Before I packed my bags and headed south to Sanford, North Carolina to intern at Tarheel K9, I had no clue what to expect. At first glance, the facility wasn’t overtly impressive on the outside— no astonishing architecture, no fancy glass windows or sliding doors. What I learned on the inside, however, made all the difference.
I spent the next month learning about the various components of K9 police work, including basic obedience, tracking, detection, and bite work. I hadn’t done much dog training before so it was a ton of information to take in at once, and I absolutely loved it! Some days I did pet training, which gave me training experience and insight into how dogs think and learn. Other days I was with the working dogs; some mornings we’d drive out to a field and lay trails, and in the afternoon hide narcotics or explosive samples to work the dogs in detection. It was neat because I got to observe dogs in all different stages of the training progression. Moreover, working with dogs of different temperaments helped me see how each dog’s training was tailored in a way that enabled it to learn most effectively. The other students there all had their own dogs in addition to foster caring working dogs, which was great practice for their future lives as dog handlers. I foster cared a working dog for a while, which showed me how much responsibility and work it takes to live in the dog life.
Some days I got to sit in lectures given by Jerry and the staff. I received so much knowledge in a mere couple hours, from people who are fantastic teachers and successful professionals in the dog world, and who are incredibly passionate about what they do. I quickly came to realize how blessed I was to be at Tarheel. The humor, camaraderie, and quality of the staff made learning fun and made my time there enjoyable. The month passed before I knew it, and I was quite sad to leave. From firsthand observation, I’ve concluded that the handler and trainer certification courses they offer are unlike any other; I’d definitely recommend Tarheel for anyone considering a career in the working dog industry! As a college senior exploring her career options after graduation, I for one know that I definitely want working dogs in my future, thanks to Tarheel.
B.S. in Animal Science
Pennsylvania State University