Meet our Trainers
Laurie Burnam came to the dog world with an already extensive background in training and competing with horses. She began helping train horses and competing in horse shows at age 14, receiving numerous trophies, ribbons and twice winning the prestigious high point year-end silver belt buckle. When she got older, she continued to train horses and give riding lessons as a business.
Laurie was an active foster person for an Australian Shepherd rescue group for many years and she began training in the sport of competitive obedience in 1996 with her rescued Australian Shepherd, Teddy, an abused dog that she rehabilitated and with which she competed successfully, earning his AKC and ASCA CDX. Later she acquired three more Aussies, which she competed in agility, herding, obedience, rally and tricks, earning numerous advanced titles from RAE to UD to MACH, ATCH, RTCH and many High in Trials, High Combined Scores. Casey earned 10 titles in herding, Scout earned 70 titles in agility, obedience and rally, Scusi has so far earned 73 titles in agility, herding, obedience, rally and tricks with two championships and is still actively competing, plus she now has a new puppy, Tesla, who will be trained in all of these sports as well. Tesla looks like she will follow in her two big sisters footsteps doing multiple sports.
Laurie began her training career in 2005, when asked to take over VHOC's Beginning Obedience and Manners class. She continues to teach this fun and informative class to members of the club and the community at large, using positive training methods and her naturally calm demeanor. Laurie has great respect for all animals and feels she has a special relationship with them. She believes her calmness comforts them and they tend to gravitate toward her presence. Laurie also teaches VHOC's Rally Obedience class; she considers it a great segue from the beginning pet class, one that allows handlers to further bond with their dogs and possibly go on to competing. From there, students are encouraged to take the Beginning Competitive Obedience class taught by Patti Rovtar and then they may want to continue onto Laurie’s Advanced Competition Obedience Class, where they will learn all the advanced exercises required for competing in the Novice, Open and Utility classes.
Laurie has held several positions on the VHOC Board and served as our Obedience Trial Chairperson from 1999 to 2012. She was also the Obedience Trial Chairperson for the Australian Shepherd Club of Southern California (ASCSC). Laurie served as VHOC's representative for the Southern California Dog Obedience Council (SCDOC) for ten years, and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). She has her own dog training and equipment business called Poochability Dog Training and can be found at www.poochabilitydogtraining.com.
Olga Chaiko is a world-class agility competitor, a highly skilled dog trainer and a wonderful instructor. She never fails to communicate her message to each student, making people feel comfortable and relaxed. Olga is famous for her sense of humor, her instruction is electrifying and lighthearted. Olga presents unique techniques and solutions that are devised and tailored to each individual dog/handler team.
Olga has been involved in agility for sixteen years. Olga is 2006 IFCS World Champion with her Border Collie, MACH6 ADCH Luz, LAA-Platinum. Olga’s Border Collie, NAC MACh Yankee, won BCC European Championship in 2008 and AKC National Agility Championship in 2009. Olga lives in Los Angeles, California, and offers private lessons, seminars, and online instruction.
Michelle Doram, CNWI
AKC Scent Work Judge
USCSS CSD/ Judge
Michelle Doram has been working with dogs professionally since 2001, but dogs have been the main focus of her life since her first German Shepherd Dog at age 13. As part of a Puppy Raiser family for The Guide Dogs of America, she has been immersed in dog activities most of her life. She began Nose Work classes with her spaniel mix puppy in 2010 and has continued playing the game with four other dogs since. Each dog has brought her new learning and appreciation for the sport. Michelle particularly enjoys helping develop the unique bond between dog and handler that Nose Work and Scent Work create, and helping the handlers learn more about their dog’s working style. Michelle has been a Certified Nose Work Instructor since 2013. Her favorite focus for training is foundation skill reinforcement for dogs of all levels, as well as trial preparation. Michelle became a Chief Search Designer for USCSS in 2016, and an AKC Scent Work Judge in 2017.
Michelle’s own dogs have achieved various title levels: Nate ELT2, a tricolor Collie mix, earned his NW3 Elite in 2015 with High In Trial on his final NW3; Cedar NW3x2, a sable Rough Collie, was among the first three purebred Collies to earn a NW3 title in 2016, with a Pronounced designation and Second Place overall; Clover, a tricolor headed white Rough Collie, earned her NW2 title in 2016 with a Pronounced designation and second place overall; Kacie, a Brittany Spaniel mix, earned her NW1 title with Second Place overall in 2012. Burdock, a sable Collie, joined the family in the summer of 2018 as a puppy and loves to play the game!
Anne Graumann got started in agility with a mixed-breed dog and she competed with her in USDAA up to Masters level, the only organization that allowed All-Americans to compete at that time. Her second dog was an Aussie that achieved ATCH2, MACH, PDCH-Silver, LAA-Bronze. He made USDAA Top 10 Jumpers and Snooker in 2008, and Top 10 All-Around (Jumpers, Standard, Snooker, and Gamblers) in 2009. He was a USDAA Nationals 2008 P22” European Style Standard winner, P22” Performance Speed Jumping and P22” Performance Grand Prix Finalist. He has multiple Southwest Regionals Finals appearances and placements in PSJ and PGP between 2008 and 2010. He also qualified for USDAA Nationals in 2007, 2009, 2010. He qualified for AKC Nationals in 2010, and ASCA Nationals Veterans Finals in 2012 and 2013. Anne currently competes with her two Aussies. One is trialing at Masters level in AKC, and Elite level in ASCA. The younger of the two is just getting ready to trial.
Anne’s primary goal as a trainer is to help students learn how to set the most efficient lines for their dogs and to have sound technical skills. She believes that the best teamwork is developed through positive motivation. Anne has worked with a broad variety of dog breeds from companion and northern dogs to herding and hunting dogs, as well as various mixed breeds, and dogs in all jump heights.
Anne is well versed in teaching everything from foundation to international-style handling to distance skills, and anything in between.
*Photo courtesy of Pam Marks.
I first started doing freestyle over ten years ago with my Australian Shepherd Cinna who had to retire from agility at the early age of five due to hip issues. Freestyle allowed me to continue working with her at something that was both stimulating and fun.
My Aussies and I have competed and qualified in seven national events. I’m certified as both a freestyle instructor and judge through Dogs Can Dance (DCD).
DCD (http://www.dogscandance.com) is a freestyle organization that downplays costuming and tricks. Instead its training and competition emphasize showcasing a dog’s natural movements and good canine/handler teamwork. It is one of the best resources for learning about freestyle and offers affordable online, interactive classes for all levels. It also has The Challenge – a competition with different divisions, levels and titles. Competing can be done either online or at live titling events.
Animals have been one of the richest parts of Patti's life, from her very first pet, Applesauce the guinea pig, to her very first horse, Smokey and her beloved Rottweilers past and present - Luna, Chili, and Pippi. She has treasured them all. Amongst family dogs, kitties, hamsters, birds, fish, and yes, even reptiles, she grew up with a great respect and admiration for the natural world and the life with animals that our world brings with it.
After raising her kids with horses, Patti became involved in dog sports when she came home with a Rottie puppy that really, really needed a job to do. While Patti had extensive experience in the world of horses with both competition and teaching, she had not yet trained a dog to a competitive level. Then along came Chili. She was game for anything Patti came up with and really asked for the structure and engagement that formal canine activities offered. So Patti gave it to her and received a gift she didn't see coming.....the camaraderie and encouragement of the competitive obedience community and the ability to compete at a national level with dogs that she loves to her core.
Chili and Patti participated in rally, agility, and obedience. Rally was a great introduction to obedience for them as it taught them to work in pieces and then to put those pieces together into a cohesive whole. Agility taught them how to trust and work independently while also together as a team, and those experiences really came together for them in competitive obedience. Chili loved doing stuff and obedience satisfied her needs, from foundation and structure to the joys of run and jump that the upper levels of obedience offered. This was a great game for her and she loved all of it. Chili and Patti achieved Top 10 rankings in the American Rottweiler Club every year from the start of her obedience career, and continued on to earn multiple High in Trial and High Combined. They earned invitations to the AKC Obedience Classic and the year they were able to travel to Orlando Chili and Patti placed 11th in Master's Obedience out of a group of 55 national level competitors. Patti couldn't have been more proud of her if she tried! Chili retired at age 11 with 59 OTCH points and 7 years of participation in the sport.
Patti's current dog, Pippi (called the Little Red Corvette by her breeder) came into the game peeling rubber! While very different in temperament than Chili, the lessons Patti learned from Chili translated very well for Pippi, with some thoughtful adaptations that suited Pippi's personality better. Pippi and Patti first competed through Rally Excellent, earning an invitation to the Rally National Championship, prior to competing in formal obedience. Pippi earned her obedience titles from Companion Dog through Utility in 7 months, crowning her achievement with a High in Trial at the 2017 Rottweiler National Specialty for her 3rd leg in Utility A. Pippi and Patti have gone on together to achieve many High in Trial and High Combined awards, along with multiple invitations to Westminster Master's Obedience, AKC National Obedience Classic, and the AKC National Obedience Championship. They were featured in the Front and Finish Profile 200 for a highlight of their work together, a perfect 200 score in Utility B. Pippi earned her OTCH in May of 2019 and earned her OTCH2 five months later in November of 2019. Pippi has been in the Top 10 rankings in the American Rottweiler Club every year she has competed, and is the #1 Rottweiler in both Open and Utility for ARC, and for the Front and Finish Delaney ratings, and is the #1 Rottweiler in AKC Obedience for 2019. Pippi and Patti made the national list of the Top 100 Obedience dogs for 2019. Patti is still in awe of Pippi's achievements.
These achievements are absolutely due to establishing a strong foundation prior to entering a trial ring, and consistently revisiting foundation on a regular basis. Dogs naturally seek a relationship with us and if we listen to them and offer the understanding and education they need as individuals we can reach our moon, however that is defined for us, as a team. These are the concepts Patti strives to share with those new to competitive obedience.