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Talking dog in Taylor: Brett Gjermundson trains and boards dogs

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Badlands K-9 dog trainer Brett Gjermundson demonstrates his training techniques with his American bulldog Lexi at the training center in Taylor on Feb. 6.

TAYLOR — One North Dakota town along Interstate 94 has gone to the dogs.

Taylor-based dog trainer Brett Gjermundson has been training since 1997, with business picking up lately to help grow his Badlands K-9 Training Center.

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He didn’t have a headquarters until two years ago. Before that, he would go to owners’ homes or their local parks, or rent space for training sessions.

Now he has a center in Taylor, half of the building used for boarding and half used for training.

He received official schooling from Columbus, Ohio-based National K-9 Learning Center after a six-week program in 2003.

There, he got certified in 12 different “endorsements,” from guide dog training to police dog training.

And while right now he’s still focused on basic training — sit, stay, heel — Gjermundson said he uses parts of all the training in his day-to-day work. With aggressive dogs, for example, his police training comes in handy.

He doesn’t limit his training to what he learned in school, either. He was a self-taught trainer before his certification and said he now uses a mix of his own tricks and what he learned from school.

“All of it’s really helped,” he said.

He said the certifications proved he was dedicated to dog training as a career, “not just a hobby.”

Sarah Dukart, who has known Gjermundson since they both went to high school in Dickinson, said that sets him apart.

“Schooling is important. That’s what stood out to me,” said Dukart, the owner of Dickinson business, the Grooming Gallery.

Dukart said fellow humans in the pet business can find it hard to trust one another — they know what can go wrong — but she completely trusts Gjermundson, and he has trained all her dogs. Gjermundson would rent out the basement of Dukart’s former grooming location back when he didn’t have a building devoted to training.

Growing the business Gjermundson has come a long way and business has picked up. He’s booked through June for his two-week training program.

He only trains four dogs a month. two of his 14 kennels are devoted to dogs there for the two-week behavior boot camp.

The schedule of the kennel — it’s closed over lunch daily — works for his home life. He has a 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, and his wife works in Dickinson. The schedule allows him the time to transport the kids and his son even helps dad out at work sometimes.

“He can come with me to work and help,” Gjermundson said. “He walks around and feeds everybody biscuits and then says he was training.”

One of the family dogs, an American bulldog named Lexi, also comes to work most afternoons. At home, the Gjermundsons also have three sled dogs and two American pitbull terriers.

Dickinson dog owners are his main clientele, but Gjermundson has had customers from Montana and Minnesota.

“This business is pretty much word-of-mouth,” Gjermundson said.

The location of his business, right off Interstate 94 between Bismarck and Dickinson, is also convenient for people driving to Bismarck for flights, or easterners coming through these parts to get to tourist destination Medora.

Gjermundson said customers like the constant contact he has with their dogs — he lets them out four times a day, enough to “notice something different” in their behavior.

Wagging tails, happy humans Gjermundson trains for a lot of the same customers he had back when he started in 1997 — same humans with different dogs.

“If I do a good job training your dog, hopefully you don’t have to come back for 10 years,” with a new puppy, he said with a laugh.

One loyal customer is Shelly Ziman, who was told her dog, Kaycee, would have to be euthanized if her behavior didn’t improve. Gjermundson was Ziman’s last hope.

Kaycee had a rough start to life that left her with social problems and aggression toward Ziman’s other two dogs. But Gjermundson, knowing he had a challenge before him, took on Kaycee.

“Brett was my last-ditch effort,” Ziman said.

And it worked.

“She was like a completely different dog,” she said. “He is so invested in the dogs that he never gave up on me. He never gave up on Kaycee.”

She also sent her two Newfoundlands to Gjermundson when they were six months old — the youngest age he’ll train.

“They were like little gentlemen when they left there,” Ziman said.

And the training never stops. Gjermundson gave her tips on how to maintain their good behavior when they were at home and was available for check-in calls every week for Kaycee.

“A lot of it is training the owner,” Ziman said.

But it also comes down to Gjermundson’s connection with his trainees.

As Dukart said, “he speaks dog.”