The year started with the Queensland Police Dog Squad exclusively booking out K9 Solutions Australia's second workshop held in February. Ben said at the time, “The Dog Squad is full of first class handlers and dogs, so we knew we had to bring our A game to the workshop. Working with such experienced professionals was an absolute pleasure.”
Jason Kelly, director and trainer of K9 Solutions Australia added, "We were privileged to partner with the Queensland Police Service and for this company to be out front, leading the way in providing smarter working dog training."
“The big picture is to give people within the working dog industry more choices and options when it comes to training working dogs,” advised Grant Reibel, final member of the K9 Solutions Australia's training team. “Incorporating our training methods into any current training course would, in our opinion, evolve the course to the next level. Our training methods have been developed over many years, on countless canines, and challenges your perspective on how you should communicate with working canines.”
March saw the launch of the K9 Solutions Australia website. Lee Kelly, brother of Jason, took on the role of putting the website together, "It was seven months of busy work, but I enjoyed every minute of it."
When it came to the design of the website, the goal was "simplicity with impact". A strong sense of aesthetic was very important when designing the site, "We are wired to take in visual content way faster and more effectively than we are with text, so the heaviness of imagery on the website is absolutely by design". Lee continued, "Lisa [Ibbotson-Kelly] took some cracking shots, strong, key images that succinctly express the core elements of K9SA."
"In the end we wanted a beautiful, informative, functional website that reflected K9SA's business ethos. It had to be simple and easy to use yet engaging in a way that's not intrusive. We're all constantly advertised to, and it's irritating, so we knew right from the beginning what we didn't want. I think we achieved what we set out to do...certainly the feedback we received indicates we got there, and then some."
But the work doesn't end with the release of the website. Lee believes static content is one of the worst website offences and K9SA will "keep it fresh...a website is like a room, it's good to get new furniture occasionally and mix things up a bit. Watch this space."
Unexpectedly, in April K9 Solutions Australia made available branded wearables and accessories. Jason adds, "Whilst we are certainly not in the business of selling merchandise, we are a tactical canine training company first and foremost, we often got asked if the company gear we wear and use was available to purchase. We saw some interest in that space and decided to pay some attention to it. I must admit it has taken us all by surprise how popular the gear has been, with some product lines completely selling out."
April also saw the inaugural K9SA footy day with the team and guests going along to the Brisbane Broncos v Townsville Cowboys game at Suncorp Stadium. The rivalry between the two sides is the best in the league, with bragging rights going to the Broncos fans within the group this time round. A good time was had by all, although it is rumoured a tear was sighted rolling down Grant's cheek after the game (Grant played some games for the Cowboys in the early 2000's).
In May K9 Solutions Australia bred their first litter. In honour of those Australian soldiers who have been bestowed the highest military decoration for performing "acts of the most conspicuous gallantry, or daring or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice", the pups were named after Victoria Cross recipients, such as Charles Pope VC and Bill Kibby VC. Two of the pups were sent to sporting homes, two to the Australian Army and one to the Western Australia Police. K9SA kept two of the pups for development, Pope (currently being developed for the Victoria Police's Special Operations Group) and Kibby (currently being raised as a potential brood bitch of the future). In addition to Pope and Kibby, K9SA added to their ever increasing stable by purchasing Dredd and Doc who are also being developed for the Victoria Police's Special Operations Group.
Facebook numbers grew significantly over the last twelve months. As May came to a close, a thousand people from all around the world liked K9 Solutions Australia's Facebook page. Jason acknowledged the small milestone, "Might not be big to some but for a small Aussie business that's just starting out, it is huge and awesome! Thank you all very much for the support. We believe we have something special here and hope that shows through. From three mates to you - thank you so much!!"
Drawing valuable attention to the tactical canine training company, K9SA's online presence expanded in twenty sixteen to cover thousands of views, comments, tweets, shares and likes.
In keeping with what would seem to define the year, K9SA were not immune to heartbreak when K9 Solutions Australia's Dexter passed away at just six months due to complications after major internal surgery. Grant remembered Dex as a dog with great drive and passion for work and a trainability that is hoped for in a pup starting on the long path to being a service dog.
As testament to the young pup's strength, the vet who was treating him in his final days stated that "it is amazing that he is even alive at this point under his own steam, let alone still being bright and responsive." The loss was obvious, "Although only with us for a short time, Dexter left the K9SA team with many memories and good times."
August saw the milestone of K9 Solutions Australia achieving their first year in business. Jason acknowledged the first 12 months were an interesting period, "In some ways it’s the unique challenges and lack of a safety net that make it such an exhilarating ride; making the small successes along the way feel very, very rewarding. The first year has completely exceeded our expectations."
Grant gave an insight into what it was like to take the step and commit to the business. "We started with nothing. And I mean absolutely nothing. We had no clients, no dogs, no website, no online presence, no funding....just heaps of experience, drive and an idea of what we wanted to do."
Jason added, "Starting a business is daunting and even overwhelming at times, which is why it is important to surround yourself with a great team who support each other. The best part of K9 Solutions Australia is that I get to work with these blokes, great mates and great K9 trainers who make me strive to be better myself."
Many of you enjoyed reading the article about the first year of business titled "Living the Dream" with it receiving 1100 views, the highest for any of the articles published through the K9SA website.
The reputation of the K9SA team spread far and wide in twenty sixteen, and so it was they headed to Perth in September to work with the Western Australia Police Canine Unit. Ben wrote about the experience in the article titled "Decoy School", a very popular read receiving 1000 views, making it the second most popular article published in twenty sixteen.
Ben wrote, "The business of training dogs is exciting, interesting and something we at K9 Solutions Australia are extremely passionate about. However, it has been said that the dog world can be a fickle one, “the only thing two dog handlers will agree on is that the third is wrong”.
So when I received a call from Glenn Potter, the head of the Western Australia Police (WAPOL) Equine and Canine Units asking if we could supply their canine handlers with some decoy training, I was both excited and nervous at the same time. Excited at the proposition of sharing our knowledge with other professional dog handlers and nervous at how our methods might be received given they differ considerably from conventional methods. I quickly learnt that my initial nervousness was unwarranted."
All the ground work done in the first half of the year started to reap rewards when in late September K9 Solutions Australia confirmed they would begin working with Victoria Police's Special Operations Group. K9SA were tasked with collaboratively working with the Victorian Police to incorporate their core training methods into the current Victorian Police's canine training regime. “Incorporating our training methods into any established training program does, in our opinion, elevate the training to a higher level, a better standard than what is currently available" Jason said at the time.
In November K9SA headed to Victoria to advance previous training with the Victoria Police Special Operations Group. The training included a wide variety of environmental exposure, ranging from aircraft to boats, as well as socialisation with the Special Operations Group members.
K9SA also continued training with future Special Operations Group handlers, with emphasis given to obedience, engagement, muzzle, searching and the civil picture. Ben concluded, "As expected the handlers picked up the methodology and techniques quickly. They also began to bond well with their future police dogs. It was an extremely productive workshop for dogs and handlers alike. We look forward to assisting the Victoria Police Special Operations Group in growing their program throughout 2017."