A Review of the Dayton Dog Training Club
I don’t particularly enjoy writing negative articles, nor do I enjoy writing about long, drawn-out, dramatic sagas. This article is neither positive nor short – but if you’d like the Reader’s Digest version here it is: Stay away from the Dayton Dog Training Club. Far away. If you’d like to know the longer story as to why, keep reading.
Followers of ThruMyLens know that my wife and I are dog people and receive a great deal of joy from our four dogs:
Like any responsible dog owner, when we got our 1st Rottweiler puppy Zeus followed not long after with our second Rottweiler puppy Maximus (Zeus’s nephew) we wanted to get obedience training for our puppies, and began seeking out a training facility at which we could attend. I had already begun doing obedience training with Zeus (and later Max) prior to enrolling in formal training. My wife and I had saved the materials from the training classes we took with out Labs a few years prior, and I supplemented that with YouTube videos. Here’s a video I recorded of the progress I’d made with Zeus prior to enrolling in his first class:
Based on our needs and geographic proximity, Dayton Dog Training Club (DDTC) was a strong option we were considering. However, based on several personal accounts from ex-members of the club, we were told to avoid DDTC – particularly from those former members of DDTC who were Rottweiler owners. I was warned that the club leadership isn’t fond of the breed. To be completely honest, I was more than perplexed by this feedback. A bias against Rottweilers?? It seemed almost inconceivable to me that anyone involved in dog training didn’t embrace what is considered purely common sense for anyone educated about dogs – there are no bad dogs, just bad owners. So I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the notion that in an organization staffed with professionals and dedicated to furthering dog obedience that anyone would have any sort of a bias against any breed of dogs. Still undecided about DDTC, I decided to look up the obedience trainer whom we had worked with when training our Labradors five years prior – Carissa Hensley. I was able to reach Cari by email and she explained that she was conducting a Puppy Kindergarten class at (you guessed it) Dayton Dog Training Club and invited me to become part of the class. Since we had worked with Cari before, we decided to give the DDTC a try.
As you can see from the above video, prior to ever walking into Puppy Kindergarten, Zeus had already mastered the fundamental commands which the 8 week Puppy Kindergarten class at DDTC would require a dog to know before receiving a certificate of completion. For us, the Puppy Kindergarten class was more important for socialization of our dog – Zeus really did enjoy playing with the other dogs in his class. Zeus not only passed the class but also tested for and earned his AKC Star Puppy award:
During this time, we decided to get into dog shows, and took Zeus to a few. It was also during this time we decided to purchase another Rottweiler from our breeder Krafthaus Rottweilers. We didn’t bring home Maximus (Zeus’s nephew) until Zeus was already enrolled in the second DDTC we took, which was Clicker I. Carissa Hensley was teaching again in the next session of DDTC classes and was the lead instructor for Clicker I. So we decided to take another DDTC class. Unfortunately, this is when we first began having problems with DDTC.
Our Clicker I class started at 7:45pm and was held in a location at DDTC where a 6:45pm class was being held on the same evening. This class was taught by DDTC President Corky Andrews. One of the first classes we attended, I recall walking in and seeing a group of three or four actual DDTC members talking with their dogs. We were just coming off of the previously completed Puppy Kindergarten class where where all the dogs were encouraged to play together for socialization, and had a great deal of interaction with one another. I can recall walking by this group of club members (all were women) and Zeus being naturally curious about their dogs. As we got closer, one of the women looked over at me and said “keep your dog away from our dogs” and then went right back to her conversation. “Wha-hunh?!?!?” I thought to myself. “What the heck did we do to her??!?!?” I wondered to myself. Then I recalled the various warnings I’d received from ex-members of the DDTC. Warnings about members and leadership who aren’t particularly friendly and don’t care for Rottweilers. A couple of weeks later our instructor Cari pulled me aside and said that the club President Corky Andrews brought some complaints about me and my dog to her and had asked Cari to speak with me. I was of course dumbfounded that anyone would have any complaints about me, but my first reaction was to question why Corky didn’t bring her issues with me directly? In any event, I was told that my dog and I were frequently blocking the walk way into the training ring in an intimidating manner before our class started, and prevented Corky’s students who were exiting Corky’s class from coming through. Again, I was dumbfounded. While it was true that while we waited for Corky’s class to end (again, which frequently went past the scheduled end time) I sat in a chair outside the ring and patiently waited for our class to begin, my dog and I never blocked anyone from passing through the area. Cari didn’t doubt me for an instance – I told her I planned to go to Corky and try and get a better understanding of the issue because quite frankly what I was hearing was absurd.
The following week I went to Corky Andrews and addressed the “complaints” – I had decided that I would endeavor to be polite and non-confrontational, but I wanted to clear up the matter. When I told Corky what Cari had told me, she denied making any complaints against me specifically – rather, she had raised a concern that Cari’s entire class was standing in the walk way area and blocking the way. She went on to say that she did tell Cari to talk to me about not using the club equipment. The week prior, myself and some other students with our dogs decided to have a little innocent fun with a jumping hurdle which Corky had left in the ring – and we accidentally knocked it over. Should we have done that? No. Any harm done? No, not at all – the hurdles are designed with being knocked over in mind. Now Cari certainly had no reason to lie about Corky coming to her and complaining about me about this “blocking” my dog and I had allegedly done. In fact, I went back to Cari and told her what Corky had said – she confirmed that Corky wasn’t being honest with me. I chalked it up to Corky being a challenging personality and moved on. Zeus and I completed Clicker I class and he was awarded his certificate of completion.
Following Clicker I class, there was a break between DDTC class sessions for the Christmas and New Years holidays. When classes resumed, I enrolled Zeus in their Intermediate course, and Maximus was enrolled in their Puppy Kindergarten course. Unfortunately, Carissa Hensley wasn’t our instructor for either class as she wasn’t teaching any classes for this session. And right away, we ran into more problems. The first night of our Intermediate Class with Zeus, we were told the instructor does not allow the use of the word “no” in her classroom. Instead, for correction we were encouraged to just say “enh-enhhh.” Quite honestly, I thought this was asinine on several counts. Firstly, our instructor never really explained why she doesn’t allow the word “no” in her classroom. As it turns out (after doing a little research) there are some trainers who for various (and debateably legitimate) reasons embrace this philosophy. If the instructor had taken the time to explain the reasoning behind the “just say no to no” philosophy, I might not have rejected it out of hand. The larger issue however was that in our prior two DDTC classes, there was no such moratorium on using the word “no.” Heaven help me, my dog had been hearing the word “no” since we got him at 10 weeks old. It certainly didn’t make sense to change based on the idiosyncrasies of this particular instructor.
The more concerning issue came up on the second week of class when we were asked to do a recall exercise. The instructor holds your dog on its leash on one end of the room, while the dog’s owner calls the dog to come to them on the other side. Zeus and I got in line with the other students in the class along the wall, and the instructor looked at us and said “now we won’t have a problem with your dog attacking other dogs during this exercise will we?” Again, dumbfounded I looked left and right (thinking surely she was addressing someone else) then looked back at the instructor and said “you mean my dog?” “Yes” she said. Now I was angry “to put it politely.” I said “Uhhhh…nooooo. Should WE be concerned about any of the OTHER dogs in the class??!?” I said mustering as much righteous indignation as I could impart. She chuckled saying “you never know!” There were 10 dogs in that class of various sizes and breeds. There was simply no good reason to pick on the Rottweiler. If she had any sort of a legitimate concern (at least legitimate in her own mind) it seems to me that addressing the concern before class and privately would have been the better option. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became.
The following evening was puppy Kindergarten class for Maximus. Technically, Maximus is my wife’s dog, but up to this point I had been handling the majority of his training. Like Zeus, Max walked into this class already having mastered most of what the class covered. My wife had to work late the first week of class, so I had brought Max to the first class session. For the second session, I thought I’d tag along to help do the “hand off” to my wife for training Max – at least for the first few minutes of the session. In the first session, some of the students commented on what a pretty dog Max is, and I mentioned we also owned his uncle who was four months older – “we’d love to see him!” was the response. So I thought I’d bring Zeus along too – I’m a proud papa after all. We walked into class and students were just starting to come in – and so began the next chapter in the DDTC saga. A family with two small dogs peaked their head into the classroom from the hallway and asked “what class is this?” I was standing near the doorway with Zeus and I told them it was Puppy Kindergarten class. They responded “oh we’re in the wrong class” and left – I speculated that they must not have been able to attend last week’s first class session and didn’t quite know where to go. As they turned around and left, I spotted Corky Andrews coming our way. I started to introduce my wife to Corky when she said “I have to go after those people you and your dog scared away.” If I had any doubts about Corky Andrews being the type of person who operates based on personal bias and not facts, those doubts were erased in that instant. Corky had seen this family (and their small dogs) try to come in the room, look at me, and turn around and leave. So obviously (at least in her mind) me and my ferocious Rottweiler had frightened these poor people away. Now I was really mad. Now the stupidity over the “blocking” issue from the last class session began to make more sense. I looked at Corky and in the loudest possible voice I can muster without actually yelling said “no m’am you’re wrong – those people determined they were in the wrong class, and left to find the right one.” Now, one would think that anyone who made a false assumption of such moronic proportion would apologize – but that’s just not Corky’s style. Instead she said “Ohhh…well, you still shouldn’t let your dog stare at people like that” and walked away, leaving me in total and utter shock. Shortly thereafter, the class session began.
So there we were in class – my wife Karen had Max, and I was sitting in a chair behind her with Zeus by my side on his leash, coaching Karen a bit and trying to help (Max can be very stubborn at times). I was trying to push the anger and frustration I felt from my above mentioned encounter with Corky Andrews out of my mind when all of the sudden one of the other DDTC staff members comes over to me and asks “is this dog (pointing to Zeus) registered in this class?” spoken with all of the finesse and charm of a prison guard. “No, he’s not” I responded making no attempt to disguise my disgust. “You’ll have to step out here in the hallway” she then said – “that’s just the way we do things here.” Ignoring her completely, I stood up and told me wife I was going to head on home – I hadn’t been planning to stay much longer anyway. You see, plenty of husbands and wives attend these classes together – my presence there with my wife wasn’t the issue. The issue was the “threat” my terrifying and ferocious Rottweiler posed to the rest of the class.
The next morning I began calling all of the Board Members listed on the DDTC’s website – either this harassment by their staff and instructors was going to end or I wanted a refund. Most of the phone numbers of the listed DDTC Board Members were incorrect – the first call that did go through however was to Cricket Zink who is currently listed as “Corresponding Secretary.” I began relaying to Cricket my various grievances and much to my surprise she was more than sympathetic. She made no apologies for the conduct of Corky Andrews and said that she’d had problems of her own with Corky for years and further stated that she isn’t well liked. She also stated that “absolutely the club leadership not only has a bias against Rottweilers but against all working breeds.” She relayed that she raises Giant Schnauzers and is constantly running up against such bias. In fact, she stated that she’s stepping down from the DDTC’s Board after her current term ends because of these issues. I was further told refund checks would be sent out to us.
I began this article by recommending to avoid the Dayton Dog Training Club – and hopefully if you’ve read this full account, you’ll understand why, even if you may not entirely agree based on your own experience. The truth is, if you have a new puppy, and are just looking to take a class or two (as any responsible dog owner should) chances are you won’t have the problems I experienced – particularly if your dog’s breed doesn’t fall into the working breed category. If you get the right instructor, then you might well have a very positive experience – the prices of the classes they offer are reasonable and the facilities are a step above the typical pet store dog obedience class offerings. On the flip side, if a trainer who works for a pet store is rude or otherwise not customer focused, they’ll be fired. Pet stores have a profit motive to be customer focused. I suspect DDTC does obedience training mostly as a revenue stream to support the facilities and equipment the club members need for the various competitions the club supports – Rally, Conformation, Obedience, and Tracking competitions. And because it’s a “club” and not a business, instructors are likely chosen based more on arbitrary considerations then the ability to provide good customer service. So I think you’re more likely to have a pleasant experience at a class offered by a pet store or even a private trainer than you are with the Dayton Dog Training Club. There certainly are other options in the greater Dayton area for getting dog obedience training – buyer beware.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.