Since 1945, the Mountaineer Kennel Club has been helping dogs live better lives.
The Morgantown-based club is an affiliate of the American Kennel Club and offers training courses for owners and their dogs. While the club’s area serves Marion, Monongalia, and Preston counties, the club also attracts students from Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The all-volunteer, non-profit club offers training courses such as puppy kindergarten, basic obedience and good citizen preparation for dogs. These workouts meet once a week for 50 minutes at the Mylan Park Community Center. Sessions typically last six weeks.
The basic goal of the association is to promote dog ownership in public.
“We train the owner to train the dog,” explains Terry Hill, trainer and board member of the Mountaineer Kennel Club. Hill has been assisting and teaching classes for 20 years.
Hill said she started teaching because of her love for dogs.
“I’ve had dogs my whole life,” she said. “And since I was a little kid, I’ve had a dog on a leash trying to get him to do things.”
Now Hill gets to teach others how to train their own dogs.
She said the best thing about teaching is seeing everyone having a good time.
“The camaraderie between dogs and owners and how happy people are and how happy the dogs are when they start to understand what their owners are trying to teach them,” Hill said. “Once owners see they are successful, confidence skyrockets.”
For fun, at the end of the training sessions, they often hold another type of competition – a wagging competition. From the sound of it, owners need to get their dogs to wag their tails, any way they can. Some owners jump around, play with their dog, or even yell a little. Hill said it’s amazing to watch.
“They’re really having fun, and that’s the aim of the class,” Hill said. “People have to really enjoy themselves, otherwise the classes won’t be successful.”
Zoë Dall’oli brought all of her dogs to the Mountaineer Kennel Club. She recently attended a puppy class with her cattle dog, Willow, where they learned how to train their puppies to social interactions, which includes cuddling and massaging the dog. She said it was just fun to be a part of.
“I wanted to do something fun with my dogs,” Dall’oli said. “They offered a variety of courses to get you started.”
She said MKC is a positive place overall.
“The MKC has a very welcoming and supportive atmosphere,” she said. “There is a wide variety of dogs and people that take part in the courses and the trainers are always very attentive and focused on making both people and dogs successful.”
Dall’oli said the trainers even use positive reinforcement for the dogs and that it’s a fun place to be.
Hill said teaching these classes is a relaxing part of her day. She not only gets to know all the dogs, but also gets into conversation with all the students. And Hill said she gets close to her students.
“I’ve just made so many friends out of my students in class, and they’re still calling me for help,” Hill said. “I have people who took the course two years ago and they still occasionally call me for help.”
And that’s something she tells her students.
“I tell them, ‘If you have a question or if you have a problem, call me — anything,'” she said. “Thats why I’m here.”
The training does not end with the lessons.
Hill said the Mountaineer Kennel Club is important to the community because it helps dogs lead good lives.
“It’s one of the reasons there are so many dogs in shelters,” Hill said. “People get them and they have no idea what to do with people. People don’t realize when they get them that they can’t get out of their mother and know all those commands.”
Or sometimes owners attend classes and are intimidated.
“They’re all going to have good intentions, and sometimes when they come into class they get intimidated because their dog isn’t doing anything,” Hill said. “Then the dog goes home and is tied up outside because the dog is not behaving around the house.”
Hill explained that training the dogs ensures they have a good life with their family.
About 50 people are interested in attending their new puppy nursery, obedience fundamentals and conformation classes in March.
However, they face their difficulties. Hill said they are running out of instructors. To solve this they are trying to train some of their assistants to teach a class. That way, they never have to turn people away and can continue their mission of helping dogs live better lives for years to come.
To register for a class, one must complete a class application, dog profile, waiver, and submit fees. Classes are filled on a first come, first served basis. Other courses include tracker dog, STAR puppy, rally and therapy dog training.
To see class information or to apply for a class, contact the Mountaineer Kennel Club at [email protected] or visit the mountaineerkc.org website.