With The Balanced Pack approaching its five year anniversary, I thought it would be nice to sit down and reflect on where we started, why it all began, to where we are now. Five years later. When I think back and reflect on the many reasons The Balanced Pack came to be, the first thing to mind is always my own dogs.
When I stopped working at one of my previous employers and started looking into new possible daycare options for my dogs, I quickly realized how slim the pickings were. It wasn't just the lack of options that frustrated me, it was that even looking deeper, reading policy's and so on, I never felt like I would even be comfortable sending my dogs there. (I mean they weren't perfect, would these people pick up on their quirks?) Would they be able to recognize the warning signs of a potential fight? The more I asked myself these questions, I never really found answers that put me at ease enough to trust anyone.
When Expressway Kennels closed in 2012, all us employees found ourselves contemplating our next moves, it was then that the idea of opening my own daycare started to seem more and more tangible. Sure, I was still a month away from my 20th birthday-but I could do anything right? I was sold. The daycare was happening. I knew dogs, I knew what their people wanted, and I knew what I'd want for my own dogs. We would offer daycare from the comfort of a home environment-dogs wouldn't feel the same stress of a large, loud, kennel building. They wouldn't need to be constantly separated into kennels and play 'groups', because the numbers would be small and manageable, because we'd put limits on the types/number of dogs we'd accept. We would go for walks, something NO one was doing, yet I saw how much it connected the dogs together- sharing a purpose. We didn't have a huge play yard, but it wasn't about how much room there was to play, but the quality of that play. I would have the freedom and the time to help shy dogs be introduced slowly, I'd have a stable group of familiar adults to help shape puppy minds, teach small and large dogs how to coexist, and I'd have the ability to help reactive dogs learn new choices in especially set up social groups-because I'd be able to trust my helpers, supervise and advocate for them as needed.
Would people see the value in these things as I did? Having no formal business training, operating on only intuition, naturally I said of course they will- we're doing it! To say things weren't slow to start was an understatement-the boom of social media wasn't what it is now and I had no idea how to advertise. That didn't seem to matter though, because the word was spreading. People told their friends and their friends-friends, ultimately creating the big extended family TBP is today. As the daycare grew, so did the diversity of behaviours exhibited by the dogs in our care, naturally we started getting questions to things relating to their home life with their dogs, or 'what's your trick" and we often didn't-yet have the answers. It was then I realized, there was a whole other dog world I knew very little about, at least formally. That was training, I knew behaviour enough I felt I could read their dog like a book, yet I had no idea how to transfer that knowledge or my instinct back to owners, nor did I have a clue as to the steps to achieving that flashy obedience stuff.
So off I searched, stumbling upon a couple dog training forums/groups on Facebook, where I was then lucky enough to see the work of some of the amazing masters I love today. I saw that there were answers to my clients questions-I was hooked. I needed to know everything about this training stuff. I enrolled one of my dogs at the time into a local Rally-O class, where we caught the positive reinforcement bug and went on to learn anything cool under the sun you could teach your dog with food and a clicker. Even continuing on to agility and rally trialing where Jack has taken home numerous ribbons and titles. Not to mention I went and added 3 more dogs to our personal pack, who all challenged me to continue my learning in order to best help them.
Then I finally met my people. I attended my first ever dog training seminar/conference. I was mind blown, star struck, these people were amazing dog experts. I found myself in every speaker session wanting to jump up with my hands in the air and go YES! (Like somehow my agreement with their statements would make it MORE true lol!) It was there I found the people I was going to spend the rest of my dog career trying to go and learn from, listen to, and soak in their wisdom. So began my dog training adventure, I was exposed to these talented, seasoned trainers who could explain things so perfectly, I was learning through the Internet, in person and seeing transformation in my dog's problem behaviours, I became a true believer.
After IACP, I once again found myself thinking, why aren't there people like this here? Why don't we have someone teaching these skills here? If it had taken me years to find the answers to my dog's problems, surely other owners were struggling too? So began The Balanced Pack's adventure into training. It turned out one of my online mentors from one of these groups I'd stumbled upon, was coming to the west coast! There was no way I was going to miss that, let alone two other awesome trainers joining him in teaching. A week in wine country BC, THIS was the education I'd been searching for. Not only had I found a subject that awakened great interest to me-this education sounds like a freaking vacation right?!
Trust me, it didn't disappoint. It was 6 immersive days living in close quarters with trainers from all backgrounds and experiences, from all across North America, uniting on the west coast, staying up til 2am in hotel rooms with each other talking dog. It was heaven. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction into training seminars. I met some of my Now, most trusted confidants, colleagues and friends. I celebrated my 22nd birthday in wine country surrounded by people who not only thought like I did, but shared my visions, and cared as deeply about learning as myself.
I met my now, good friend Simone that trip, was inspired by her badassery, connected with her humour, and now call her a dear friend. You may even recall I went on another training trip with her the next fall, where she hosted me at her home, before/after our trip to Washington for Jay & Chad. Shayla and I even went to her facility this spring for a seminar she hosted featuring Nelson Hodges-where she gifted me with a beautiful portrait of my dog Mozzi. Who had passed on Christmas and was supposed to join me on that roadtrip/seminar. What did I say you guys? I found my freaking people that first seminar in BC! Amazing, inspiring, humbling people with whom I could not only relate, or banter with, but whom I truly consider some of my mentors in the biz, who have selfless helped me grow, and thus the business these past few years!
Since that workshop three years ago, we have continued our quest for the best information, leading us to attend numerous other seminars from equally impressive presenters. Those seminars also then blessing us with many amazing colleagues across North America. Dog Training has taken me across borders, provincial and state lines, and taken me to some of the most amazing places on this continent. I’ve been able to learn and witness some of the most beautiful training, in some of the most beautiful places on earth. It's really amazing isn't it? 9 States and 3 BC Adventures since that first conference fall of 2014; 14hr road trips, flying, travelling across borders and provinces with my dogs, all in the pursuit of knowledge! Knowledge to bring back to my hometown, my heart, Regina.
*I will make a special note here that without our esteemed trainer Shayla Hagel, who was alongside me for damn near all of those trips, so many of those experiences would not have been possible. To my partner in dog the past 3 Years.. I will be forever grateful. Thank you for joining me in this crazy dog filled venture, of which you have become so passionate about*
As some business’ age, the passion dwindles, that's hardly been the case for us here at The Balanced Pack. Celebrating our 5th business anniversary is a milestone most small business’ never achieve, we recognize we’ve been incredibly blessed with some amazing clients, many who have become close friends. We're even more excited to see how The Balanced Pack will evolve over the next 5 years with Shayla joining the pack full-time this year, allowing for the continued expansion of our training services. We've finally found our niche, our tribe, our pack, and it feels great.
So it's safe to say.. The Balanced Pack isn't going anywhere!
To all of our lifelong supports, friends, and family who have helped us get to this 5 year Milestone, we are eternally grateful. Your unwavering trust in us to care for your furry family members is never forgotten, and never taken for granted.
To all those who may be reading who we have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, we hope to work with you soon and share some of the knowledge that we've worked so hard to bring back to the prairies for you.
Izzie Keyes - Owner, Trainer
The Balanced Pack Dog Training & Daycare