Our experienced instructors absolutely love training and teaching. Our team includes two Certified Professional Dog Trainers, and collectively we have over five decades of experience helping clients and their dogs reach their goals. We train using easy to understand methods that are based on the most up-to-date research on how dogs learn. No rough stuff here. We believe in being nice to dogs and their people.
Kelly Elvin is the founder of TipTopTails Dog Training. Kelly has been coaching people and their dogs for over 15 years, and before that she practiced law for 10 years. She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed, a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and a long-time board member and volunteer for Al-Van Humane Society. Kelly also is a certification instructor for the dog*tec Dog Walking Academy in Michigan, helping to teach professional dog walkers the skills to handle dogs safely and to run a business successfully.
Kelly believes that the primary goal of dog training is to have a dog you enjoy being around, so her training emphasizes practical skills for everyday life. She has a strong interest in early training and socialization to help puppies reach their full potential. Kelly has titled a dog in rally obedience and agility, and enjoys training her own dogs in agility, disc, and nose work.
Matt Elvin has been a certified Missing Animal Response Technician since 2007 and offered lost pet recovery services after training a dog to search for lost cats. He studied under Kat Albrecht, founder of Missing Pet Partnership (MPP), and served on MPP’s Board of Directors for three years. Before becoming a dog trainer, Matt practiced law for 14 years.
Matt has been teaching nose work classes since 2011 and enjoys helping dogs develop their natural scenting abilities and build confidence through nose work. Matt also helped develop and teaches TipTopTails’ innovative Puppy Day School program, and is a certification instructor for the dog*tec Dog Walking Academy in Michigan, giving professional dog walkers the skills to handle dogs safely and to run a business successfully.
Jessica Cefai loves to help her clients and their dogs learn new skills and build stronger relationships through teamwork. Jess has been teaching agility, puppy and good manners classes for six years, and has successfully competed with her dog in agility, dock jumping, and disc.
Jess also is a wrangler at Camp Fido Dog Daycare and has extensive experience in dog-dog interactions and play behavior. She earned a B.S. in Zoology from Michigan State University, and worked as a zookeeper at Potter Park Zoo, where she was responsible for the enrichment and behavioral training of the river otters and assisted in training exercises with the Black Rhinos and Amur Tigers.
Jess is a talented artist who enjoys creating hand-drawn and painted pet portraits from photographs. In her free time, Jess likes to relax with her husband, their Cattle Dog/Rat Terrier mix Bart, and their huge Ragdoll cat, Kiddy.
Sara Chisnell is passionate about dogs and horses. Sara has titled dogs in conformation, weight pull, Hunting Retriever Club, pointing dog events, rally obedience, and dock jumping. In fact, Sara helped Ultimate Air Dogs to bring dock jumping to recognition with a registry (UKC) and wrote the rules for the program.
Sara enjoys sharing her diverse skills and knowledge with her training clients. She especially encourages owners to get involved with dog sports as a wonderful way to build the canine-human relationship. Sara strongly believes in the total dog philosophy, which promotes versatile dogs that have the health and beauty to compete in the conformation ring, the skills to perform the tasks for which they were bred, and the sociability to be good family dogs. Her own dogs evidence her commitment to the total dog philosophy:
“Carly,” URO1 GJJCH Kamikaze Crashlanding Carly Dingo CGC TDI, an 11 year old Australian Cattle Dog
“Ozzy,” UNJ SHR UWP GRCH Abbe Lane’s Prince of Darkness TAN NA-I, Best in Showand Reserve Best in Show winner, 7 year old German Shorthaired Pointer and father to:
‘Sue,” GRCH USJCH USUV UUF Abbe Lane’s A Boy Named Sue NA-I, multi Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show winner, a 2 year old German Shorthaired Pointer
“Punk,” Punk Von Risden Haus, a German shepherd pup
Sara has an undergraduate degree in Equine Science from Otterbein College and a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law. She spent nearly nine years as Legal Counsel for United Kennel Club, an international performance dog registry, and currently is the Legislative Director for National Animal Interest Alliance Trust, a national animal welfare organization. In her free time, Sara enjoys playing disc, running and skijoring with her dogs. As she says, “My dogs are the loves of my life.”
Carolyn Dostal has been teaching classes since 1991 and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her students. Carolyn is an agility judge for UKC and CPE, and a Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She has shown and titled dogs in UKC obedience, UKC agility, NADAC agility, USDAA agility, CPE agility, obedience, rally, conformation and nose work. Her dog Jodi was the first border terrier to be titled in AKC agility, and her beagles Miller and Pete currently compete in nose work, agility and conformation.
Carolyn loves to make learning fun and motivating for dogs and handlers. Her enthusiasm for dog sports is contagious, and many of her students have successfully competed in agility and nose work, but she is equally happy teaching students who simply enjoy taking classes with their dogs.
Holly O’Brien has seven years of experience working with clients and their dogs. Holly believes everyone has their idea of the “perfect dog,” and she loves helping clients to get their perfect dog with her gentle and effective training methods.
Holly is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), a Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild. She attends professional education seminars regularly to stay current on dog training and behavior so she can help her students achieve their goals. Holly is particularly interested in working with dogs with reactivity and other behavior issues, and is the lead instructor for our Reactive Rover class. When she isn’t training dogs, Holly enjoys spending time with her husband, their little girl, and their dogs Lucy and Rosalind.
Becki Vander Weele
Becki Vander Weele’s dog training career began when she was 12 years old and started showing dogs in 4-H. To this day, competitive obedience is her favorite dog sport, and she also trains her dogs in nose work, conformation, rally, and bikejoring.
Becki brings her lifelong passion for dogs and training to her Dog Sports Skills classes, and continually seeks out new and creative training ideas to share with her students. Outside of the training classroom, Becki has been a professional pet groomer for 21 years. She shares her life with her golden retriever Darby and her beagle Bria.