Spokane Journal of Business

A PAK mentality


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-—Treva Lind
Monique Smith, left, and Brittney Katterfeld stand with German shepherd Gucci; mastiff Dino; and German shepherd-husky mix Tundra.
-—Treva Lind
PAK9 Dog Training co-owners Monique Smith, left, and Brittany Katterfeld say they have similar philosophies about working with animals and their owners.

PAK9 Dog Training co-owners Brittney Katterfeld and Monique Smith share a business-slogan philosophy: molding dogs, training humans.

Through their Deer Park-based company, they offer group classes and private lessons regionally for canine obedience, training, and behavior modification, and they work with clients’ dogs at home sites. Other services include a doggie “day school” as well as boarding. This summer, PAK9 expanded by adding a mobile van service to pick up and deliver dogs to customers.

PAK9 also holds a Spokane Valley class once a week, scheduled Saturdays inside a warehouse space for the Country Store, at 5605 E. Sprague.

“We have a very loyal clientele,” Katterfeld says. “We travel to anywhere. We have clients in Coeur d’Alene, Newport, and from Wenatchee who come up here. We can come to you and work with you and your dog, you can bring your dog to our classes, or you can bring him to us and we can train in a safe environment.”

For the new mobile service using a 2016 Ford Transit van, Smith adds that the business usually arranges with clients to meet at coordinated stops around the Inland Northwest. Smith’s husband helps with some of the company’s driving. In addition to the two owners, PAK9 employs one full-time assistant.

“The new van has AC units and will have 15 custom kennels big enough to suit all breeds,” adds Smith, who says temporary kennels are now in place. “We’re designing the custom kennels, and it will take four months to make them.” 

The pair say they can train any dog, regardless of breed, while offering to fix dog behavior issues such as excessive barking, growling, biting, aggression, pulling on leash, jumping, and fear issues. Other PAK9 services include agility and sport training, scent detection, tracking, puppy education, and service dog training.

The PAK9 site has a 2,500-square-foot indoor facility and outside runs on 23 acres. A secondary outbuilding holds additional training space. The center has a full competition-ready agility course and equipment as well.

“Agility is a great way for a person and dog to work together to build trust,” Smith says. 

Both Katterfeld and Smith completed formal education at the Canada West Canine Center, in British Columbia, to be certified as master canine trainers. The two-month program teaches participants intensive training methods as they do the hands-on work with their dogs.

Having two such certified trainers with similar philosophies is unusual, says Katterfeld. “It helps us hold our clients close and care for them well.”

Adds Smith, “We felt it was important to get that education behind us, so we went to a school that’s been in business 40 years. We’re only two out of five working in the United States who hold that certification from that school. There’s not a lot of places to go to get dog training in the U.S., as far as formal training.”

The certification covers all aspects of obedience training, kennel management, protection training, tracking, therapy dogs, nose work, and other dog-training tools the pair offers to clients, Smith says. “We learned how to handle aggressive behavior and reactive behavior, and how to read a dog, which is where the dog psychology and temperaments come in.”

Smith previously attended veterinary technician training and completed an internship with Ponti Veterinary Hospital, in Otis Orchards. She also has a business degree and studied animal sciences at Washington State University. Her additional experience includes tax accounting work and separately owning two hair replacement centers, in the Spokane area and Seattle.

Katterfeld started the dog training business on a part-time basis in July 2014, and Smith joined her as co-owner that fall. As friends and coworkers now, they also delve into personal experience training their own dogs. 

Smith and Katterfeld named the business PAK9 because between them, they own nine dogs. Three of them came to a recent Mirabeau Park photography shoot: Gucci, a German shepherd; Dino, a rescued mastiff; and Tundra, a shepherd-husky mix.

“Tundra and Gucci do service dog work, search and rescue, narcotics and protection work, as well as therapy work,” Smith says..

She first met Katterfeld because of a training issue with one of her German shepherds. 

“I had been through a lot of bad dog trainers,” Smith says. “I called Brittney. She and I just hit it off, and we’ve been together ever since. Everything about how we deal with dogs is exactly the same.”

Smith adds, “We use a very balanced method. Not every dog can be trained the same way.”

Katterfeld quit a full-time lending job in January to focus solely on the business along with Smith. It’s been a good decision.

“We’ve been making a profit since Day One over the past two years,” Smith says. “We have 86 current active clients right now.”

PAK9 also offers a free service Wednesday evenings during warmer months that invites anyone to bring their dog for a group walk. The owners post information for a 6:45 p.m. “PAK Walk” meeting at various outdoor venues on PAK9’s Facebook page. The walks usually are two to three miles and start at 7 p.m.

A recent walk drew 20-plus dogs, Smith says. “It’s a beautiful sight seeing all these dogs walking. There’s never been an issue. It also exposes dogs to skateboarders, bikes, things they might not get around.”

Adds Katterfeld, “We talk about why structured walks are so important. It’s a good opportunity to be around other dogs for socialization.”

For its paid services, the business sells a group lesson package, called a 4-PAK, for $95. The package offers four classes of one-hour each that can be used “any time, any class,” Katterfeld says. 

Classes are held both at the Country Store and usually three days a week at PAK9’s facility, at 5507 W. Staley Road. The owners also are American Kennel Club evaluators for the Canine Good Citizen Test.

PAK9’s day school runs $32 a day, also available in packages. The combined board-and-train service varies in cost based on a dog’s needs.

“We’re the only ones in the area who offer stay and train and play where there’s pickup and delivery,” Katterfeld asserts.

Private lessons cost $70 an hour and can be held at a park, client’s home or in Deer Park.

The company also handles lost animal requests. Smith has two champion tracking dogs. In January, PAK9 services found a feral Lab-chow mix they now call Molly. “We’re rehabilitating her now, and we just recently found an adopter,” Smith says.

Smith and Katterfeld say they keep classes flexible and fun.

Keys include consistency, socializing with other dogs and people, and helping owners understand how to communicate with dogs, both women say. They say dog owners most often seek help for issues of jumping, returning when called, and generally ignoring commands.

“It really all comes down to the human understanding how to communicate with your dog in a way the dog can understand,” Smith says. “There’s never a problem with them loving their dogs. It’s always the lack of rules, obedience, and structure, which basically keeps your dog out of balance. We don’t correct the dog; we correct the behaviors.”

She adds, “We love what we do. It’s all about having fun taking your dog anywhere and about helping people to build their confidence so they can take their dog and know their dog will behave well.” 

Treva Lind
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