Third-Generation Dog Handler Carries on Training Tradition
Writer / Megan Arszman
There’s something about the deep connection between a dog and their handler, especially when that dog is a police K-9 and the handler is an officer. They have each other’s back, and there’s an undying devotion.
That’s the kind of feeling Erin Dean, a retired police K-9 handler, felt with both of her partners, K-9 Tori, a bloodhound, and K-9 Cinch, a Belgian Malinois. After several years serving the communities of Sheridan and Kirklin respectively, and after leaving public service behind, Dean is hoping to bring that sense of closeness and mutual respect to the people of central Indiana and their beloved pooches.
“I firmly believe that obedience is the foundation of everything you want to do with your best friend,” Dean says. “You have to have a good foundation of trust and obedience to make your team a team.”
Following in the footsteps of her grandparents and parents in the world of dog training and handling, Dean resurrected her family’s kennel name and started Frontier K9 Training in Westfield in 2018. She balances training sessions and classes with her clients between her part-time job at St. Vincent Hospital’s emergency department, training her second-generation Malinois in Schutzhund, and caring for the family farm with her husband of 19 years, Jerry.
“Dogs have always been a vital part of my life, and I have always enjoyed serving my community,” Dean says. “I started my business because it allowed me to do both, giving me fulfillment.”
Frontier K9 Training offers one-on-one training sessions at the client’s home, with a few field trips to public spaces thrown in. Group classes were recently started to allow for more training with distractions, while taking advantage of the farm’s space and new sights, smells and sounds for suburban dogs.
“It’s always funny to see a puppy’s reaction when they hear our donkeys bray from the barn during a session,” Dean says. “I built my business with the one-on-one concept because many owners have their own specific issues or goals they want to address with their dog. I also want to be sure I can give 100% of my focus to the handler. However, I’ve adapted some of my training as the need arises, and it’s been a great experience for everyone.”
Frontier K9 works with the Humane Society of Clinton County, offering free evaluations and foster assistance for adoptable dogs. Dean also works in partnership with a few veterinary clinics for training and evaluation services.
“Evaluations are crucial to understanding each dog’s needs and the family’s concerns,” Dean says. “When I meet with a potential client, I want to meet with everyone that will be involved in the dog’s life, and learn everything I can about everyone’s concerns and aspirations.”
Took my nephew to puppy training with Erin. Wonderful experience, Erin is not only excellent with dogs, she is excellent with people! I’m currently taking pre-agility classes with Meghan who is also wonderful and enjoying a new hobby with my pup!
Erin is so good with the animals and such a wonderful person. We highly recommend her!