1. Deborah Lankford, CPDT-KA, ABCDT

DeborahRetired after forty years of teaching high school English students, Deborah now has time to do what she has always wanted to do: teach dog owners how to build a great relationship with their pets! Two Lankford dogs (Bonnie, her late Australian Shepherd, and Einstein, her son’s late Pembroke Welsh Corgi) competed at the Masters and Excellent levels in AKC agility trials, while her husband’s Papillon, Stella, competed in the Novice level. Bonnie also earned her CDX Obedience title, as well as the prestigious Rally Advanced Excellent title. Stella, following in her her pawprints, has earned both her Novice and Advanced Rally titles and a Therapy Dogs International certification.  All of the Lankford dogs were taught numerous tricks, which they learned through clicker-training, but Bonnie was the “trickiest.” With a repertoire of over 40 behaviors, Bonnie won all 6 trick contests she entered and performed the “A Day in the Life of Bonnie, the Amazing Shelter Dog” stage show for several years at the Virginia Beach Pet Expo. Bonnie also performed her tricks one-on-one during weekly visits to hospitals and nursing homes as a certified TDI therapy dog. One of her last performance activities was as a member of  the Playful Pups Drill Team, which entertained with intricate routines put to music.

A graduate of the Animal Behavior College, Deborah is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), a Certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, and a member of both the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild.  Aware of the continuously evolving field of the study of dogs and how they learn, she attends clinics and seminars all over the country, learning from dog experts such as Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson, Ken Ramirez, Susan Garrett, and Kathy Sdao. She is a firm advocate of the positive reinforcement approach espoused by these experts and has had outstanding success in applying the wide variety of dog-friendly techniques she has learned.

Of all the current dog-training gurus, however, Deborah has been most influenced by Karen Pryor, Suzanne Clothier, Ian Dunbar, and Pat Miller. She attended Karen Pryor’s three-day “Clicker Expo” conferences in 2009, 2011, 2014, and 2018 and also attended Terry Ryan’s five-day Chicken Clicker Camp in 2014. (Yes, chickens!) Since attending a Pet Professional Guild conference in Florida, she’s become part of the international movement to ban shock collars, in support of the “No Pain, No Force, No Fear” commitment made by current dog trainers.  Other on-going training sessions she has attended  include multiple 2 to 4 day seminars given by Ian Dunbar,  Suzanne Clothier, Sue Sternberg, and Pat Miller.  She has attended numerous conventions hosted annually by the Association of Professional  Dog Trainers.  But she finds she learns the most from the dogs she works with, as she applies the techniques and theories she has studied. They let her know “what works”; and as her students hear her say all the time, “Dogs do what works!” And so does Deborah.

She considers education an ongoing process, and so she expects to stay abreast of the current “revolution” in dog training techniques, a revolution which is proving that non-aversive training works best. But most of all, she wants to help owners and dogs discover all the wonderful things they can do together!

Your gentle guidance, encouragement, and practical teachings along with your light-hearted demeanor and positive approach when teaching the handler as well as when handling the dog is what has made a difference in my approach to working with Reno. Also, you have taught me how important the relationship is and team building. It has been quite a journey with this little Reddog and I have you to thank for our successes!!-“-Kelly


John Meravy

In 2015,  John Meravy retired from his position as Metrology Production Branch Head at Mid Atlantic Regional Calibration Center ( MARCC), part of Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Showing amazing adaptability, he moved from supervising hundreds of employees at the Navy’s largest calibration laboratory, to being a part of a two-person dog-training business!  Specifically, John works closely with the puppies that enter the Puppy Manners & Social Skills program. He keeps their records, prepares them for STAR puppy certifications, and sends owners constant updates on each of the sessions.

Mostly, however, he is the Chief Puppy Wrangler during the Puppy Manners classes, making sure that all puppy play stays safe and that owners follow through with the instructions given in class.  Fundamental to this process is John’s amazing ability to coach the puppy parents, while demonstrating to them how to interact with their new puppies.  Because modern dog training is so different from the traditional “I’m the Alpha!” method, it takes someone with John’s gentle and cordial personality to help dog owners convert to this new, more effective way of teaching puppies.

John lives with his wife, Cindy, and their rat terrier, Willow.  She is the first of their rat terriers that has been clicker-trained, and she is the poster-child for this positive-reinforcement method. Although still a puppy, Willow is the perfect demo dog for almost all the behaviors we teach at Playful Pups!  John’s success with Willow has made him a firm believer and expert practitioner in positive-reinforcement training.  He was an avid student when he started with Playful Pups, and he now is a proficient and committed teacher of this powerful method of training.


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