At AZ Dog Sports we follow CCPDT guidelines in our training.
You may book a class or private lesson with our trainers by calling our registration desk at 602-237-6775. Or you can sign up for one of our Small-Group Classes by clicking the button below.
Debbie Nichols – Trainer, CGC Evaluator
Debbie has been working with dogs her entire life. Her love of dogs started early on with 4-H, then as Vet-Tec and as a shelter manager, in L.A., Las Vegas, and Maricopa County. Debbie’s passion for working with dogs introduced her to the sport of Agility. Her love of Agility is one of the reasons she teaches her favorite leisure past time at AZ Dog Sports.
Debbie has been an instructor for Contact Zonies Agility Club since 2006, when she was training her own competition dog. She teaches foundation, novice, and competition Agility. Her creative courses are now part of our indoor venue all year around. In her spare time, Debbie also fosters many rescue dogs for Boxer Love Rescue and has fostered and trained over 30 dogs in the last 10 years for that organization. Debbie provides basic obedience and level 1 training as part of our Board and Train program, where the trainer houses and trains the dog over a 2 to 4-week period. This is a great way to have your dog develop the practical obedience and manners that most guardians would like for their pets.
Debbie is a Realtor by vocation and loves living and training in her space designed for dogs to have fun and exercise in her own spacious home venue, including outdoor agility field! She also shares her passion for clean living with her dogs and has educated herself in raw feeding. In addition she has interests in Natural/Homeopathic care for them as well.
Darcy Rohats began training her first Elkhound in 1994 for conformation, obedience and agility. From that experience she was lucky to conduct pet obedience classes for the SPCA of Texas, private kennels, as well as with Petco and asked to develop pet partner instructors for some of their local stores. This experience allowed her to work with many different dog breeds and human/canine teams. Darcy is actively training at Contact Zonies Agility Club and competes in agility, rally and conformation. Over time she has attended seminars including Suzanne Clothier, Christine Zink and Rachel Sanders. She is also a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator with the AKC. Working with canine/human teams is rewarding and fun to Darcy. She feels it makes the relationship that much more solid.
Lynn Brand, CGC Evaluator, BS Southern Methodist University
Lynn has been actively training companion dogs at AZ Dog Sports for five years at all levels of Obedience as well as all levels of AKC CGC titles. She is an AKC CGC Evaluator up to the AKC Urban Canine level and the AKC STAR Puppy program, and also an APDT Professional Member. She began training German Shepherds in the sport of Schutzhund in 1997. She has taken her dogs through all phases of this sport including the IPO3 level and tracking titles. Her dogs also have their CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificates. She is an active member of the Phoenix Schutzhund Club and currently Club president. She believes it is important the handler and the dog form a strong bond of trust and love from the beginning and she tailors her training to fully developing this bond through positive reward and reinforcement. She believes it is important for you and your canine friend to enjoy being together by having a dog who is fully under control and a joy to be around.
Amber Mercier — CCPDT-KA, CVT (Certified Veterinary Technician), AKC CGC Evaluator, AKC ATT Evaluator, Tester/Observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs
As a teenager, Amber adopted her first Border Collie, Oreo; and taught her many tricks. At that time, she was employed as a Veterinary Assistant and continued to progress in that career for the next 17 years, becoming a Certified Veterinary Technician and working alongside many talented veterinarians in emergency medicine. She assisted with surgeries and intensive care unit patients, including very specialized care, such as patients on a ventilator. In recent years, and many dogs later, her attention turned to training her own service dog, and service dogs for others. Amber adopted Gilly from Arizona Border Collie Rescue and they have been a team for the last four years, earning their service dog/handler credentials, therapy dog certification, and many AKC titles in Rally, Obedience, Tricks, and the CGCA/CGCU. This year, Amber adopted another Border Collie from Arizona Border Collie Rescue, named Jarvis, and she hopes to compete with him in AKC Rally, Obedience, and Scentwork. Jarvis has already earned his first AKC Novice Trick Dog title at 16 weeks old! Amber loves to travel with her dogs in new and exciting places, from New York City to Colorado backroads to Monterey, California.
Jamie Smith, Trainer, CBCC-KA, AKC ATT Evaluator, AKC CGC Evaluator, & NAHRA, HRC AKC Judge
Jamie has been working animals for over 20 years. She has worked with several species but especially enjoys dog training. She likes all breeds, especially working and sporting breeds; specifically hunting retrievers. She is a Hunt Trial judge for NAHRA AND HRC and AKC. One of her goals is to bring Hunt Training into the 21st Century with positive dog training. Jamie has achieved a variety of AKC Titles with her personal do gs in Canine Good Citizen; CGC, CGCU, Hunt Titles and or passes; JH, SH, SHR, and currently working on her Master Hunter, MH. She has a background and experience in SAR (search and rescue) for Maricopa County Sheriff, Disaster services with Red Cross. She was an Intelligence Specialist in Navy Reserves, and is a CTE teacher currently licensed to Teach Allied Health, Veterinary Science/Tech, and Agriculture Sci. Jamie has worked with small and large animals. She has always loved animals and wanted to work with them. Growing up she had hunting dogs, mutts, cats, ferrets, various livestock and even salamanders. She worked at PETCO as a Dog Trainer and as a Groomer. Jamie went through the AZ Dog Sports Academy and graduated the program to become a Certified Dog Trainer and certified behavior consultant. Jamie has a Bachelor (BS) in Psychology and Biology, a Masters (MS) of Holistic Care and Dr. Animal Naturopathy. Jamie is also a Certified Animal Naturopath (CAN).
For the past ten years Karen has been training dogs of all breeds and experience levels and she is a Certified Master Trainer. She has experience working with reactive dogs, teaching agility and obedience at all levels. Karen’s German Shepherd has titles in Rally Novice, Advanced and Excellence, along with receiving her Canine Good Citizen certification. Her Sheltie and enjoys Agility for fun and she is a certified Therapy Dog. As a trainer working with various companies and private clients Karen has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of dogs and feel that each dog learns differently and no one method is perfect for all dogs- training needs to be flexible for the dog and owner. Her goal is for no one to give up on their dog.
Monika has been actively working with, training, and devoting her time to improving canines since 1998. She is a professional member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) and a certified AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Evaluator. She is committed to turning difficult situations into the most effective and convenient solutions for her clients’ dog training needs. Her passion is working with reactive canines by creating structure in the family environment and strengthening the relationships of pets and owners. Monika avidly pursues continuing education and professional development by attending several seminars per year and keeping current on all industry literature and training techniques. When she is not helping clients enjoy better lives with their canine companions, Monika competes in AKC Obedience, Rally Trials, and French Ring Sport.
Michael Brand – BS, CPDT-KA
Michael has been a lover of dogs since he was four years old. His first dog was an American Eskimo called Freeway, so named because the dog was rescued from a freeway in San Francisco. Freeway was one tough cookie, who provided Michael his first, early lessons in understanding the complex needs of dogs, from the reactive and unsocialized to the easy-going and gregarious.
Early work as a pet sitter and dog walker fueled Michael’s commitment to learn as much as possible in the field. As his interests and involvement with dogs grew, he studied for and obtained the CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
Michael was the General Manager of AZ Dog Sports, working closely with clients to learn their needs and then prescribing appropriate training classes. As a principal trainer for Zen K9, Michael worked with dogs on everything from basic obedience to aggression. These experiences greatly increased Michael’s practical knowledge of canine behavior and his ability to “speak dog.”Michael enjoys working with and educating owners, helping them to understand their canine friends. He is actively involved in developing workshops on subjects important to pet owners and is often called upon to consult with dog-centric businesses to develop protocols for assessing canine temperament. Michael lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife Danelle and their two daughters.
The newest member of our AZ Dog Sports training team has been a devoted dog lover her whole life, and started training her own dogs as a child. She has been a professional trainer for 4 years, and has earned the national CPDT-KA designation as a positive trainer for AZ Dog Sports. Her early influences were Karen Pryor, Terry Ryan, and Ian Dunbar. Taking regular academy classes to enrich her training education is part of her daily life. Having worked in a variety of capacities from day training to small group obedience classes at all levels she is currently specializing in private in-home obedience lessons and obedience/activity classes at our indoor facility.
In her free time she and her three dogs love to camp, canoe, and explore! Check out her activity and watch for new classes on shaping and tricks soon. DJ is currently learning agility, scent, and service dog task work with two of her dogs, Chance and Marble. Chance has displayed an early aptitude for skate board training, and Marble is loving paddle boarding! DJ loves to help handlers progress to their highest level as a team, weather it is obedience, sports, or outdoor activity.
Angela Alvarado – Trainer
Angela grew up with family and friends calling her the “dog whisperer”. When she went anywhere she would always attract a new four legged friend! Angela always knew she wanted a career working with animals. It was when
she began seeking help for her reactive German Shepherd that she was exposed to a whole new world of dog training and immediately fell in love. In 2017 Angela attended and graduated from AZ Dog Smart Academy. She became a certified trainer learning the whole 411 on dogs and how to specialize in behavior modification. Tuco, one of her shepherds, attended classes with Angela and is her helping hand when working with reactive dogs. Uzaru has taught her how important it is to have clear communication between human and mans best friend. Working hard to help him overcome his insecurities and build confidence to be comfortable around other people and dogs, has made both our lives so much more enjoyable. Angela’s motivation in training is to help others understand where the fear or excitement comes from in their dogs and help them work through and overcome everyday obstacles as a team. Angela wants to expand her knowledge to work on training service dogs in the future. She loves helping people communicate and better understand their dogs. Watching owners see their best friend bloom is such a great feeling!
Denise Franczak-Johnson – Trainer, AKC Tricks Trainer, CGC Evaluator
Denise is a retired high school sculpture teacher who has loved animals since she was a young girl growing up in inner city Chicago. Dogs would follow her home and she would clean them up, feed them work with them and find them a good home. Even on a trip to Mexico and Italy the street dogs followed her. Her compassion and intuitive nature for animals makes her a natural trainer who does what is best for her client and their dogs. She has also worked as a trail guide and horse trainer teaching equestrian camps, raised birds, ferrets and has 3 tortoises as well. Denise rescued her two dogs after her 17-year-old Golden Retriever passed away and discovered one to be extremely fearful and one who was reactive.
It was these two dogs, Levi and Blue that brought her to AZ Dog Sports; as she believes people don’t always get the dogs they want, we gets the dog we need and who needs us. Denise has worked on helping them become more balanced but knows they will need constant work. Just like the street dogs of Chicago, she won’t give up on them. Her years as an educator and dog trainer help people and their dogs communicate so their dogs become well-balanced members of the family and society. Certifications include AZ Dog Smart Academy, certified AKC tricks trainer and CGC evaluator. Denise also is a Doterra essential oils educator for dogs and people! She is currently studying to pass her CCPDT certification now that she is retired as a Phoenix Teacher.
Don is our Certified Dog-Walking Supervisor (certified via AZ Dog Smart Academy). He is also a Puppy Trainer, Day-Trainer and Pet-Sitter. Board & Train with Don is also available upon request. Through AZ Dog Smart Academy, Don has learned positive training methods, handling and equipment skills. He does pet-sitting in your home or boarding at his own home. Don is an Adoption Coordinator and volunteers with Caring For Canines. He brings his years of experience to AZ Dog Sports including work as a Vet Tech.
Ken has been training and competing in a wide range of dog sports since 1982. He and his canine partners have been successful in obedience, conformation, rally, agility and field. Ken has trained and competed with Irish Setters and Flat-Coated Retrievers. He has competed at the top level in Obedience (3 UD titles, 5 CDX titles and 7 CD titles), Rally (an RAE2 title and RE on a 2nd dog) and Agility (MACH2). His oldest dog, Colter, was inducted into the Flat-Coated Retriever Hall of Fame in 2008, while young Talisker is coming up in the field and competing in agility, obedience and field with an eye on qualifying for the Hall of Fame. Ken’s philosophy is that no two dogs are the same and what works for one handler or team isn’t necessarily what is best for another. His idea is to have fun in training and competing while helping each dog to be successful and confident. His classes are not only enjoyable for both handler and dog, they produce results. His students regularly qualify and place. By competing in obedience, rally and agility, Ken teaches how each area can help be successful in the other areas.
Julie Brewer – APDT Professional Member, CGC Evaluator, AKC ATT Evaluator, & Evaluator/Tester for Alliance of Therapy Dogs
Julie has been working with therapy dogs for the past 12 years in the Valley of the Sun. She has given presentations on “What is a Therapy Dog”, “Training Deaf & Blind Dogs” and “AKC Temperament Testing”. She has taught classes at the Arizona Humane Society Kids Camp on different subjects about dogs. Topics such as; basic training, sign language for deaf dogs, animal rescue and adoption, and fun sports and games to dog with dogs.
Julie have achieved a variety of AKC Titles with her personal dogs in Canine Good Citizen, Trick Dog and Therapy Dog; CGC, CGCA, CGCU, TKN, TKI, TKP, THDN, THD, and THDA. As a Tester/Observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Julie helps other dogs get certified to become official Therapy Dog Teams. Julie has raised 4 Therapy Dogs of her own. She also has one personal Service Dog in her home for her father. The classes Julie teaches include; Therapy Dog, Temperament with Behavior Modification, Public Access and Service Dog Tasks. She also does in-home private lessons. Julie always looks forward to helping you and your dog bring out the best in each other! Julie earned her Psychology Degree from Arizona State University and Clinical Research Certification from the University of Delaware. Through the years Julie has also enjoyed volunteering with; The Epilepsy Society of Arizona, The Special Olympics, Amazing Aussies Lethal White Rescue of AZ and Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Kwanho Song, Trainer
Kwanho, a native of Seoul, South Korea; is a certified professional dog trainer and also certified in working with behavior modification. He owned his own business in Korea specializing in positive dog training, clicker training, and tricks training. He strives to understand each dog’s temperament and personality. By designing a customized curriculum to appeal to both the guardian and the dog’s strengths, Kwanho maximizes efficient learning for both. He also does private lessons and assists in the mentorship program for AZ Dog Smart Academy for new trainers.
Kwanho participated in the mentorship program with Will Bruner at AZ Dog Smart Academy in 2017. Kwanho is adding this exciting new skill set to his repertoire, and his love of helping people work with dogs in new ways.
His other love is Music. He has both his Bachelor of Music degree from Seoul National University, and his master of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington. He is a professional Trombonist and now resides in Arizona, with his wife, also a professional musician. His interest in dogs was first in learning to train his wife’s two therapy dogs, and the rest is history!
Jaymie Cardin – Trainer, Certified Service Dog Trainer, CGC Evaluator (currently on travel leave)
Jaymie’s love for dogs started when she was still in diapers. She grew up around dogs, and always knew that she would make a career out of this passion. She began working with animals as a volunteer at the Phoenix Zoo. After joining the Arizona Dog Sports family in 2016, she attended and graduated from the Arizona Dog Smart Academy.
Jaymie became involved with training service dogs in high school, first raising and training a rescue dog for diabetic alert work through a high school class, and then volunteering with a local non-profit to raise a golden retriever for mobility assistance. Her passion for raising service dogs inspired her to attend and complete the Service Dog Program at Bergin University of Canine Studies.
She is excited to be at Arizona Dog Sports as a trainer, and wants to share her love of positive reinforcement training with pet parents here in the valley. Jaymie is a Certified Service Dog Trainer, certified through Bergin University of Canine Studies.