Learn More About Highland Canine Training’s Alabama Team

corey archer alabama dog trainer

At Highland Canine Training, we have provided our dog training programs to dog owners across the United States for almost two decades. In that time, we have helped to build and maintain strong human-canine relationships through our dedication to science-based training which truly focuses on the needs of the dog and their owner. Whether it is behavior modification, private lessons or board and train programs, we pride ourselves on finding the solution that works for your situation.

We have had an established presence in the state of Alabama for some time, but in recent years, we have been fortunate to be able to expand our offerings to further meet the needs of the canine community. We have invested heavily in our Alabama training facility, with state-of-the-art kennels and training equipment. In addition, the School for Dog Trainers launched its Southeast Campus based out of Hanceville, AL, helping us to offer more learning opportunities to the next generation of dog trainers.

Our dog training team in Alabama has also grown in the past couple of years, bringing on board individuals with a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to help dog owners get the results they need from their training investment. For this article, we spoke to three of our professional dog trainers who serve our clients in Alabama:

Corey Archer – Corey has been a key member of our team for a number of years. In addition to pet dog training, Corey also has extensive knowledge of working dog capabilities, gained from a career in law enforcement. Corey oversees operations at our Alabama location.

Dylan McNeal – Dylan graduated from the School for Dog Trainers, completing the Master Dog Trainer program. He offers dog training services in Huntsville and the surrounding areas.

Shae Slabaugh – Shae always knew she wanted to work with dogs after growing up around puppies, and after graduating from the Obedience and Behavior program at the School for Dog Trainers, she now offers private lessons and board and train programs to dog owners in Alabama.

Our three trainers explained their reasoning for embarking on a career as a dog trainer; what they enjoy about their work; and what makes our training programs different from others.

dylan mcneal huntsville dog trainer with dog
Above: Dylan McNeal, Highland Canine Training's Huntsville dog trainer.

What motivated our team to start training dogs in the first place?

As with any profession, there is typically a reason why an individual decided to pursue a career in a specific field. It could be influenced by their childhood, their interests, or their experiences as an adult. For Dylan, his interest in dog training started at a very young age.

“I have been working with dogs for as long as I can remember,” explains Dylan. “When I was a kid, I helped train hunting dogs. I remember how cool it was that a hunter and a dog could work together and how much the dogs seemed to enjoy it.

As I got older, I started working with a local rescue and helped to rehabilitate dogs who have been abused and came from bad situations. That is what really made me realize how different dogs handle different situations – good or bad.

When I was in my mid 20s, I was living alone and ended up adopting a “crazy” and young German Shepherd named Dixie. The more time I spent with her, the more I realized how much work she needed, and how much I enjoyed all of that work. Dixie was literally my best friend for years. After a few years I decided to do something crazy and leave my “safe” job and go to the School for Dog Trainers and make a career out of something I love – and I haven’t looked back since.”

Making a difference to society by helping to reduce the number of puppies surrendered to shelters was a driving force for Shae.

“My main reason for pursuing a career in dog training was to work with puppies so they would have a good foundation before they went to their forever homes. Hopefully, this would result in fewer puppies ending up in shelters.”

Corey’s story is a little different, as his career in law enforcement was the catalyst for his involvement in the world of dog training.

“I actually started as a K9 handler for a small Police Department in Alabama,” says Corey. “In the beginning, I was satisfied just being a handler. However, as I progressed, I was more intrigued by the behavior of the dogs and the different methods that could be utilized to train them.

I have always worked two jobs to make ends meet for my family. After spending time with the staff at Highland Canine Training, I realized that I could supplement my income by training dogs and enjoying what I was doing. Once I completed my Trainer’s Course at Highland, I started working in Alabama for them. That was over a decade ago. Now I have retired from law enforcement, and am training dogs and people full time.”

shae slabaugh teaching dog to sit
Above: Shae Slabaugh, a professional dog trainer for Highland Canine Training, serving dog owners in Alabama.

Which aspect of dog training do our trainers enjoy teaching?

One of the great things about dog training is the sheer variety of training that is possible. Not only are there so many different aspects of dog training, but within each of those disciplines, there are specific skills and techniques that can be applied.

In general, obedience training can help empower you as an owner to have more control over your dog – and in turn, that empowers your dog to have more freedom. Shae explained the benefit of one particular aspect of dog training that truly embodies this.

“I love teaching off-leash recall,” she explains. “This is because the dogs can have so much freedom while their owners don’t have to worry about them not coming back.”

Dylan spoke about the positive impact that dog training can have on the lives of the dog and their family.

“What I have come to enjoy the most out of dog training is how rewarding it is when the dog’s owner comes to pick up their dog after training, and how amazed they are at how much better they behave and how much more confident the dog is,” explains Dylan.

“Taking a shy, uncomfortable dog and showing them that the world is a lot more fun than terrifying – and giving them the structure that they understand and need – is life changing. And it is life-changing not just to the dog, but to their family as well.”

Meanwhile, Corey explained how resolving behavioral problems can help to keep dogs out of shelters.

“I love training and fixing dogs with behavior issues,” says Corey. “Having the knowledge to help pet owners and dogs with behavior problems is really satisfying to me. Some of these dogs would have been rehomed, sent to a shelter, or euthanized if we had not been able to help through behavior modification.”

corey archer alabama dog trainer
Above: Corey Archer, Training Director for Highland Canine Training in Alabama.

What makes a good dog trainer?

Within the world of dog training, there are certain characteristics a trainer needs to be successful. We asked our trainers to explore what they believe helps to create a good dog trainer.

“In my opinion, good dog trainers have to be confident in themselves,” says Dylan. “They have to be unafraid to be excited with the dog in front of people. If you have the personality of a stump then the dog will not want to work for you.”

“When training dogs you have to be very patient and open to trying new things,” explains Shae.

Corey agrees that patience is a necessity as a dog trainer. “I believe that to be a successful dog trainer, you need to have the ability to be patient with the dogs and the clients,” he says.

“Some dogs need different motivation or training methods to be successful. Being able to recognize this and adapt to what works for the dog is imperative. For a dog trainer to be great, they need to be able to communicate with the clients in a way they can understand. Also, they need to be completely transparent and honest with the client.”

Lessons learned as a dog trainer

Although the foundational knowledge gained as a dog trainer remains somewhat similar, working with a wide variety of dogs will inevitably bring about learning opportunities. These lessons can be learned and then applied to future training endeavors, thus broadening the trainer’s knowledge and enabling them to help understand similar situations which arise in the future.

With his extensive experience in the industry, Corey has learned several things over the years.

“I have learned many things as I have matured in the dog training industry,” Corey explains. “I would say the most valuable lesson is to not be afraid to try new training methods and theories. I believe we, as trainers, get stuck in the old ways of doing things and are reluctant to try new ideas and or training tools. Having an open mind and willingness to continue to learn is vital in this industry.”

shae slabaugh alabama dog trainer holding dog

From a personality standpoint, Dylan advises that confidence is of paramount importance for a dog trainer: “The most valuable thing I have learned in my time as a trainer is how important confidence is. This is something I have struggled with for a long time. Now when I am working with dogs, their families and even our students I can’t stress enough the importance of being confident. Grab the leash, stand up straight and do what you need to do.”

It sounds obvious, but even with all the preparation and education behind you, you still have to train the dog in front of you, as Shae outlines.

“The most valuable thing I have learned as a trainer is no dog is the same,” she says. “This has taught me to be patient with the dogs and not to get frustrated quickly.”

What makes Highland Canine Training different?

Finally, we asked our team to offer their perspective on what separates them from others in the industry.

“Since working with Highland, I have realized a few aspects that set us apart from other dog trainers,” explains Dylan. “One aspect is that we are not afraid to train aggressive dogs. I have worked with quite a few dogs that other trainers have turned away. These dogs may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that their behavior can’t be fixed. They deserve a good chance at a happy life; we are willing to do our best to make sure they get that chance.

We take a lot of pride in what we do and we will always put the dog first in any situation. We also have a strong community with one another across our team. Whenever we run into an issue that we might need help with, then we have several experienced trainers who are only a phone call away who would be more than happy to help us understand and resolve a situation.”

Shae agrees with Dylan on the value of that internal knowledge which can be shared across the team.

“I think there are multiple things that make Highland different compared with other trainers – one of those being the amount of people on our team that are available to help and answer questions,” she says.

After working with the company for over a decade, Corey has gained a deep understanding of the difference Highland Canine makes to the canine community, and how the programs strengthen the human-canine relationship.

“One thing that really separates us is that Highland Canine offers just about every type of dog training that can be offered, with the expertise and experience behind it. Our ability to train pet dog obedience, Police K9s, Search and Rescue Dogs, Service Dogs, and other specialties, makes us a versatile company with the ability to serve all types of clients.

Our dedication to customer service is second to none. In the pet dog industry, we are able to offer everything from Group Classes, to In Home Training, to Private Lessons, to Board and Train programs. This enables our clients to be able to choose the best program to suit their specific needs and requirements.

Finally, Highland Canine also offers guarantees with its training programs and is dedicated to building a relationship with our clients beyond just business. Being accessible to our clients after the training program for follow up advice or lessons, at no extra cost, is a huge priority – and truly separates us from the rest of the competition.”

If you’re a dog owner in the state of Alabama and need help with training your dog, we would love to hear from you! Learn more about our team on our dedicated Alabama location page (based in Huntsville? Click here), or reach out to Corey today at (205) 433-2063 or carcher@highlandcanine.com to learn more.