Barks and Recreation’s Sarah Dixon has taken her training business online. (Cameron Dixon photo)

Barks and Recreation’s Sarah Dixon has taken her training business online. (Cameron Dixon photo)

All paws on deck as Trail pet experts take dog-training virtual

Barks and Recreation is navigating the pandemic in an innovative way

Who says you can’t teach a dog’s best friend new tricks.

With the global pandemic affecting everyone’s lives, Sarah Dixon at Barks and Recreation Pet Services in Trail decided to take her training sessions and pet behaviour consultation online.

“The difference is it’s really more that you are teaching the people, versus actually taking the dog and training it yourself,” said Sarah.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Barks and Recreation shut down most of its services, and reduced operating hours, but continued to offer zero-contact curbside service for pet owners.

“Our business wears a lot of hats,” said Dixon. “We have a retail pet store where we sell food and supplies, we do grooming, doggy daycare and we do training.

“When everything started up with this (the pandemic), we wanted to make sure we were exercising best practices with the government guidelines.”

Sarah transitioned her normally up-close and personal pet-training sessions to online Google Classroom tutorials and Zoom chats.

“With training, I have everything up online, because training classes is the one thing that will probably be very slow to bring back,” said Dixon. “It’s a bunch of people in a small room together for a long period of time; and it’s generally not suitable to do beginner classes outdoors.”

Dixon built a video library, with pre-recorded videos of step-by-step procedures of her training methods.

People view the video and instruct their pets, then Sarah backs that up with a group session via Zoom for personal instruction.

“You have to be really good at explaining things clearly to the owner, without being able to demonstrate on the dog; and that’s one of the necessary and defining skills.”

Also, having the puppies and dogs in a familiar environment without distractions has proven beneficial for both parties.

“For most things, it works incredibly well. One of the nice things is that the dog is actually comfortable and learning in an environment where they are calm and relaxed and comfortable, because people want their dogs to behave at home anyways.”

For helping people with dogs that have behavioural, anxiety or aggression problems, one-on-one sessions have proven invaluable.

“Currently, I have my 11-month-old lab in good manners class level one,” Fruitvale resident Christine Bartsoff commented via Facebook.

“The instructor, length of class, and everything being shown is great! Highly recommend it!”

Barks and Recreation is celebrating their 10th season in business this year, and they look forward to returning to full service soon. In the meantime, they have been buoyed by the response from local customers and those outside the Kootenays, as well.

“It’s been really interesting,” said Sarah. “We’ve been doing online private lessons as well and we’ve been getting people from New York and New Jersey, and California.”

Barks has also attracted customers from Vancouver, Calgary, and Ontario, as well as Washington State.

The expanded response was unexpected, but Sarah is happy to offer the unique form of instruction to pet people across North America.

With Phase 2 of the pandemic reopening plan in effect, Barks and Rec has extended store hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and kick-started its grooming services and doggy-daycare, as well as offering online purchasing.

However, strict protocol is still in effect, and practicing no-contact drop-off, pick-up service, and delivery.

“We’re still acting as though people can be transmitting asymptomatically and we have barriers, plexiglass, and physical distancing guidelines put up in the store, and we clean everything religiously.”

In addition, Sarah’s husband Cameron is a photographer, who is also back taking photos of families with their favourite four-legged friends.

Sarah is a certified dog trainer with over 20 years of experience working with rescue dogs and pets. She specializes in positive training and leadership, puppy training, basic obedience, fear and aggression issues, and “difficult” dogs.

Cam is an animal lover with a wealth of knowledge gained from fostering and working with many rescue dogs with Sarah through the years.

For more info go online at or check out the Barks and Recreation Pet Services and Supplies Facebook page.

City of Trail