March 17—Steve Dunham is a dog’s best friend.
He was a K-9 officer with the Franklin Police Department before retiring and has been training dogs of all sizes for over 25 years.
Dunham trained police dogs for every department in southwestern Ohio, including Beavercreek, the Hamilton County Sheriff, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Almost every police department in Warren County, including Franklin, at some point had a police dog that Dunham trained, he said.
“Every dog can teach you something,” he said.
Dunham joined the Franklin County Police Department in Warren County in 1995, training police dogs since 1998. He started his own police dog training business in 2006 and, after retiring from the Franklin Police Department in 2016, opened its doors to companion dogs. company at 2763 Culver Ave., Kettering.
“As a K-9 officer, I’ve worked with very dynamic breeds. They’re very easily stimulated by outside things, like animals or people,” Dunham said. “So that really helped prepare me for those kinds of situations.”
Dunham recently changed the name of his business from Police Dog Services to Dog Training Personalized, and his business instantly quadrupled, he said.
“It’s my passion. I really enjoyed training dogs and working with police dogs,” he said. “I wanted to do more, and jumping into it gave me the opportunity to learn more.”
Working with Anja, a client’s German Shepherd at their Kettering facility on Tuesday, Dunham and Sami Clark, head certified trainer at Custom Dog Training, show a firm and gentle hand with the puppies in their care. Anja is very excited to receive her treats, but it’s Dunham’s job to show her the limits of acceptable behavior and what it takes to do a good job, an endeavor that takes a lot of time and patience.
“Sometimes people will look at a dog as programming a computer,” Dunham said. “It’s not like that. You’re dealing with living, breathing creatures that do things for their own reasons. And some dogs are wired a little differently than other dogs.”
People seek out dog trainers for several reasons, Dunham said.
“The dog might react when he sees another dog or he might go mad at the FedEx guy when he comes over,” Dunham said. “Sometimes people get a new puppy, and it’s been a long time or they’ve never raised a puppy before and want to make sure they’re on the right track.”
While many of the behavioral issues that Dunham and Clark see day to day are easy fixes, they still require a lot of practice for both dog and human.
“It’s like learning a second language,” Dunham said. “The longer you do it, the more consistent you are, the easier it gets.”