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, CCPDT-KA , CGC Evaluator, Service Dog Trainer
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.
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!
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).
Robert Murtaugh Jr. – AZDS-CPT , Certified Behavior Trainer specializing in large breed dogs & multi-dog households
Robert Murtaugh Jr is the director of Freedom Brothers Rescue & Recovery. Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania; Robert and his wife Layne have spent many years in rescue and use their time now training and re-homing working breeds. At AZ Dog Sports Robert does Puppy, Obedience, off-leash training and behavioral training. His passion is rehabilitating dogs who have faced challenges in life and need a second chance.
Christina de Alcala – AZDS-CPT , AKC CGC Evaluator, BA Education
Christina specializes in puppy obedience, enrichment and foundation level 1 practical skills classes here at AZ Dog Sports. She teaches group classes that focus on good manners and public access skills. Christina whole-heartedly believes that creating a relationship through positivity and trust with a dog is the best gift one can give and receive.
Christina’s love and passion for dogs began at an early age. She was often known to be watching Saturday morning cartoons with their family dog, Bear Bear. Christina started training and working with her family pet after a visit to Marine World in California where she saw a troupe of trick dogs. By the time she was in High School she volunteered at the local animal shelter.
After attending college, Christina became an elementary school teacher; but in her heart she always knew she wanted to work with dogs in some capacity. In 2008 she started raising and training two Boxer pups (Wilson and Davis) which led to her desire to train dogs in tandem with their humans.
Lynn Brand – AKC CGC Evaluator, STAR Puppy Evaluator, APDT Professional Member, AZ Dog Smart Academy Instructor
Lynn Brand has been training at AZ Dog Sports for ten years. Her focus includes training companion dogs in obedience; both puppies and adult dogs. Lynn is an AKC Approved Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and tests candidates for the basic CGC title up to the advanced AKC Urban Canine title and the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy program. She is a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Lynn is skilled in training all breeds of dogs including rescues. Lynn also helps train Therapy and Service Dog and teaches several courses in the AZ Dog Smart Academy. Lynn believes that early development and a strong bond of trust and love between dog and handler is critical to success and is best achieved through methods based on positive reward and reinforcement. She wants her clients to know the pleasures of responsible dog ownership and the joy of having a well-mannered canine kid.
She began training German Shepherd Dogs in the demanding sport of Schutzhund in 1997. She has taken her own GSDs through all phases of the sport, including IPO3-level titles that entail the most difficult international testing standards. Lynn has a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona and continues training her next generation of German Shepherds in Schutzhund. Lynn is active in the Phoenix Schutzhund Club and currently serves as its President.
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.
Becky Maxwell – CCPDT-KA specializing in service dogs and family pets
Becky discovered her passion for training as a teen working with her family’s rescue dog, Bella. Since then, she worked hard training pets and people in retail pet stores and privately. In 2019, she was selected to become a District Trainer Mentor for Petco in Indiana and also mentored for Petco here in Phoenix. In 2022, she applied for and passed the CPDT-KA exam, becoming a certified trainer through CCPDT. Becky also worked with K9s for Warriors, a non-profit committed to ending veteran suicide by providing service dogs to those in need.
Even with a decade of training under her belt, Becky will admit that experience isn’t everything. She is a voracious learner and is constantly researching, consuming industry science and collaborating with other professionals. She uses all of those resources to tailor custom training plans well-suited to each specific dog. Her mission as a trainer is to facilitate enduring, happy relationships through compassionate training.
Becky shares her life with her two cats, Jinx and Jasper, and three dogs, Caiman, Taz and Ripley.
Karen Burleson – CGC Evaluator, APDT Certified Member
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.
Alexander Casas – AZDS-CPT
Alexander has grown up and worked alongside dogs in some capacity most of his life. His love for dogs grew immensely during his time in the military, where he was able to see firsthand the impressive capabilities of these animals, alongside the powerful bond that can be formed between them and humans. After leaving the military and completing his studies in Security and Intelligence, Alexander shifted his attention to learning more about dog training, leading him to attend and graduate from AZ Dog Sports K9 Trainer Academy. His concentration is primarily in-home lessons that target basic obedience and/or behavior modification, but he also enjoys doing board and trains and training emotional support and service animals. Alexander seeks to help clients develop a better relationship with their dogs by empowering them with effective training techniques, a better understanding of dog psychology, and the implementation of a structured, yet enriching living environment – leading to a more fluid and cohesive relationship with our four-legged companions.
Heidi Reth – AZDS-CPT , RN
As a lifelong dog lover and rescue volunteer, Heidi wants to increase the bond between people and their pets. Her specialty is great positive training, structure, love, and a calm patient approach.
Heidi has been professionally training dogs for years in obedience and behavior modification. In the past year she started working with service dogs for veterans with PTSD and mobility.
Heidi became a trainer after adopting her deaf Pitbull named Apollo, who challenged her to join the field she always loved. After going through AZ Dog Sports Academy, Apollo has become a mild mannered chunk of love that can go anywhere with her!
She also has 3 other small dogs – Rusty, CC, and Louie. Rusty is a home service dog performing tasks such as opening and closing doors, pushing buttons, picking things off the floor and retrieving items that have fallen out of reach. As an in home trainer, this approach works for clients needing a dog, but wishing to be involved in the training under guidance of a professional.
Heidi has been an operating room nurse for 14 years and is currently studying to be a holistic nurse coach. She would like to integrate dog training into a healthy lifestyle for people to reduce stress, increase physical activity, and increase the bond and love between people and their dogs.
Linda Borgeson – Certified Master Trainer specializing in German Shepherds & working breeds
Linda grew up with an instinct and ability to understand and communicate with dogs – offering a helpful hand with family, friends and neighbors’ “unruly” dogs. Linda has volunteered at various Animal Rescue Shelters to help with the difficult to adopt “shelter shock” dogs by taking them outside for walks, leash training and basic obedience to give them the best chance of getting adopted.
Since 1988, Linda has owned and trained her own German Shepherds with advanced obedience, agility, tracking and dock diving. As a trainer, Linda has over 20 years working with private client’s dogs with behavior issues and communicating the importance of their dog(s) achieving a minimum of the basic obedience skills. She has taught advanced obedience at various training facilities and in 2010, Linda received her certification as a Master Dog Trainer. Linda’s current German Shepherd has passed all the advanced levels of the CGC Program – including Community and Urban Canine Good Citizen.
Linda enjoys working with all breeds, with a special interest in the working breeds, and evaluating the best training method for each specific dog and owner. At AZ Dog Sports Linda teaches all levels of obedience, behavioral challenges and multi-dog household classes.
Tabitha Crane – AZDS-CPT , ABCDT, CGC Evaluator
Tabitha has been learning about the art of dog training since 2014 when she was preparing to get her first rescue dog, Delilah. Delilah came home in January of 2015 with her own set of challenges that put them on the path of pursuing communication and understanding between the two species. Never one to be satiated, Tabitha joined the Association of Professional Dog Trainers as a Professional Member in 2015 to take courses and learn from the experiences of dog trainers around the world.
Tabitha completed the Animal Behavior College’s program in 2020 and continues to grow her knowledge with seminars about the latest findings in the dog world. Tabitha focuses on bridging the language gap between dog and human and approaches problems with a holistic mindset considering the relationship, environment, health, and behavior. With the goal of cooperation in mind, she also enjoys teaching agility to owners wanting to expand their dogs’ horizons. Tabitha is a dog mom to five diverse beauties, two American Staffordshire mixes, a Pomeranian, a Chihuahua, and a Labrador.
Kim Spelman – AZDS-CPT
Kim has always been an animal lover. She started her career with pets as a veterinary technician and worked with a leading mobile spay/neuter clinic in the valley. Kim has also worked at several valley veterinary facilities. Her work with rescue organizations lead her to pursue a career in training with the AZDS Academy in Phoenix, where she graduated at the top of her class. Kim specializes in individualized board and train work for puppies, therapy dogs, and service dog training. She also teaches small group beginner classes in the AKC sports of Rally, Agility, and Scent Work.
Kim is a positive trainer that employs a variety of skills to create the ideal family pet and values the importance of teaching children the appropriate way to interact with pets. Polite canine Day Training is also a favorite activity for her small dog clients and owners can rest assured she will return their dogs mannerly, exercised, and happy.
Her home is host to a horse, a mini pony, a tortoise, and 4 dogs. An avowed animal person, she enjoys all breeds from Chihuahuas to German Shepherds, and is a team member at AZ Dog Sports.
Denise Franczak-Johnson – AZDS-CPT , AKC Tricks Trainer, CCPDT-KA , 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 Bradley – Director Bridging Forever Families Animal Rescue
Here at AZ Dog Sports Don is our Certified Dog-Walking Supervisor (certified via AZ Dog Smart Academy). He teaches Agility for Beginners and Agility for Fun at AZDS, Swim lessons and Outdoor Adventure, swim and play classes for enrichment as well. 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. He brings his years of experience to AZ Dog Sports including work as a Vet Tech.
Robert Cantor – AZDS-CPT
Robert is a Certified AZ Dog Smart Academy graduate and Arizona native. For his fifth birthday, his parents brought home an Australian Shepherd rescue from the AZ Humane Society. Since then his love for canines has only grown. “I consider it a privilege that my livelihood consists of working with dogs every day!” At AZ Dog Sports Robert teaches in-home private lessons, activity and enrichment classes, swimming and games and also does day-training.
Mary Price – AZDS-CPT with an emphasis on behavioral and reactive training, AKC Tricks Trainer, CCPDT-KA , CGC Evaluator, APDT Affiliated, MBA University of Phoenix
Mary Price has ten years of dog training experience with puppy training, dog obedience, behavior modification, and introduction to agility and rally. She is a certified dog trainer, through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and has taken a variety of classes to reinforce and build upon her skills to resolve unwanted behaviors, to teach obedience, and introduce dog sports to help dog owners develop a better connection with their dog to enrich their lives.
As a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Mary is committed to becoming a better trainer through continued education as she strives to continually improve her experience and qualifications. With a tireless dedication to educating dog owners to discover the benefits of basic obedience training, she is paving the way for the owner and dog to build a working relationship that helps them learn new activities or sports as they move from basic obedience to sporting actives.
Jazmine Baird – CGC Evaluator, Agility, Rally, Obedience
Jazmine Baird has a lot of great experience for a young trainer. She has worked in daycare, with off leash play, enrichment, and basic training. At the top of her class at the AZ Dog Sports Academy and Leaps and Bounds Agility Center, Jazmine is a manager with AZDS. This gifted instructor teaches both group classes and private instruction.
Impulse control, CGC, and day training are just some of the skills she has honed over the last three years. Students enjoy her classes in agility, rally and Treibball. Her Portuguese Water Dog, Millie, is her star sporting dog; but she also lives with 2 Golden Retrievers and a sassy feline.
Jazmine is a full-time dog person preferring to spend her leisure time in the sports fields or out and about with one of her dogs. She brings a wealth of knowledge and fun to pet owners of all ages.
Clare Zenk – AZDS-CPT , with an emphasis on behavioral and reactive training
Clare is a certified dog trainer here at AZ Dog Sports. She’s loved dogs from a young age. Her first word was actually her dogs name. She grew up with her family having service dogs and fell in love with the idea of being a dog trainer. While working on her degree in business, she’s spent time as a client manager at several dog daycares and in grooming shops. She is currently specializing in behavioral and reactivity training. Clare is teaching private in-home training as a Behavior Specialist and also works on Obedience from Puppies to CGC dogs. Classes at AZ Dog Sports include Level 1 obedience, puppy play, and star puppy. She uses positive reinforcement to build a joyful and respectful relationship between owners and their dogs.
Monika Walec – AKC CGC Evaluator, APDT Affiliated, Behavioral Trainer
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 including teaching at AAEC that offers a 4-year youth program. Monika also teaches Treibball, Scentwork & AZ Dog Smart Academy courses for advanced behavioral training and equipment. When she is not helping clients enjoy better lives with their canine companions, Monika competes in AKC Obedience, Rally Trials, and French Ring Sport.
Ashley Dunham – Trainer
As soon as she turned 18, Ashley began her career working with dogs. She volunteered with a local wildlife rehabilitation center, where she learned to work with canids of all types, as well as a wide variety of other wild animals. Following her passion to work with animals, Ashley then went on to graduate from ASU with a B.S. in Animal Behavior, Physiology and Neuro-biology. While getting her degree at ASU, she graduated from a technical school, and has worked for several years in a veterinary setting as a technician and receptionist.
Ashley also has experience in a scientific setting studying animal behavior as an undergraduate researcher at a laboratory at ASU. She spent four years as an intern teacher and dog trainer for local non-profit organizations that provided service dogs to aid people with disabilities.
Her goals in training are to strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners by promoting effective communication and activities both parties can enjoy. Although she loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, she especially enjoys working with giant breeds, and owns a Great Dane named Ziggy, who holds a CGC certification.