rd party, like a vet and we pay. Exorbitant amounts of money. That budget is, is high but we do it because now we have a third party that says that our dogs were vaccinated. We did this, this and this on the medical exams. It’s not us doing it. Could we hire a vet tech? Could we give A vast amount of the vaccinations that we are required to give ourselves and save some money.
Absolutely. But I think it saves us more by paying a little bit more because of the optics and because [01:01:00] of the assurance that things are done correctly versus doing it on myself. But she could not understand why we require the vet to give them, even though she give them herself and, you know, she took it as an attack on her and, oh, you don’t trust me by no means am I saying that, but what I am saying is there’s other clients that trust us.
Do the right thing and that being said, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to pass on the three or 5000 that we’re going to make on training from you to ensure that our clients are rest assured that every single dog we know has received the vaccinations at least because we’re getting them from a board certified veterinarian that says that they have administered those vaccinations to that dog.
And we won’t vary on that. We just won’t. Um, but I think, I think, I think it’s the best call. Absolutely. 100%.[01:02:00] One of the most important roles that the kennel master and dev obviously plays is just ensuring that no matter what age that dog is or the puppy is or whatever, not only are they receiving superb treatment, and I can say that honestly, as a self proclaimed dog mom, even though everyone at the facility hates that term, but I’m going to say it, um, like, you know, I love my dogs, right?
They are my little babies. I would never leave them somewhere I felt was unclean or unsafe or they weren’t going to be treated right. And I see, just as an observer, I see how they treat the dogs in the kennels, I see how they treat the kennels. Cleaning with care. Each dog is treated individually, and I could just go on and on.
Well, the, well, the thing is, you know, it’s hard to, to, to say those things because, but people don’t see what goes on in the background and you know, on top of that.
I’ll reiterate this. We’re not perfect by any means, but [01:03:00] the effort like that goes into it and you can’t guarantee everything that’s going to go right, right? Whenever we put people’s hands involved in things, there’s, it’s inevitable something’s going to break, but. The care, the, and I say that because of the heart for every single dog.
To keep their dog as safe as possible and, you know, and the protocols that are set out or set out for those purposes. 100 percent is to keep the dog as safe as possible.
And that’s from vaccinations to cleaning to sanitation to staff training to, I mean, you, the amount of hours that you spend training a staff, like. One kennel tech is just really crazy, .
It takes us a lot longer, you know, but I can never call a client and say their dog got sick at our kennel because of the lack of sanitation. Yeah. And I just, I just wouldn’t feel right doing that.[01:04:00]
I get it.
Well, I think we’re winding down, Deb. Like, we got to spend the evening together, and that’s remarkable.
I appreciate the time. I, I hope that somebody learned one thing from this and, , one thing that they learn from you, there’s a wealth of knowledge that you have and the amount of information you can teach somebody is just remarkable. And, , so I hope everybody enjoyed this podcast.
Remember Tuesdays and Fridays, we release. Our podcast on every network that you can release a podcast, including YouTube, but our short sets are on Tuesday and our long episodes are on Friday. Why do we do that? Well, let me tell you, let me give you some insight because on Tuesdays and Fridays, we groom.
every single dog.
I appreciate everybody listening and I’m excited to see what 2024 brings and we’re leading off with some, some heavy hitters already in 2024 [01:05:00] and Debra Clark being one of them and sharing her knowledge of her kennel and how it runs and some of the insights on what goes on in the background.
I appreciate it, Deb. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.