FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For 75 years, the Fort Wayne Obedience Training Club (FWOTC) has brought people and their dogs closer together through training, education, and fun. The club has also created a family-like atmosphere for the dog owners who spend time at the training facility at the Allen County Fairgrounds.

All dogs are welcome at FWOTC

“Obedience teaches dogs that they have limits, they have to respect other people and other dogs,” said FWOTC President Steve Wheeler, who says obedience helps dogs become good family and community members.

Along with obedience training, the club offers classes in agility, scent work, rally, and tricks. Owners also have the opportunity to enter their dogs in competitions. The main mission of the Fort Wayne Obedience Training Club is to promote responsible dog ownership.

Wheeler, who has been the club’s president for 5 years and a member since 2000, says another important part of the club is for both humans and canines to have fun.

“That’s what it’s all about, to be able to get people in here to enjoy it, enjoy their dogs,” he said.

The club’s first classes were held in 1946 by a man named Custer Dunifon. He was a former Fort Wayne police officer who headed up the K9 unit.

“He would actually take the dogs to the schools and do demonstrations and show what they’re capable of,” said Wheeler. “Every once in a while you’ll get a student in here and they’ll say ‘oh I remember.’”

All dogs are welcome at the club, no matter their size or breed. Currently, membership is between 250 and 280, and Steve Wheeler credits the club’s many volunteers with helping it run like a well-oiled machine.

Bonnie Kellams is one of the club’s longest members. She remembers when Custer Dunifon would tour the schools with his dogs and highlight the sport of obedience.

FWOTC member Bonnie Kellams, and FWOTC President Steve Wheeler

“I thought that would be fun, be nice,” she said.

At the time she didn’t own a dog, but Dunifon’s demonstrations was all the motivation she needed. Soon after that she got her first dog, a Shetland Sheepdog, and she officially joined the club in October of 1973.

“You just got to keep moving and working the dogs, and so forth, and it’s just a lot of fun and what you can do with a dog,” said Kellams.

Kellams worked for International Harvester and eventually went to Springfield, Ohio to work for a few years, but any time she was home she made her way to the club. Nearly 50 years after she first joined, she still goes to the club at least twice a week with her dogs, including her Mini Aussie, Racer, who is currently in obedience training.

“It’s just a big family. And we’re all pretty close here, it’s great,” said Kellams. “You meet a lot of friends and you stay friends….bring people together, you learn their names and it just keeps building.”

Steve Wheeler says that’s the kind of fun and camaraderie he loves to see.

“I was told we’re becoming a social club, and I’m thankful that it is, because that’s what a club is about,” he said.

The Fort Wayne Wayne Obedience Training club held a 75th anniversary celebration Friday, March 25, at the Orchid in New Haven. Members were treated to dinner, music, and club memorabilia was on display for people to check out.

FWOTC is celebrating 75 years

To learn more about FWTOC and what classes it offers, click HERE.