Man’s best friend is big business for Stratford dog trainer
One of the planet’s top dog trainers runs his business in a place you might not expect. At an industrial park in Stratford, Duke Ferguson operates Unleashed Potential®, where dog trainers are trained and dogs from around the world learn to sniff out everything from bed bugs to bombs.
Ferguson created Dog Training Genesis, an interactive step-by-step dog training and rehabilitation video training program that has helped thousands of people produce great training results with their dogs.
Trainers from around the world fly in to attend Unleashed Potential®, which is a registered private training school under the province’s Private Training Schools Act. It now has eight locations from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Texas -- with more on the way.
Ferguson now has star power in the dog world. At a recent dog training conference in California, several trainers asked Ferguson to sign pamphlets and pose for selfies.
Not bad for a boy who started his dog training business out of the back of his pickup truck.
“I’ve always loved dogs, they’ve helped me through some really hard times in my life,” said the Brudenell native, who knew he had a special touch after training his first dog to hunt and retrieve when he was 13.
After graduating college as a fish and wildlife technician and conservation officer, Ferguson attended the Atlantic Police Academy’s Conservation Enforcement program in Summerside. He was placed as a conservation officer in Nova Scotia where he worked with the department's K9 unit.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life and increased my desire to work with dogs at all levels,” he said.
Now his furry friends are his bread and butter. Ferguson is highly sought after to train dogs to do everything from sniff bombs to act in movies. Dogs he has trained sell for top dollar. He also travels the world with his Belgian Malinois ‘Nitro’ giving seminars on his teaching methods.
“Everything I do with a dog I perceive as having a conversation with them,” he said. “That is why I first condition them to a communication system –I use a marker system that allows me to instantly communicate to the dog that they are doing something right or wrong.”
He is also the first and only civilian dog trainer ever to do the RCMP K9 service’s four-day workshop in Innisfail, Alberta.
Ferguson’s training isn’t just for the future police officers or actors of the canine world. On an average day at Unleashed Potential, Islanders too are learning to train their puppies not to chew or pee on the floor. Ferguson’s growing family of UPK9 professional trainers train people and their companion dogs for pets as well as protection, scent work, competition or service dogs.