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Making first-class K9s

Published 4:03pm Tuesday, April 8, 2014

James Todd trains dogs with love, watches over pets

Sadie Sharps looks to James Todd during a recent training session. Todd said he uses only positive reinforcement whether training or playing with animals. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS
Sadie Sharps looks to James Todd during a recent training session. Todd said he uses only positive reinforcement whether training or playing with animals. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

SUFFOLK—Early Friday afternoon with sunny skies and warm temperatures, Sadie Sharps is running, jumping and fetching. Her eyes are eager and bright as she looks to James Todd for direction. He’s not just in the back yard of Angel Sharps to play with her dog, but more importantly to train. This is just a part of Todd’s K-9 Pet Services LLC, which is at its first-year anniversary in May.

Based out of Zuni, Todd travels to and fro in Western Tidewater helping clients to condition or correct behavioral issues of their dogs; currently he trains five.

Choke collars or methods that use electricity or pinches can gets results, he acknowledged, but such techniques are not in his repertoire. Plus, Todd added, the animals won’t be having any fun.

“I do only positive performance using treats or praise,” he said. Training is alternated with playing in 8 to 10-minute sessions.

“Usually it’s only just me and her — one-on-one,” said Todd as he gestures to Sadie for her to stay seated.

“I love animals so much,” he said.

As a child, though, Todd didn’t have pets. But while a student at Ferguson High School in Newport News, the 16-year-old became involved with the SPCA on the Peninsula.

“That’s what really began my love of animals,” said he.

At home, Todd and wife, Carol, have two German Shepherds, NASCAR and Dixie. They came into the couple’s lives pre-named, and evidently the names fit just fine.

Such devotion carried over as a dog handler for the K9 unit when Todd was with the Newport News Police Department. After that, he did some training of dogs for American K9 Interdiction, which makes them fit for law enforcement or military service.

Speaking of which, when Todd was in Kabul, Afghanistan for 18 months, he also trained and worked with the animals to sniff out explosives.

“Dogs have 200,000 olfactory cells in their noses,” he said to explain how the animals can be taught to distinguish the odors of explosive devices.

Todd enjoyed that tour of duty, but Carol told him he couldn’t go back.

She helps with bookkeeping and also can accompany him when time permits with another facet of the business: pet sitting.

That’s not limited just to feeding and walking dogs, though.

“Cats, hamsters, and even an octopus,” he said with a laugh, are among other critters that Todd will look after while their owners are away on vacation or business.

“I accommodate the people,” said he.

Another person who assists him with the work is Rachel Freeman, who he said is about to earn a degree in animal zoology. Todd praised her professionalism and intelligence.

“If there’s a problem, we’ll brainstorm,” he said about the consultant. “Always surround yourself with people smarter than you.”

Two other examples of that philosophy are Lauren Wright and Amelia Dobbins, who handle the horse care feature of the business. They’ll do grooming, which can include bathing and brushing, and even show clipping. The women can also do what Todd called “re-seeding.” Say you have a horse that hasn’t been ridden for awhile. They can recondition the animals for an English or Western style of riding.

To learn more about Todd’s K-9 Pet Services, call him at 905-0032 or visit online at

  • Dave Joyner

    Rachel helped me with doing some fine tuning training for my German Shepherd, Ringo & she’s good. James, Carol & Rachel have all sit Ringo when I’m away. I’ve used them on 5 different times over the past year & have them scheduled for 2 more this year. He likes them & its much better for the animal to be left in their own home instead of hauling them to the kennel. Good people who care for your pet as if its their own.

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