If you’ve been hiking around Park City and seen a young woman with a pack of Australian shepherds who follow her like she’s the pied piper of Hamelin, you’ve seen Samantha Bednar, founder of Active K9 Training Center. And if you’ve seen all five of her dogs sit and stay at her command, synchronized like underwater ballet, you’ve witnessed her magic.
It all started the year she got a puppy for Christmas. She named the Australian shepherd, golden retriever mix Joe and started training him. “I watched movies and read books,” she explains. She was just 13 and had no idea that she had taken the first step on her career path. Joe was such an awesome dog that her parents’ friend offered to buy him. But he wasn’t for sale. Instead, they suggested that Bednar help him train his own dog, and just like that she earned her first paycheck training dogs.
“I was a bossy kid,” she says. “Those leadership skills were ingrained. I should thank my brother for letting me boss him around.” The Utah-native graduated from high school and considered going to art school in Florida. Her parents asked her what she really wanted to do, and she answered, “I want to train dogs, but I can’t make any money doing that.” Her parents disagreed.
So, Bednar enrolled in the Triple Crown Academy (now known as Starmark Animal Behavior Center) and flew to Hutto, Texas to attend an intensive, three-month, hands-on training program. “We worked with rescue dogs,” she says. “First, we learned how to teach a dog. Then we learned how to teach a human how to teach a dog.” When she graduated as a Certified Canine Trainer & Behavior Specialist, she was the youngest person in her class.
In 2006, she moved to Lithia, Florida, opened her own doggie day care center, and ran it single-handedly for two years. “I had 40 dogs, I was doing classes, lessons, day care, and grooming all by myself,” Bednar says. “I wanted to please everyone. But I got fried and needed to take a break.”
When her day care closed, other day care centers who inherited the dogs that had been to her program started calling her. How had she done it? There were dogs of all breeds and sizes, with next to no issues. She realized she had a secret formula and, after recruiting her family to help, opened Active K9 Training Center in Park City in 2013.
Dad helps with training, Mom helps with education, and her brother, Mike, runs the office. It’s an impressive setup that includes several package options with multiple levels. If you’ve got a new puppy who needs basic housebreaking and manners training, a pooch who needs to break a bad habit, or are looking to take training one step further and enroll in school, Active K9 has you covered. They offer private and group classes as well as a Montessori dog school.
“Every class is customizable,” Bednar says. “Individual training focuses on the dog and the owners, group training adds a little more distraction and variety, and Montessori makes sure they don’t learn bad habits.”