- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

MAQUOKETA, Iowa (AP) - Bellevue native David Blake doesn’t own a dog, but he knows some of the training problems dog owners face, and he even knows how to fix them.

Blake invented a device that promotes good canine behavior.

“I’ve had dogs in the past and would love to have another,” he tells the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/1aO30ZX ), adding he’s looking into fostering and training service dogs. “I think that would work best with my current travel schedule and work endeavors.”

Blake’s invention is the Klimb, a training platform that helps pooches stay in their place. Jumping up on guests and trying to grab scraps off the dinner table are natural behaviors for dogs. Teaching dogs not to do those things can be an overwhelming challenge for owners. That’s where the Klimb can help.

After working with professional dog trainers, Blake founded Blue-9, LLC, with the idea of bringing to market a high-quality training platform.



A dog can learn through positive attention and rewards that the Klimb is “his place.” A platform is more effective than a mat or telling the dog to sit and stay on the ground, because it keeps the dog from creeping out of his position.

The Klimb takes advantage of dogs’ natural tendency to seek a higher vantage point. Getting onto it requires focus and defines boundaries, according to Blake.

This helps dogs focus on their owner, ignore distractions and be a “good” dog - not begging for scraps or barking at visitors, he said.

Some people, even companion-animal owners, might not be aware of a canine’s desire for a higher vantage point.

“Beyond being a survival mechanism in the wild when hunting, seeking a higher vantage point gives dogs confidence, which is a major contributor to training success,” Blake said. “Elevating them also helps prevent them from ‘creeping’ out of their lesson, which can happen when distractions arise or dogs become bored with training.”

PLATFORM IDEA

Blake learned there was a need for a well-developed training platform for dogs in the professional world.

After spending more than a year of researching, Blake determined the platform would be useful not only in the professional training world, but also for the everyday pet owner.

“Anyone who has a dog is a trainer,” he said. “We are constantly training our dog to do and act the way we want it to.”

According to Blake, platform training has been recognized by the pros for quite some time. But, they’ve been using homemade versions, which introduces two problems.

“There’s no consistency to their structure, portability or sturdiness, and pet owners are unable to bring that professional experience home for consistent training,” he said. “The Klimb helps you manage your dog’s behavior by limiting their focus to the parameters of the platform. It creates a defined-learning area by elevating the dog off the ground in a stable and safe environment, preventing it from creeping. It becomes their place - like their own chair where good things happen because they know owners are happy and they get rewarded when they’re on it.”

The most common use Blake and his partner Daryn Witt have heard of so far is sending the dog to the platform when someone comes to the front door to prevent jumping or other unwanted behaviors. The other common use is at dinnertime. Training the dog to retreat to the Klimb while eating prevents begging for scraps during meals.

A combination of giving a dog a higher vantage point and a little training and positive reward leads to a dog that is happy to jump on the Klimb anywhere a person might take it.

“The fact that it’s lightweight and designed to be portable leads to people taking it to the park, soccer games or just over to the neighbor’s to help manage their dog’s behavior.”

ENTREPRENEUR

Dave Heiar, Jackson County Economic Alliance director, has been working with Blake for about a year on the project.

“This is not his first business project,” Heiar said. “He has a history of entrepreneurial experience and business savvy. I don’t consider myself an expert on the pet industry, but I certainly know it is a rapidly growing industry. This new product seems to fill an unmet niche for training dogs.”

Blake noted he’s been fortunate to have a diverse background with experience in small startups to larger companies.

“Like many, I have had ideas throughout the years and have acted on some,” he said. “The one thing I have learned is to surround myself with people who have different experiences and expertise. Lucky for me, I’m able to meet with Dave Heiar to see what assistance, if any, the local economic development offered.”

Blake explained that Heiar was instrumental in pointing him in a direction that led to working with Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service about a year ago.

Additionally, this has led to Blue-9 to work with both ISU and the University of Iowa on the IT side of the company.

“I think it’s important for any entrepreneur or any business needing or wanting to grow, there is assistance and resources available,” Blake said. “Reach out to your local economic development folks. If they can’t help directly, they can point you in a direction that may help you obtain what you need.”

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board awarded Blue-9 a loan of $100,000 from its demonstration fund to help the company execute the marketing and sales strategy.

DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

The development process took twice as long as Blake wanted. He originally planned for six months, assuming it would take up to eight to bring it to fruition. It took more than a year.

“Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed much, as it allowed for thorough research and development - which is necessary for a first-of-its-kind product,” he said.

The company worked with a diverse group of professionals and end users throughout the United States, revising and sending prototypes to be tested.

“The result is a product that truly encompasses everything possible: sturdy, lightweight, portable, washable, ability to create multiple configurations with our QuiKonnect system and our PawGripsoft touch surface,” Blake said. “It took ample time and effort to develop what we feel is a product that is safe and comfortable for your dog and will last for years.”

Blake emphasized the Klimb is manufactured in the United States.

“It was important, because it provides the most cost-effective distribution in the country,” he said. “Not only are we assured a high-quality product, but keeping jobs close to home is important to us. Keeping production in the Midwest allows us to provide a living for our team as we grow as well as some friends and neighbors.”

Robin MacFarlane, owner of That’s My Dog, has met Blake and knows Witt pretty well.

“I’ve been training on and off with Daryn for many years,” she said. “I think that is actually partly what inspired the product development.”

MacFarlane explained that when she works with people and their canines, she points out the value of “place” training (or platform or table as some trainers call it). It is a long standard in the industry to teach a variety of skills using a platform to help the dog limit movement and focus on specific behavior.

“They have a nice product in that it’s very stable plus portable and breaks down and stacks easily,” MacFarlane added.

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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