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April 4, 2022

After years ‘on the road,’ K9ology is looking for a permanent home

Photo by Luke Christopher
Charlotte Wagner Harvey of K9ology with Clyde, her Westminster award-winning Border Terrier.
Photo by Luke Christopher
An agility class featured at K9ology.
What's new at K9ology?
-Club K9O: Maintenance training club
-Drop-in classes for 3 different programs

Visit K9ologyva.com
By Pam Kamphuis
Warrenton Lifestyle Magazine

After years “on the road," K9ology is looking for the ideal location for a permanent facility.

K9ology, Charlotte Wagner Harvey’s dog training business, has been operating in the area since 2004. Harvey and her full-time employee Melissa Gibson specialize in all obedience training including AKC certification, puppies, tricks training, therapy dogs, hunting dogs, service dogs and canine sports such as agility and rally.

Apart from renting facilities briefly here and there over the years, K9ology has accomplished its huge operation from the road. Without a home base, Harvey and Gibson hold their classes in a variety of locations in the area: a rented room at Hungry Like the Woof, Spillman Park, Rady Park, Old Town Warrenton, the Greenway and a local farm that lets them hold their agility classes in their indoor arena.

The difficulties of operating this way are many, but Harvey has persevered. Equipment must be moved between locations, and time that could be used for training is spent driving to their various locations. “We work crazy long hours. I’m working 10 hour days, but only seeing four or five appointments a day, and it's slowly killing me,” Harvey says.

Harvey’s energy and passion for her business have carried her through the years -- until COVID hit, and she came to a realization. "There was a split second during COVID when I thought, 'Am I going to throw in the towel?' It was just a tiny split second of doubt, and the very next second I thought, 'Oh no, I can’t do that. That’s ridiculous.' But it started me thinking, do I do this forever on the road?”

After her split second of doubt, Harvey decided to make some changes. “I’d already played with the idea of expanding, and I decided to just go for it. This is my calling, my purpose, my passion, what I’m supposed to be doing. So I’ll be doing this probably till the day I die.”

“I spent the last two years paying off debt, and brought on Melissa as a salaried full-time employee, which is a big step for me as a small business owner. I decided to go really big," Harvey said. "So that’s when I got really serious about doing research and pursuing properties and learning more about the process.”

Harvey is in the process of looking for a location for a permanent home for K9ology. Ideally, it would be close to Warrenton, have a good amount of acreage with fields and, hopefully, a pond.

The plans for the new facility include a 75-by-200-foot foot dog park with dog equipment like an eco-friendly recyclable dog playground equipment, agility ramps, jumps, tunnels and a teeter-totter. “It will be a totally interactive canine playground,” she explains. It will have rubber mulch as a base, which is very cushy for the footing and doesn’t produce any dust.

At first, when the property is located, the plans are to build a 60-by-40-foot building for small group classes and private training. Also planned are a 14-by-30-foot office building and a 79-by-90-foot pole barn for agility, small dog shows and competition events. With acreage, they can add herding and expand their bird dog training. And remember the wish for the pond? Harvey would love to add dock diving, a canine competition sport.

But Harvey's dreams go far beyond training. She wants to build a community of local dog owners where clients and their dogs can have fun together. “I used to have festivals, before COVID, and I’d like to bring those back. We used to have Woofstock in the spring, and Barktoberfest in the fall. Clients would come hang out, bring potluck shared lunches, and enjoy the agility equipment and the rally obedience course. People can ask questions, share stories, and just have fun with their dogs. It’s a way of giving back to my clients.”

What makes K9ology different?

“People think dog trainers work mostly with dogs. Actually, we work mostly with owners, teaching them how to teach their dogs,” Harvey says. “One of the challenges is that owners tend to see training as a burden, like it’s work or effort. But it doesn’t have to be. Training becomes the way you interact with your dog all the time, purely because they are constantly learning, constantly observing you, and being reinforced — or not — by your feedback.”

Harvey continued, “There are three parts to teaching a dog a command, and many people only do the first part,” she says. The first part is teaching the command, and many owners stop there. But then, they often find, their dogs don’t respond to the command when they are away from home. The second part of training is called proofing, or teaching your dog to obey the command even when there are distractions, like people, other dogs, toys, or squirrels. The third part is called generalization, where you work with your dog and the command in different locations. “That’s why some owners don't get what they want out of the training process, because they only put in a third of the work."

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Warrenton Lifestyle. Read the issue here.
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