“It all started when I was a child,” says Rebecca “Becky” Hendrickson of her canine-centric career. She is owner and master trainer of On Command Dog Training, located on George Washington Highway in Yorktown.
Hendrickson has been training dogs for 27 years and is certified in multiple methods through the American Society of Canine Trainers. A lifelong animal lover, Hendrickson got her first dog at the age of 13. She found strays throughout her childhood and frequently took them home to train them. Later on in her life, she adopted a Rottweiler from a family who was no longer able to keep her. This encouraged her to get back into the world of training.
“Everybody kept telling me, ‘You need to do this for a living,’” Hendrickson says. “My [Rottweiler] kind of got me back into it, and my husband encouraged me, and it’s just kind of blossomed from there.” Her husband, Tom Hendrickson, is a former police K9 trainer. The two have been married for more than 20 years.
After years of dog training, dog walking and dog-sitting, Hendrickson decided she needed a place of her own to grow her business. She rented a small building attached to the Animal Emergency Center in Yorktown from Dr. Tim Stiff, where she and her trainers have worked and trained for several years. Since its beginnings, On Command Dog Training has continued to grow and thrive. The business sees more than 200 human and canine clients every six weeks, and it was recently awarded Best of Virginia 2021, presented by VirginiaLiving.com. in response to its annual survey. Because of its rapid growth, Hendrickson began to look for a bigger building to accommodate the pets and people they serve.
“I’ve always wanted to have a one-stop-stop,” Hendrickson says regarding her plans for a bigger training center. “That was my dream. It had to be just the right building for everything I had in mind. This one, I just happened to stumble across…I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this has everything we need.’”
With plans to have six or seven qualified trainers on board, Hendrickson calls her new location a canine educational center. She expects it to be completely finished and open for business by the end of this month.Her vision for the expanded space includes a nose work wall (a dog sport that encourages dogs to detect and find smells), agility flooring, a photography room, a treadmill center and a grooming area. The building’s multiple rooms will allow for two training classes to take place at the same time.
“Puppy agility, nose work and agility are the most fun classes for people to take,” she says of her current work in On Command’s current building. The most popular classes that she and her trainers teach are obedience classes ranging from puppy to advanced levels. In addition, training classes are also offered for therapy and service dogs. Each course takes six weeks to complete. Hendrickson plans to offer outdoor classes; crate training; advanced nose work, offering different scent containers for dog training; and other fun classes. She also has plans for an important and new safety course — Dog CPR training.
Hendrickson says that the ultimate goal of On Command Dog Training includes giving back to the community in whatever ways she can. “I want to help people who need it. The specialty that I love the most is the shy and unconfident dogs,” she says. She believes that agility classes are most helpful for these types of dogs because “they really bring out the dog’s personality and help bond with the owner.” This is also true of the therapy and service dogs she trains, another way she pays her success forward.
When she is not working, Hendrickson continues to make dogs a major part of her life. She and Tom have a bloodhound named Buckshot as well as two Rottweilers, Dixie and Diesel. “We’re just ‘dog, dog, dog,’” Hendrickson says with a smile. Besides their canine children, the Hendricksons have an adult daughter who lives in Iowa and three grandchildren. They all love spending time together riding ATVs on their 2.5-acre property.
TO THE POINT:
On Command Dog Training
Address: 2025 George Washington Memorial Hwy., Yorktown, VA 23693
Contact: Rebecca “Becky” Hendrickson
Business: Dog training, animal care