National K-9 Learning Center Instructors and Certified Professional Trainers

Our Instructors

Chris Altier

National K-9 President and School for Dog Trainers Director and Instructor

Chris has extensive experience working with pet dog owners in the areas of obedience, behavior modification, and puppy development. Chris has trained dogs and their handlers for law enforcement, scent detection, cadaver detection, tracking, personal protection, retrieval, and service/assistance. He also has experience training his personal and clients’ dogs for therapy dog certifications. In addition to instructing dog owners and School for Dog Trainers’ students, Chris enjoys speaking to outside groups of adults and children about dog training, behavior, and safety.

Chris is the School for Dog Trainers’ Director and one of its primary instructors. He is also the President of National K-9, Inc. and responsible for supervising its training and boarding facility. Chris coordinates and assists with the professional development of the staff and certified professional trainers. He is responsible for the continued enhancement and implementation of National K-9’s training and behavior programs.

Chris is a professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association. He is also an evaluator for the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test.  

Chris was a dog walker, pet sitter, kennel attendant, and kennel manager before becoming a full-time professional dog trainer in 1995.  Before joining the National K-9 staff, Chris established and operated his own professional dog training and dog care business in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers during this period to expand upon his knowledge of dog training and behavior. After completing the six-week course he was invited to join the staff as a certified professional trainer and then became a school for dog trainers’ instructor.  Chris mentored under National K-9’s founder Scott Mueller and former school director Bob Jervis. Throughout his career, he has attended numerous training, behavior, and other dog related conferences, seminars, and workshops.

Chris is originally from Wooster, Ohio and received a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Chris and his wife, Katie, have two children. They also have a Belgian Malinois named Otto.

Cassie Smith

Head Trainer and Instructor

Cassie grew up on her family’s ranch in a small town in Northern California and has had a passion for working with dogs from a young age. She grew up training family dogs, training horses and working with livestock. After high school Cassie raised two puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind in California and worked in a grooming shop for a few years. Cassie also apprenticed with stock dog trainers in the area for a few years and this is where she acquired her first Border Collie.

Cassie’s early experiences with dogs resulted in her attending National K-9’s School for Dog Trainers six-week course. After completion of the course she joined the National K-9 staff. Cassie’s interests in training are obedience, behavior modification, puppy development, agility, trick-training, utility, scent detection, service work, and personal protection. 

Cassie is a Pet Tech® Instructor that teaches first-aid, emergency care, and health information for dogs and cats.  She is also an evaluator for the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen. She is a professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association.

As head trainer, Cassie is responsible for supervising the National K-9 staff trainers and boarding facility employees.  Cassie is originally from Northern California and currently has a Border Collie named Zoe, a Belgian Malinois named Brom, two Pembroke Welsh Corgis named Zuzu and George, and a cat named Saphira.

Grace Myers

Certified Professional Trainer and Assistant Instructor

Grace’s passion for working with animals began at a young age. Growing up in the country surrounded by several farms, she raised lambs through a local 4-H Club before she began to develop an interest in dogs. While in middle school, she raised two guide dog puppies through The Seeing Eye in New Jersey. While in high school she volunteered as a certified therapy dog team with her Labrador Retriever, Banjo.

In her junior year of high school, Grace began her first job as an attendant at a dog daycare and boarding facility. This experience continued to develop her interest in a dog training and her desire to pursue a career as a professional dog trainer. Shortly after graduating high school, Grace decided to further her education and she completed the National K-9’s School for Dog Trainers six-week course. Upon graduation of the course, she started and ran her own in-home dog training business for a year before joining the National K-9 staff.

Grace is interested in obedience, behavior modification, agility, personal protection, scent detection, retrieval, utility, and service dog training. She is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association.

Grace is originally from southeastern Pennsylvania, and currently lives in the Columbus area with her rescued German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, Kai, and her retired therapy Labrador Retriever, Banjo

Elizabeth Ursich

Certified Professional Trainer and Assistant Instructor

Elizabeth grew up in Central Ohio on her family’s farm, where her passion for working with dogs began. From a young age she enjoyed working with and training livestock and participated in 4-H for ten years training sheep and hogs to show at her local fair. In her later teens she enjoyed teaching the family dog various tricks and commands, as well as saving baby kittens and nurturing them back to health.

During Elizabeth’s junior and senior year of high school, her desire to pursue dog training as a professional career continued to develop. Wanting to further her education after high school Elizabeth applied for and completed the National K-9’s School for Dog Trainers six-week Master Course. After completing the course, she then joined the National K-9 staff as a certified professional trainer. She resides in Central Ohio with her family and her rescued Bernese/German Shepherd mix, Molly.

She is interested in obedience, service dog training, retrieval, personal protection, tracking, and agility. She especially enjoys participating in on-going education related to agility training.  Elizabeth has completed the Pet Tech Pet First-Aid Course and is also a member of the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association and International Association of Canine Professionals.

Dr. Michael Turley, DVM

School for Dog Trainers’ Canine Health Lecturer

Dr. Turley has been instructing National K-9 School for Dog Trainer students since the 1980’s. Dr. Turley’s lectures include information regarding routine canine health issues, parasites, vaccinations and health care. He is also eager to answer any canine health related questions students may have. Dr. Turley’s passion is in preventative medicine.

Dr. Turley graduated from The Ohio State University in 1978.  Upon graduation, Dr. Turley worked in Shelby, Ohio in a mixed animal practice, farm calls in the morning and pets in the afternoon.  He returned to Columbus in 1980, and became owner of the Hamilton Road Animal Hospital. Dr. Turley is a member and past president of the Columbus Academy Veterinary Medicine, and a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.

Originally from Columbus, Dr. Turley and his wife Lynn have two children. The Turley family also has one cat.

Brett Suttle

School for Dog Trainers’ Nutrition and Search/Rescue Instructor

Brett is a Pet Tech® Instructor that teaches about canine nutrition and his personal experiences training and handling search and rescue dogs.  Brett served in the United States Navy and after his service received a Bachelor of Science in business.  In 1998, Brett joined the Ohio K9 Search Team where he served in several officer positions and as a certified dog handler until 2005.  During this time, Brett and his K9s became certified in many search disciplines, including cadaver, water, building search, and human remains, along with live land searches.

Brett is a Certified Professional Trainer and a graduate of the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers.  He operates his own dog training business located in Central Ohio.  Brett’s passion for canine nutrition led him to develop his own line of dog food.  Brett was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Ohio, where he currently resides.

Deputy Darrah Metz

School for Dog Trainers’ Therapy Dog Instructor

Darrah is Franklin County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Deputy, and she enjoys speaking to school for dog trainers’ students about therapy dogs and her experiences as part of the Sheriff’s Department Therapy Dog program.  This program features select canines and law enforcement personnel that are trained to provide victims with an outlet from the mental, physical, or psychological effects of experienced trauma.  Darrah has also assisted other law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada with the implementation and development of their own Therapy Dog programs.

She is partnered with Mattis the Labrador Retriever, who became the first law enforcement therapy dog in the State of Ohio and the sixth in the nation in 2017.  Darrah is a Certified Professional Trainer and a graduate of the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers.  Darrah is also an evaluator for Alliance of Therapy Dogs. 

Darrah holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations and a Master’s Degree in Interpersonal Leadership and Team Building. She has also served the Sheriff’s Office in the Corrections Division, Patrol Bureau, and Community Response Bureau. 

Leslie Horton, RN, CCRN

School for Dog Trainers’ Service Dog Instructor

Leslie is a registered nurse with over 30 years experience in trauma and intensive care nursing and holds current specialty certification in adult critical care nursing.  Leslie is also Certified Professional Trainer and a graduate of the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers.   She is the founder of Most Fine Canine Inc. in Maryland and she has been training dogs and their handlers since March 2000.  Leslie is a Certified ADA Coordinator and Certified Canine Athlete Specialist.

Leslie is a final placement trainer for service dogs for children and adults with neurological and mobility disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, degenerative arthritis, autism, hearing disorders, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, etc..  Leslie started the Animal Assisted Care (AAC) Program on the Inova Fairfax Hospital Campus in 2001. As the coordinator of the AAC Program, Leslie oversees the handler/canine teams and built an animal assisted care program that is internationally recognized as a leader in animal-assisted therapy.

Leslie founded the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) Therapy Dog Committee and the IACP Service Dog Committee.  Leslie was awarded the 2014 IACP Member of the Year and was inducted in 2015 into the IACP Hall of Fame.  She and her first canine Pet Partner, Chug, were recipients of the Delta Society 2005 Beyond Limits Award for Outstanding AAT Professionals.  

Kelli Collins

School for Dog Trainers’ Scent Detection Instructor

Kelli instructs school for dog trainers’ students about scent detection. She covers the types of detection dogs, evaluation of puppy/dog candidates, imprinting, and detection training with students.

Kelli has been training dogs for over 25 years in obedience, detection, law enforcement, and service work.  She has extensive experience training dogs for the specific areas of narcotics detection, explosives detection, or human remains detection. Kelly certifies annually through North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and National Narcotic Detector Dog Association (NNDDA) for narcotics and explosives detection with her own working dogs. She is a prior Georgia post certified police officer. Kelly is also Certified Professional Trainer and a graduate of the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers.

Kelly is the founder and owner of the Havoc K9 Training Center. Kelly is professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.  Kelly owns and handles multiple German Shepherds trained for scent detection.

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