Tarheel K9’s Story

Jerry Bradshaw, the founder and CEO of Tarheel Canine grew up in Monticello, in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The son of Lucy and Lee Bradshaw, respected high school teachers both, he excelled in school and upon graduation, Jerry attended Virginia Tech in Blacksburg as an undergraduate, and in 1985 earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. From there, he accepted a research assistantship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, and in 1989 he earned a Master of Science in Applied Economics with specialization in Macroeconomics and Econometrics. Jerry’s master’s program was very successful, and out of his research and his master’s thesis came two peer-reviewed, published articles in the Review of Economics and the Western Journal of Agricultural Economics. Jerry taught college-level classes while at Virginia Tech, and assisted in teaching and research with graduate level classes as well.

In the fall of 1989, Jerry entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began study in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Economics with every intention of becoming a university professor. Over the next 5 years, he completed all the course work toward a Ph.D. including field exams in macroeconomics, International Economics, and Econometrics. Jerry taught undergraduate classes at UNC in Intro Economics, Intermediate Micro & Macro, and Business Statistics. In 1993 he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award, and was a finalist for the Lurcy Fellowship. Jerry also taught outside of UNC while working on his dissertation at such institutions as Meredith College (MBA program in Managerial Economics) and Elon College (Full time Instructor in Economics).

It was around the latter part of the graduate program at UNC that a particular event occurred to change his life. One evening, while asleep, there was a noise downstairs in his townhouse. Jerry went downstairs to investigate and saw someone standing on the heat pump unit prying at the living room window. It was dark inside the house, so the potential intruder never saw him on the other side of the window. While waiting for the police after calling 911, he slapped a broom against the Venetian blinds and scared the intruder off. The police arrived. A suggestion was made to get a dog to keep inside the house, because intruders will not risk the dog alerting the homeowners or worse biting them, so they would likely move on to another, easier victim.

Up until this point, Jerry never thought about getting a dog. In fact, in 1994 Jerry was 31 years old and had never even had a dog before. He never owned a dog growing up, and at present, there was only a feline living with him and his wife, Sandra. Upon urging from his wife, who grew up with hunting dogs on a farm in rural Virginia, they went to the pound and adopted a German Shepherd Mix puppy named Penny. Penny was the world’s worst watchdog as it turned out. She was happy, frisky and very friendly, and didn’t bark at strangers, not as an adolescent, or ever as an adult! What she did take to was dog training. As any responsible owner, Jerry took penny to obedience class at the APS in Chapel Hill, and fell in love with both dogs and dog training. He volunteered to assist the training instructors in class levels from basic through advanced, and also competition classes. He read everything he could on the subject, from popular press to the behavioral science literature. But the watchdog problem still presented itself.

Jerry began looking through the dog breed encyclopedia to find a dog, similar to Penny, but with a little more nerve for watch dogging. After finding the Belgian Malinois, and contacting breeders, Jerry purchased a puppy named Arrow from Steve Fitzsimmons in Toronto Canada. Steve implored Jerry to take this dog to structured training in Schutzhund, as the Malinois is a breed in need of a job more than most. Steve also suggested reading on protection sports, and joining a Schutzhund club.

Jerry joined the Raleigh Schutzhund association. Over the next few years, he trained Arrow to five times SchH 3, and appearances at numerous Regional Championships and the 1996 USA Schutzhund National Championships in Charlottesville VA, where they placed 22nd overall out of a field close to 3 times that number. They scored V in protection with 96 points at the nationals. Unfortunately, Arrow suffered a stroke and retired from Schutzhund forever. He did make a brief comeback in 1997 at the K9 Pro Sport Nationals, and won 1st place in the senior division. After that, he became a house dog, and the best watchdog anyone could ever ask for. Jerry also trained an older dog, who was given up on, Ben v. Lowenfels, to SchH 2.  Jerry and Ben earned 99 points out of 100 in protection more than once. Ben is the dog in the TK9 logo, jumping with the dumbbell in his mouth.

Jerry went on in his competition career to train 2 more outstanding competition dogs. Jerry titled Rocky, another Malinois he bought at 11 months, all the way to PSA 3, the highest level in the sport, and at the same time re-trained a 1999 KNPV National Championship Participant (Malinois Cross) named Ricardo also to PSA 3. Just before the PSA championships in 2003, Rocky fell ill with Cancer and could no longer compete, though he was the odds on favorite to win the nationals in PSA 3. Ricardo, in a stunning come-back victory, however, did win the nationals in 2003, in a way winning it for the 3 of them. Both dogs have since been inducted into the PSA Hall of Fame, and Jerry was the first inductee into the PSA 3 Club for trainers who title a dog consecutively from PSA 1 all the way to PSA 3.

As his competition career was taking off, in October of 1994 Jerry founded Tarheel Canine in Sanford NC with a $2000 investment from a summer teaching job, along with partner Lee Justice. Annual revenues in the first full year of operation were close to fifty thousand dollars. After 6 months as partners, Jerry bought out Lee’s interest in TK9, and he moved the operation briefly to Pittsboro, and then back to Sanford at the end of  1995.  In the first few years, Jerry ran the business by himself, with the assistance of Sandra. The business grew, and in 1998, Tarheel Canine moved into its present location at 230 W. Seawell Street, Sanford, NC. The business hired its first trainer employee in 1997, sold its first police dog that year, and opened the school for dog trainers a year earlier, in 1996. Over the following 10 years, Tarheel Canine has grown to 9 employees and has become a major player in the police K9 business nationally and internationally.

Jerry and the Tarheel Canine staff have been featured speakers at Police K9 conferences and invited to instruct at workshops around the country, in addition to writing articles for Dog Sport Magazine and Police K9 magazine.  Jerry is a co-founder, Judge, and East Coast Director of one of the fastest growing protection dog sports in America, widely recognized as the single most difficult protection sport there is, PSA (www.psak9.org). Jerry and colleagues Brice Cavanaugh (www.teamdog.com) and Sean Siggins co-founded the National Tactical Police Dog Association (www.tacticalcanine.com) to apply many of the same successful scenario-based principles found in PSA to the certification of police dogs.

Jerry and Tarheel Canine have been interviewed in the Miami Herald, Sanford Herald, Dog World Magazine, and Salon.com and have made appearances on WRAL-TV, BBC World News, Harrison Forbes’ Pet Talk Radio Program, and WQSM radio. Jerry has trained dogs for Movie, commercial, and video appearances with stars like Cicely Tyson, and Peter Bogdanovich. TK9 dogs have appeared in IBM Training Videos and even some horror movies! Recently Jerry & TK9 were filmed for a feature presentation on the Discovery Channel about protection dogs and how they are trained. Our police dogs are working all over the US from California to Florida in Federal, State and Local jurisdictions.