CORONAVIRUS

Pandemic or not, pets still need training

King's Creatures trains the pet first, then the owner

Laura King conducts a virtual session for a therapy dog in training from her yard in northeast Cedar Rapids on Tuesday,
Laura King conducts a virtual session for a therapy dog in training from her yard in northeast Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. King is currently offering only virtual appointments for her business, King’s Creatures Animal Training. She began offering online training to clients in Wisconsin in September, after her husband Billy King became pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and they moved to Cedar Rapids, which positioned her to transition to online training during coronavirus-related business closures. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Laura King is comfortable training pretty much any animal — from camels to cockroaches — she said.

these days, as owner of King’s Creatures, however, you most often can find her training the more standard family pets such as dogs and cats.

“I offer training for any species of pet, whatever people have at home,” she said.

King, who moved to the Cedar Rapids area about a year ago, has been connecting with new clients to build her two-year-old business in a new-to-her locale.

Even through the pandemic, she has been trying to help those seeking to improve their pets’ behaviors.

“Usually I offer in-home services, but those are on hold,” King said. “I am offering online training via Zoom.

“We start with a consultation that is about 30 minutes and we chat and go over some things, and I make sure I get a good assessment of the pet. Then we set up some additional Zoom private sessions.”

Luckily because she still works online with clients in Wisconsin, from where she and her husband relocated, King said she already had a system set up for online training.

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Before social-distancing restrictions, King said her most popular training option was a Day Camp package, which she hopes to be able to bring back in coming weeks.

“During Day Camp, I (go) to a client’s home while they are away to work with their pet for one and a half to two hours, three days a week.”

She generates a video to summarize each session so the pet’s family can practice what she works on. King then returns in two weeks for a follow-up session.

“This is a favorite because it gets the pets exercise and training when they would otherwise be alone and doing nothing, but also because it gives a chance for the pet to learn first, and then the family, instead of them both learning at the same time. If they both learn at the same time, things progress more slowly.”

A good analogy, King said, would be to the TV series “Dancing With the Stars.”

“If two celebrities were paired up, they’d probably lose the first week,” she said. “But when you pair a celebrity with a pro dancer, they improve quickly. When I train your pet first, your pet will be a pro by the time we get to your follow up session.”

She also offers private, in-home sessions, lasting about an hour, with the pet and family present and can address anything from the basics to aggression, as well as shorter trick training sessions.

It is particularly meaningful in her line of work, King said, when she helps pets overcome even the most severe aggressive behaviors, such as killing other animals.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but usually it doesn’t take long to get the results we want and solve the behavior that was causing issues,” she said.

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“We figure out why they felt like they need to be aggressive and it’s basically being to save the animal’s life. That is huge because it keeps the family together.

“You know if people are coming for training you know they love their pet and they don’t really want to have to make a horrible decision to put them down.”

King got her start working as an intern at a children’s zoo in Michigan before becoming a zookeeper and moving on to doing animal training at several larger zoos, including the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium where she worked with her childhood hero, Jack Hanna.

“I loved working hands-on with the animals and also working with the public and educating them on why certain animals are important and what we can do to help them,” she recalled.

She later worked as a dog trainer in Chicago.

“That’s where I learned to work with people more,” King said, “because training is mostly about people not as much about the pets.”

When her husband’s job found them relocating to a very small town in Wisconsin, King worried that she wouldn’t find a job training animals, so decided to take the leap to start her own business.

“I had always wanted to start my own business and it just worked out that way,” she recalled. “It just took off.”

These days, King said she is training a lot of puppies — given the spike in pet additions during the pandemic.

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“The time to start training is literally the minute you bring them home,” she said. “They are just little sponges. It is ideal if I can start training then before they have any major issues.

But King recognizes it is not a perfect world.

“I train a lot of rescue dogs, or dogs that people had a good grip on things with but then things start to slip and a behavior pops up that they’re not comfortable with, like jumping up on people or counter-serving,” she said.

King also does training for therapy dogs and offers a charitable program to help Lutheran churches and schools start a therapy-dog program, work she finds particularly meaningful.

As King navigates the weeks and months ahead, she said she is excited to meet with more clients and pets in the Cedar Rapids and surrounding area.

“I was nervous about relaunching in a city I didn’t grow up in, especially since I work in clients’ homes and don’t have a training facility,” she said.

“But the networking here has been amazing and the animal community has been very welcoming. I just keep working on getting my name out there so people know that I can help.”

She relies on her experience with a wide variety of animals to help her business thrive.

“I’ve learned a bunch of different training methods, which is important because every animal is so different — even dogs and cats of the same breed. Personality, temperament and behavior problems are individual, so the training is personalized to each pet.”

Many small businesses in the Corridor are up and running, with various restrictions in place. If you know of a business that might make for an intriguing “My Biz” feature, let us know via michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a glance

• Owner: Laura King

• Business: King’s Creature Animal Training

• Location: Cedar Rapids

• Phone: (319) 249-0023

• Website: kingscreatures.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.