So after retiring as a K-9 handler in 2006 with my Partner Lance, I thought I would never be able to replace him when he had to be put down on my granddaughter’s birthday in 2011. On the second anniversary of Lance’s death, I got the “itch” to have another German Shepherd. In October of 2013 I started looking for dogs and as I searched the Internet, I came across the VA German Shepherd Rescue Site and saw a stunning “Black and Tan” that was in need of a home. After several calls we were finally able to meet “Niko” on a Saturday afternoon and fell in love with him instantly. Several people had met Niko but due to his insecurities he came across as being a little aggressive. My wife and I saw through this and welcomed him into our home. Thirteen years as a Patrol Dog Handler did not prepare me for the issues of socializing our newest family member. As a Patrol Dog Handler I did not want my dog to be social, just obedient. Niko’s obedience was second to none; he just did not know how to welcome people when they visited our home.

While surfing Facebook several weeks ago I came across a post from a friend and former co-worker that was starting his own dog training services, “Breakthrough K-9 Training.” Knowing Lenny’s passion for dogs and his work ethic, I had no reservations about reaching out to him to assistance with Niko’s welcoming skills. Lenny made a home visit the day after I reached out to him and after meeting Niko performed an exercise with him called “Place.”  This is where with one word; you are commanding your dog to go to a designated spot, and to stay there until you release him. This one exercise has made the difference between Niko being social or having to put him up when people visit. My wife and I use place when we need a moment in the house and do not want him under our feet, when eating or when people come to visit. When Niko is in “place” he knows that he is to stay where he is, which gives him time to absorb his new visitors to where he will then greet them as he should. I use place when we are outside and a car drives up, when family members come over and when the pizza guy is delivering dinner. I was amazed at how quickly Niko took to this and I can actually see it in his eyes how it takes the stress and guess work from him to know where his “place” is in the family pack. Lenny made a follow-up home visit to work with my wife using place and also to help her walk Niko. This has truly made a difference in our home. I am a firm believer that most if not all issues with dogs are handler error. I am also proof that you can teach an “Old Dog/K-9 handler” new tricks.

I know I will be reaching out to Lenny and Stephanie in the future and am excited to watch “Breakthrough K-9 Training” change other people’s lives by making their family pack stronger. Thanks Lenny and Stephanie…..Niko says hi and to come see him.

Eric and Mary VonCanon

“I planned on writing sooner but this keyboard took some time to figure out. After your visit last week I decided that I had better get this done. Speak of which, it was fun to see you again.
Anyway, I want to tell you how much I appreciate everything that you have taught me. While I had some anxiety when I heard that I was going to, as my folks called it, boot-camp, I enjoyed the experience. You have a wonderful home and allowed all of us four-legged critters to live inside. You made me feel welcome, really part of the family.
You both know, as I do, that my family really loves me and that I feel the same about them. The big problem was that I simply didn’t know how to show it. You all taught me that biting at them when they were putting on the leash was not acceptable behavior. And once on the leash, there was nothing to be gained by biting at it and spinning around in circles. We now enjoy going for walks with the leash. You also showed me the importance of coming when I am called and the happiness that results when I don’t ignore them, decide to do something different or worst of all, run off. Maybe once a day I still get focused on something and don’t come when they first call, they hit the button on that little yellow disc and I come immediately…I am trying very hard.
I will keep you updated on my progress, but at this point everyone is very pleased with what you all have taught me. Never having had any, I don’t know what money is. All I know is that Dad was telling a friend that my training was some of the best money he ever spent. Thank you for everything that you have done to help me become the kind of dog that I so badly want to be.
Your friend, Roux “The Plain Brown Hound”
p.s. Before I went to Breakthrough K9 Training I had been listed with a Catahoula Rescue…someone called about me just the other day…Dad told them “thank you, so much…but Roux is no longer available” and had me removed from the list.
Thank you Stephanie and Lenny, you really saved me!”

– Roux The Catahoula, Gary Green & Gay Wilson

I cannot say enough wonderful things about my (and my dogs’) experience with Breakthrough K9 Training. First of all – my 2 GSDs now have many more “manners” than I ever thought possible. I now know what to do, know how to lead them and know just how much more “intelligent” an e-collar can make them! Unknowingly…I got trained as much if not more than my dogs. And finally, you simply cannot find another two people that so sincerely and graciously want nothing more than to help your dog and you live together in the best way possible!

– Rachel Rosenblum

You want the best for you and your dogs… Look no further than the dynamic duo of Breakthrough K9. There are other trainers close… But I promise you will be disappointed and end up going back to Breakthrough! Thank you Steph and Lenny for transforming lives.

– Curtis and Meredith Craig

Our Brittany, Dulcie, is a very high-energy dog, and she’s easily distracted. Her basic obedience was pretty good ONLY when she was in completely familiar, calm surroundings. When anything changed, we had visitors or took Dulcie out in public, she would forget her manners completely and react to everything. She’d bark and lunge toward people and other dogs. It wasn’t aggressive barking, just excited—but it was difficult to have visitors in our house. Taking her out in public was no fun because we couldn’t get her to obey. Dulcie would lunge at a some of the neighborhood dogs and provoke them—one of those situations that could cause a dog fight or angry neighbors.

Lenny and Stephanie worked wonders with her. The best example of that: we had our air conditioning worked on right after Dulcie came back home. For one entire day, five different workers were in the house, carrying tools and ductwork, coming and going. Dulcie maintained her PLACE command for long periods of time, lying on her dog bed, staying calm and relaxed with lots of exciting strangers in the house and loud banging noises going on!

Why Choose Breakthrough K9 Training?

  • Stephanie and Lenny listened carefully to our comments, evaluated our dog’s problems, and discussed how they would improve her behavior.
  • Individual training plan. Each dog gets exercises and situations designed to help that animal’s specific problems, and each dog gets lots of individual work with Stephanie and Lenny.
  • Frequent and fun status updates on Facebook. It was great to see how our girl was doing.
  • Home setting, not a kennel. The family situations were much kinder to our dog than being in a run or kennel—and gave her more realistic training.
  • Detailed final session. We had a thorough review of the commands and techniques used, and we got to try them out, with Stephanie and Lenny training us!

Pat & Gary Ryther

Just a quick update on Tugboat. His transformation has been nothing short of remarkable. Before we dropped him off with you, he paid absolutely no attention to commands from anyone. He ran off at the first opportunity, and came back only when he was tired. He was a terrible puller on the leash onwalks and runs. His stubbornness was legendary. Now, he listens all the time. He actually seems to wait for commands, and really wants to listen and please us. He is awesome on walks and runs. He has already lost several pounds because my wife and I run him almost every day.

He’s not perfect, but I reinforce his training every day, and he keeps getting better. Thank you!

– The Adams’

We chose Breakthrough K-9 Training for our 2 pitbulls soon after we rescued Blu. We had Remi for 10 months prior to getting Blu and Remi became a bully towards him. They fought over toys, bones, food, and attention from us. 90% of the time Remi started the fights but after a while Blu started having these behaviors. On several occasions there was blood drawn and marks left on each other. These bad behaviors were also on top of all the normal 10 and 14-month-old puppy habits like jumping on everyone, charging the door when the doorbell was rung, eating our shoes, not listening to us at all and running through the house like the untrained crazy puppies they were.

We dropped both Remi and Blu for the 2 week immersion training together. After the 2 weeks when we picked them up they were different dogs. They still have the same personalities but now, they were trained and listen to us. They have been back with us for 1 month now and have not had a single fight!! They are much more confident and happy having a structured role in our family. They even cuddle and sleep together now.

Remi and Blu’s results have been amazing and they continue to learn as we keep up their training. This has turned out to be an awesome investment for our puppies and worth every minute away from us.


Thank you,

Heather, Patrick, Remi and Blu

Simply put, Lenny and Stephanie took us from a place where we “owned” a dog we couldn’t enjoy to a place where we have an amazing family pet. Bumblebee is our now nearly three year old yellow lab. We got him as a puppy and had no idea how to discipline him. He was completely out of control. He jumped on people, he chewed everything in sight, I couldn’t walk him on a leash, and he was a terrible runner.

Breakthrough K9 gave us the reset that we needed. In two VERY SHORT weeks, Lenny helped Bumblebee understand who was actually running the show in a way that we never knew how to do, and then he gave us the tools to continue the “Education of Bumblebee”. Lenny (and Stephanie’s) commitment is HUGE. When I was struggling with an issue at home, Lenny talked me through it repeatedly over the phone. That solved the problem, but Lenny was more than willing to come to Charlotte (4.5 hours away) to work with us for no charge. Lenny believes in the product that he provides and STANDS BY IT. I am so grateful to Breakthrough K9 and regularly text Lenny pictures of us with Bumblebee.

And that’s what’s saddest. I don’t have any pictures from Bumblebee’s first two years of life, because he was so out of control and had so many puppy behaviors that we truly could not enjoy his company inside. I will forever be grateful to Lenny for giving us the gift of an amazing FAMILY PET. If you have any questions before you sign up with Breakthrough K9, please feel free to call me at 804.263.4413. I cannot express how much Breakthrough K9 has changed our life as a family.

-The Martins & The Bee

I have a 3 year old Beagle who I rescued from the shelter. He was returned 3 times previously for a variety of different reasons. When I first got Cooper he had a lot of anxiety, had destructive behavior, and would not listen when we went on walks. I took him to Breakthrough K9 Training and Lenny and Stephanie really changed mine and Cooper’s life. Lenny and Stephanie not only taught Cooper good behavior and listening skills, they also taught me how to be the “Leader of my own pack.” At the end of 2 weeks, Cooper came home with a ton of self confidence, he had great listening skills, was able to relax in his crate, and now when we go on nature hikes I can let Cooper off leash because of his recall skills. Overall, Cooper is a happier confident dog. I would definitely recommend K9 Training! 5+ stars!!!

– Janine Swanson

Lenny and Stephanie are absolutely wonderful. We took our rescue pittie Echo to them after he and my other dog started attacking each other. Echo was also a horrible resource guarder, strange dog reactive, and I couldn’t walk him on a leash. Lenny had Echo walking calmly on a leash within 1 hour of dropping Echo off. After 2 weeks, Echo was the dog we always knew he could be. He and my other dog have not had a single negative encounter in the 7 months since training. The vet constantly tells me how well behaved he is. And he has even stopped chasing my cats!!!! I would recommend BTK9 to anyone who wants a well behaved and respectful dog…..as long as you are willing to do the followup with your dog. It’s not a miracle, it is hard work, and worth every minute and dollar.

– Erika Steed


Over the last ten years, Stephanie has played a reassuring, supportive role in helping our family enjoy three different challenging dogs. She has been there to share in our pet joys, guide us through difficult decisions, and offer her experience and expertise when we weren’t sure what to do. We have deeply loved each of our dogs; Stephanie has helped us when love wasn’t enough.

-The Linton Family

Breakthrough K9 Training made a world of difference in the mannerisms of our dog Jaxon…it was a positive experience that we would recommend to anyone. The Zannin’s were very dedicated…Lenny and Stephanie provided daily updates on Jaxon’s progress… they even conducted a follow up home visit to give additional guidance to our family. Thank you Breakthrough K9 Training!

– The Motley Family

When we were first introduced, you were rescuing Rotties and training them for foster homes to be placed in forever homes. I was amazed at your patience, skill and love that you showed these abused dogs, not knowing what their lives were like before you and the rescue came along.

That’s when your passion rubbed off on Doc and I. We had two amazing Rotties, Baxter and Bella, and wanted to join in on the fostering. You and Lenny taught us how to work with specific issues with each foster and we learned so much, and actually gave a forever home to Emilio. When all of our beloved animals were gone, Doc and I decided to raise a puppy, Fritz. Oh boy was this an eye opener! Of course we all know how stubborn Rotties are and this puppy was definitely no exception, so we called the two people we know that could give us advice. You and Lenny!

You were as warm and welcoming as ever and told me about your new business, Breakthrough K9 Training (BTK9T)! I knew this was a dream of yours and was so excited it was now reality! You have been blessed with a talent and God has blessed you with your dream!

Fritz was a very mouthy puppy and didn’t listen to commands, except when he wanted to. We sent Fritz to you and Lenny for two weeks of in home training and while watching his progress on FB the entire time (I was in Florida and Doc at home) we were able to see his attitude and obedience change as if we were there. When it was time to pick Fritz up we brought our neighbors and friend with us. We live in a court where all of our animals play together, and our neighbors wanted to part of his training so it would be consistent at our house and theirs. You were great and welcomed and trained all of us in a 2 hour session on the do’s and don’ts with the commands!

Fritz was doing great but “WE” needed a little retraining because he was still being mouthy. Next thing I knew, Lenny was here at our home working with us! That’s dedication and just something you don’t expect anymore, house visits!!! Fritz is coming along and still has his moments but the second home visit, you reintroduced us to the e-collar. WOW!!!! I really thought that I would be able to train Fritz on just the prong collar, but of course he is stubborn! By using the prong collar simultaneously with the e-collar I’m BACK IN CHARGE!!!! Thank you!!!

The training that you and Lenny received has proven effective on all of the dogs that I have watched you train on FB, not just my own. Both Doc and I praise your work to all of our friends and family! We both wish you the best, knowing that BTK9T will flourish because of your love and dedication that you have for all animals!!

Christine & Allan “Doc” Valdez

My dog Benjamin just returned from a 2 week stay with Stephanie and Lenny and I am thrilled. He no longer pulls on his leash; his barking for no reason is much less!! He is now my companion, and not just my dog. Thanks Lenny and Stephanie.

– Mary Harrison

I am thrilled with all of Wish the deaf Great Danes progress. We don’t have to crate any more, which is huge!! No counter surfing and she loves her “place” beds. Lenny and Stephanie really care about all the animals that walk through their doors. They are just the best!!!

– Lilly & Mike Tredwell

Our dog “Griffin” is a 2 1/2 year old Golden Retriever who was having some behavioral issues such as not coming when called, pulling hard on the leash when going for a walk, and overly excited with greeting visitors. We heard about Breakthrough K9, and called to discuss their training techniques. After speaking with Breakthrough K9, we set the two week training camp for Griffin. We were able to watch his progress on the Breakthrough K9 Facebook page, and were amazed at how quickly he developed his confidence! It was obvious from our first visit that Breakthrough K9 deeply cares about training dogs, and it shows with the results. When we picked up Griffin after two weeks, we spent a couple of hours learning the system, and the commands so that we could continue the training process. Yes, we were also trained too! Griffin is doing great as we continue to work with him every day, and the continued support we receive from Breakthrough K9 is invaluable. I can honestly say that taking Griffin to Breakthrough K9 for training is the best thing we have done for him, and for us. The difference in his demeanor and confidence is like day and night. We cannot thank you enough for the training, and caring for our family member!

– Mike & Jennifer Murray

Hi Stephanie!
Sorry for the delayed reply, this past week has been busy. Walter is doing so great! He pushes his boundaries sometimes, but in the end he listens well and is a completely different dog obedience wise. We’ve gotten used to the E and prong collars and have gotten into a nice solid practice/walk routine with him at home, and have made sure that he earns all his privileges now. I’ve gotta say, it’s so nice to be able to take him places again! So far I’ve taken him to the local park a couple times and Petco once. Everywhere he’s gone he’s stayed focused and listened well, and totally kept his cool through meeting other dogs/people/things that would’ve triggered the old Walter into a barking/growling/lunging frenzy. I’m planning on taking him to work with me on Wednesday, as I work in a dog-friendly office and he’s been doing so well with his commands, his place command especially! Overall Walter has become a 100% more manageable and obedient dog, and I can’t thank you and Lenny enough for laying down all those training foundations so well. He took everything he learned from you right home with him and it’s such a relief to not have to worry so much about all the behavioral problems he had before. I’m definitely going to keep working with him every day and I’ll keep sending the occasional update if you’d like. Again, thank you so much! You guys do such great work!

-Caroline Kellis

With a special needs Mother with dementia plus more, the last thing we needed to unexpectedly acquire was a new puppy! We could not risk Mom falling nor the round the clock caretakers tripping with a vivacious dog underfoot. It was a one shot deal with only two weeks of boarding and training to see if by a long shot the action of PLACE could be permanently instilled in such a young dog? Stephanie and Lenny did not promise Lassie but upon Sheldons return it was pretty darn close. With just a few weeks of reinforcement after he came home the whole deal was a HOME Run! Sheldon, just 6 months old today has become so much more then we even hoped for. He is a round the clock service dog for my Mom and goes everywhere by her side every day! Thanks Stephanie and Lenny for a true gift and a dream come true !!

– Carol,Mark and Momma

When my girlfriend and I first adopted our five year old beagle/shiba inu mix Gavin we thought we had found the perfect dog and companion for our five year old female beagle. We quickly realized there were some behavior issues that needed to be corrected. He would lash out at other dogs while on his walk or when company came over, and redirected his aggression on both myself and my girlfriend biting each of us a couple of times. The last straw came when he lunged at a neighbor who was trying to say hello to him. We came to the conclusion that if we wanted to keep Gavin that we HAD to get him properly trained or we would have to give him back to the shelter, the second time this would happen after his original owner of four years had given him up only two months prior.

We did quite a bit of research on board and trainers as well as in home trainers. I luckily stumbled across Lenny and Stephanie’s website Breakthrough K9 and immediately reached out to them. Lenny walked me through their process; he explained we would have to peel back five years of bad habits and reactionary behavior from Gavin and that the three week training was just the foundation that we would continue to build upon to build up Gavin’s confidence moving forward. He also stated that only after me and my girlfriend agreed to this training and understood the commitment would he accept our request to board and train.

After our discussion, we quickly realized that this was the best and only option for us. We hurridly paid our deposit and made our reservation for Gavin’s three weeks at Breakthrough K9. While Gavin was there we were able to track his progress through social media outlets like Facbeook and Instagram. Upon picking him up we were blown away by progress Gavin had made. He was no longer reactionary, he listened to our commands, it was if he was a new dog. Lenny was sure to remind us that this was the first step in his training and that we would need to continue to reinforce it after he returned home.

Well, Gavin has been home for almost five months now and I can tell you that without Breakthrough K9 he would almost certainly have been back in a shelter or worse. Yes he has tested us and tried to see what he can get away with. However, by using the tools Breakthrough K9 gave us, we have been able to work through his minor set backs to establish that we are in charge. We continue to work with him on daily basis, going through his place work and other commands Lenny & Stephanie walked us through at pick up; we are able to take him and our beagle visit friends and family and once again have company over without worry that Gavin will lash out. He has become a true member of our family; something that would not have been possible without Breakthrough K9’s help.

Thank you so much for giving us the tools to show us the well behaved and obedient dog Gavin is today. We have attached a photo of Gavin his nightly place work.

– Aaron Sparks & Madison Miller

When Buddy came into our lives he was lost, underweight and terrified. Our goal was to rescue and nurse him back to health while searching for a loving home. But he slowly stole our hearts. We never thought a dog was in our future, with 4 kids, 3 of which are special needs, it would be a stretch. But he was a tremendous help to our autistic 4yr old and became a permanent addition to our family as well as our hearts. But when his fear of everything turned to resource guarding and fear aggression toward people, we knew we had to act! We made the commitment to do what was best for Buddy. I researched for days, and tried many training methods before turning to Breakthrough k9. I was not getting through to him! Before Breakthrough k9 our life revolved around the question “what will Buddy react to?”, it was a constant state of anxiety and chaos! Breakthrough K9 not only gave Buddy the breakthrough he needed to be our calm family dog, but they gave our family peace and happiness. They not only train the dog, they train the owners too! They gave us our lives back:) Thank you again we love our Buddy man:)
– Allison Clance

Simply put: BTK9 is a life-saver. When our family made the decision to get a Boxer puppy, we knew we would need some help in the dog training department. After seeing the rave reviews for BTK9, watching their wonderful videos, and talking over the phone with Lenny about BTK9 services, we were completely sold and signed Winston up for a two week board and train program.

Before going to BTK9, Winston was your typical five month old boxer pup that was super hyper and needed guidance on how to be a more confident, socialized and well-behaved dog.

The BTK9 two week board and train program completely paid off for us by transforming Winston into to the best dog we have ever had. Winston is now nine months old and every time we take him out people are constantly impressed at how much he can do! He can walk perfectly on-leash (no pulling), he doesn’t jump up (this is a big deal for a boxer), plays well with other dogs, and knows the commands to sit, down, come, place, and stay.

I can’t stress enough how much the “place” command has changed our life. Winston’s duration in place is now up to 2.5/3 hours. We can be having a party and Winston will just chill in place on his cot. We can go to soccer games and Winston will laid down in place for the whole game. It’s amazing!

BTK9 training methods work wonders and are VERY effective when you can put in the time and effort to consistently implement them. Training a young puppy is not easy, but BTK9 gives you all of the tools you need to help your dog become a happy, confident, socialized and well-behaved addition to the family!

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering about the BTK9 boarding services….those are awesome too! Since Winston trained with BTK9, he got to go back and spend Christmas with BTK9 family and he loved every minute of it. 🙂

We can’t thank Lenny and Stephanie enough for all they have done for us!

– Alison Dye

If you are ready to achieve your breakthrough, please fill out our contact page form by clicking below.

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Breakthrough K9 Training proudly serves clients in the Central Virginia and Tri-Cities area.