Ted Summers: Making An Impact
Ted Summers is the co-host of the Working Dog Radio podcast, an informational series focused on police K9 and working dogs. He’s also the program training director for HRD Police K9 and owns Torchlight K9 based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Tell Us About Your Three Current Ventures:
Working Dog Radio: We started about three years ago and it was designed to fill a void that we felt was missing, from an informational perspective. My cohost Erik Stanbro, from VanEss K9 Academy, and I wanted to bridge the gap and provide canine handlers information that we felt was not readily available out on the web.
Our podcast has always been about helping canine handlers, especially those that live and work in rural areas, having little to no access to the resources. We want to connect with them and provide them the tools that can help. Whether it be equipment resources, training resources, current trends, and industry experts, our whole mission is to connect K9 handlers with the resources they don't have and provide access to professionals they wouldn't otherwise have contact with.
That's where WDR started. And today it's kind of morphed, as we've adapted to what our customers are looking for - and it's been an interesting project along the way.
HRD Police K9: HRD stands for High-Risk Deployment. Ray Murphy, Eric Stanbro, and I started this company. Its purpose is focused on scenario-based training and it really fills a gap we found in what is measured.
One of our biggest concerns in the industry is the influx of handlers looking to train for the sole purpose of meeting certification standards, while overlooking, or just plain disregarding, the bigger picture. How will the training translate when confronted with the rather large set of diverse scenarios that may be encountered in the field. Because the standard certification testing doesn’t check for many various scenarios, the result is that we have K9 units all over the country that aren’t prepared for what they come across.
And on top of that, we have deployment standards that are not uniform nationwide, but vary from region to region. Eric and I developed a training program that we cover over a three-day intensive field training course designed to fill the void.
It gives K9 handlers access to problem-solving skills and helps to increase reliability for deployments that may occur in situations that aren't tested for or even looked at, but are very much a real-world need.
So far, HRD Police K9 has been extremely successful. We were in front of 400 teams, from 25 States, over the last 18 months.
Torchlight K9: This is the company that I own with co-founder, Alesha Brandt. We focus on police dogs, single and dual-purpose dogs, green dogs, pet training, and just about anything else related to K9 and working dogs!
Right now, we've got dogs in 18 different states and we run a few handler-training schools. We're also about to open a brand new facility. It's a 3500-square foot open-air facility, with a 6000 square foot outside yard. It’s got indoor kennels, it's completely sterile and clean on the inside with plenty of floor drains. We plan to have large comfortable classroom and a bunkhouse for traveling handlers that prefer a stay, when they're attending handler school.
This K9 handler and training facility is going to be all-inclusive. So when you come to handler school and/or get a dog from us, you can come check out the facility, stay on-site, and enjoy our accommodations.
So How Did You Get Started In K9 Work?
Interestingly enough, I got started when I was living in Europe. I was over there racing bikes, made some friends, and just kind of generally goofing off and having a lot of fun. Some of my new friends asked me if I wanted to come help catch dogs with them. Needless to say, I was a bit confused.
I asked, "You mean like on my bike?"
They said, “Yeah, on your bike.”
So I'm 19 years old, I show up, and they tell me, "Here, put the suit on."
Confused, I asked, "What do I need this for?"
And that’s when they brought out this massive Malinois. I thought I was going to die!
From there, it just kind of snowballed. Growing up, it was never something I intended to be doing, honestly. When I came home though, I brought back a Malinois. I then got some working Jack-Russel Terriers and a few working Labradors.
After that, the whole idea started coming together, picking up steam because I then started doing detection work for some departments in Colorado; for avalanche and rescue work. And I just kept on moving right on down the line of K9 work. I haven’t really taken the traditional path, but it's been great.
Have You Seen WDR’s Impact In The Real world?
When we first started the podcast and got through the first 30 episodes or so, we went to a K9 industry conference. While we had access to the number of downloads of our podcast, at that time, that number by itself didn't really have a lot of context behind it.
I didn’t quite “get it” yet.
During the conference, a younger handler walked up to me and said, "Man I listened to every episode of WDR."
Surprised, I asked, "You do?"
I mean to me, it's just Eric and I sitting there having a conversation we would normally have anyway. Or the both of us talking with somebody that we know (who usually happens to be an expert) about K9-something or another. At first, we didn’t intend for Working Dog Radio to be anything more than an entertainment thing, but it turned out to be something that's been really educational and helpful to the K9 handler community.
That was the point where I realized that what we were doing was having an impact. This kid and I talked more and after telling me his story, he said that our podcast was the reason why he’s been able to succeed at his department.
He explained, "Dude, I've gotten so much information out of just listening to you guys .. at least I know where to look, what to look for. My supervisor says the same thing."
And I was just in utter disbelief. I think his department was like 40 people, so not large. And there was just one dog. He explained that no one in the command staff knew anything about how to handle a K9 department.
I found it incredible that he felt that our Working Dog Radio podcast had helped him immensely in his career.
I've caught up with that young officer recently. His training group is now at around 15 people, and they’ve added another dog to the department. They're all USPCA certified, which is the national standard. To me, it's just incredible that I didn't have any direct hands-on with him or his department, yet still had a significant impact on their team.
What we find is that most canine handlers are very motivated and good at their jobs. It’s just that many need help and support, often not knowing where to look. I love that our podcast has provided that helping hand to K9 handlers.
If the WDR podcast helps handlers get industry contacts and to help them address some of their concerns or issues... then I'm happy. I'm golden. To me, that's where the impact of the podcast is. That's the measure of success for it.
It probably helps that Eric and I are a pretty silly duo.
Tell Us About Your History With Ray Allen Manufacturing
Before we even had the podcast, I was a customer of Ray Allen. I have a 2" leather agitation collar at the kennel and I swear, it's like 18 years old at this point. It's been on hundreds of patrol dogs and I use it for back-tie work. I keep looking at this old collar and think, "well maybe next year I'll replace it..." (probably not though).
And it's great! I use it all the time. It's got a handle on it and it just stays tied to my back tie. That's where my dogs go if they're going to be on a collar instead of a harness for back-tie work.
For our handlers, I send them (and their administrators) to Ray Allen. Literally, the only thing you guys don't sell in the industry (I think) is handlers, or the dogs themselves.
Personally, I don't like to go to more than one store to get what I need. Ray Allen has everything, and I love that it's a small, family style shop, making products here in America! I love knowing that it's the best of the best industry-leading gear. It's absolutely great!
And then of course Ray Allen has been a huge supporter of the podcast, which is appreciated and humbling. Eric and I (and everybody else at the podcast), both fundamentally believe that Ray Allen Manufacturing has one of the best operations around, and of course the best K9 equipment, without a doubt.
We knew this even before we started using Ray Allen equipment and gear -- your reputation is among the best in the business, for more than ... 70+ years? Keep it up, fellas!
Check out the full interview by watching the video above.
Find more K9 and working dog industry expert interviews by searching K9 Spotlight in the dropdown of Ray Allen's blog menu or watch all of our K9 Spotlight features on YouTube.
Ted Summers Online
Working Dog Radio podcast: Available on iTunes, Google Play, and through Alexa
HRD Police K9: Here you can find all of the seminars we offer. We also started a brand new SWAT integration course led by some really talented instructors. We also offer decoy camps and our normal HRD stuff.