About The Cloud Nine Dog Training Team

Learn to train your dog from some of the best instructors in the business. 


Dawn Falk

Owner, Lead Dog Training Instructor


Hello! I’m Dawn Falk, a self-proclaimed dog-loving dog-a-holic and owner of Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs. I have been living with, raising, training, showing, breeding and rehabbing dogs for nearly 30 years, and I’ve spent much of that time helping other people learn how to do the same. Currently I share my home and my life with two German Shepherds, two Border Collies, two Sheltie, several English Toy Spaniels and a handful of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Did I mention that I really LOVE dogs?

  • The first dogs I had as an adult were Shelties: Ginger and Sophie. Not only did I have a blast training them, but I earned several AKC performance titles with them, learned a lot from them, and got a solid introduction to the world of animal training with them.

    Ready for more of a challenge, I adopted a black lab mix from the shelter who had a few behavior problems. With a positive approach to training and some gentle behavior modification techniques, Axle eventually became a highly skilled service demo dog for both Helping Paws and Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota, and he spurred me to try a toy dog next: a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

    CH Be Bop A Lula, CD, affectionately known as Piper, turned me into a devoted Cavalier person, and she taught me that training a small dog is, indeed, a lot of work – more than I ever expected. With tons of patience, many treat rewards, and lots of determination, I passed the Canine Good Citizen certification with Piper, completed her AKC breed championship, and even earned an AKC Companion Dog title with her.

    Piper motivated me to expand my training knowledge and skills even further, and I traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to study operant conditioning with Bob and Marian Bailey. I invested more than 200 hours in the Bailey and Bailey workshops, where chickens served as the behavioral models, and came away with a graduate level understanding of the principles of operant conditioning that is somewhat unique to the trainers in the Twin Cities area. Once I successfully shaped the behavior of a chicken to weave, walk through a tunnel and climb a ramp, I felt ready for my what was to be my greatest training challenge yet: an English Toy Spaniel.

    The English Toy Spaniel is the most difficult breed I’ve worked with so far. Small, intense, quirky, emotional, and almost cat-like, the English Toys I’ve owned and trained have really made me earn my reward-based training stripes. The result is that one of my dogs, Darla, is the only one of her breed ever to have earned the AKC’s Master Agility Champion title (three times) and to have qualified for both the AKC Agility Invitational (five times) and the AKC Agility Nationals (twice). To learn more about my RumRiver Toy Spaniels, both ETs and Cavaliers, check out www.rumrivertoyspaniels.com.

    And just when I thought I had reached my peak on challenging dogs to train, along came Dixon, the sheltie I adopted recently from MN Sheltie Rescue. It’s an understatement to say that Dixon has issues; and it’s even more of an understatement to say he is providing me with a whole new level of training and learning experiences. So as difficult as he is, I’m grateful that we found each other. My hope is that my rehab work and training with this little guy will allow him to become a competition agility dog one day. You can learn more about our journey together via his blog: Dixon’s Digest, The Diary Of A Rescued Sheltie. http://www.dixonsdigest.blogspot.com/

    On my way to Cloud Nine, I spent a dozen years training service, hearing, and therapy dogs for placement and certification; I served as Director of Training at Twin Cities Obedience Training Club in Minneapolis; I served as Program Director for Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota; I presented seminars on topics such as bite prevention and operant conditioning/clicker training; and I recently became a Canine Good Citizen evaluator for the American Kennel Club.

    In addition to all that I do with my own dogs, a great source of joy for me continues to be the hundreds of students who bring their dogs to classes each year at Cloud Nine. I am privileged to be able to work with, assist, and learn from each and every dog/handler team that comes through the door, and I hope I will get the chance to meet you and your puppy or dog in an upcoming class soon!


Sarah Palm

Therapy Dog Instructor, Canine Massage Therapist


Hi, I’m Sarah Palm, agility and obedience instructor – assistant – grunt at Cloud Nine. I’ve lived with and loved animals all my life but didn’t start serious training until my Dachshund, Clem, and I answered a friend’s challenge 10 years ago to give agility lessons at Cloud Nine a try. After the first night we were hooked, and Clem has gone on to earn master – excellent – elite agility titles from AKC, NADAC, and TDAA as well as being her breed’s record holder for the Clean Run Ultimate Weave Pole Challenge.

  • In October 2009, one month shy of her 12th birthday, Clem placed third at the TDAA Petit Prix. Thanks to Dawn, Clem’s obedience training blossomed from sits and rollovers to more advanced moves, allowing Clem to earn her Canine Good Citizen certificate and eventually her Rally Excellent title. The RE led to certification with Therapy Dogs International. Prior to retiring, Clem actively volunteered for Fairview Hospice and also at a local nursing home.

    In addition to Clem, I live with and train two other dogs – my Dachshund, Ruthie and my Sheltie, Nephew. Ruthie is an obedience junkie and has her Rally Advanced title, and she competes at the excellent / elite levels in AKC and TDAA agility. Ruthie also is a therapy dog registered with Delta Society. Given a choice, though, Ruthie would rather be out in the earthdog fields and woods tracking and hunting vermin. Ruthie is competing at the Master level in AKC earthdog and loves every minute of it.

    Nephew is still learning the ropes and started competing in agility and rally in 2010. He is competing at the open and excellent levels and has a reputation for being quite vocal about his love for the game. Nephew and I are training to become a certified Pet Partners team through the Delta Society.

    I also live with a cat who is clicker trained to sit as well as shove clothes down our laundry chute.

    I am a charter member and currently sit on the board of the Greater Twin Cities Earthdog Club and a member of Minnesota Agility Club and the Minnesota Dachshund Club.

    Outside of the training ring you can find me in the massage room working on dogs or producing commercial photography for national and international clients.

    I am always inspired by helping people and their dogs to learn new things. I think having respect for the dogs’ learning processes and a sense of humor goes a long way for having a successful human / canine relationship. I know those two things have made training my “non-traditional” breed easier for me.

Best Ways To Love Your Dog

Dawn Plekkenpol

Agility Instructor


Greetings! I’m agility instructor Dawn Plekkenpol at Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs. I’ve had the privilege to learn, share and celebrate while instructing group, private, and specialized topic lessons in the Twin Cities for the past five years. I try to have a versatile teaching style that is approachable and encourages each team to the reach their goals using positive methods. Agility classes should always be a fun and engaging learning environment for both the handler and their dog.

  • My love of training dogs began when I was eight years old. After observing obedience classes on the side-lines as my parents participated with their Golden Retrievers, I’d return home to train our elderly all-American family dog. By the time I was ten, I had my own Golden Retriever to train and was showing my brother’s Sheltie in the conformation ring.

    While participating in Jr. Showmanship, I became friends with the person that, after 20 years, a Sheltie and track-rescued Greyhound later, introduced me to the sport of dog agility. It took many years of her telling me how much fun I’d have to get me to attend a trial. She then convinced me, even though I was clueless, to run her Corgi at a competition and from there I was hooked; I knew agility was for me!

    Chica, my first Border Collie, became part of our family in 2005. After being attacked as a puppy, her confidence took a nose dive and she became fearful of other dogs. Together, Chica and I learned the game of agility and found ways to boost her confidence. Having earned her AKC Master Bronze Jumper 2, Master Silver Agility 2, Master Agility Champion 4, she has surpassed my expectations!

    Not long after we got Chica, our sassy Dachshund, Bungee, joined the family, and she quickly let me know she was not going to sit on the sidelines, watching the BC have all the fun. Bungee has achieved her Master Bronze Agility Jumper 2, Master Gold Agility, and Master Agility Champion 2 titles, and we celebrate these accomplishments. At her young age of eight, she earned the title of Top Dachshund at the 2014 AKC Agility Invitational. Have I mentioned that short, stubby legs are not the only thing that makes training a hound vastly different than training a herding dog?

    Pixel, also a Border Collie, came on board in 2012. She began competing in AKC last summer and although she is the same breed as Chica, she certainly is different! Her ground speed is amazing and sometimes her obsession of tunnels blinds her to other obstacles in the ring. She definitely keeps me moving, growing, and challenged.

    I love that agility is a continual progression! Attending seminars by world renowned presenters gives me insight and information about the latest handling skills we can aim to master on the agility course. Each dog I’ve personally trained and each team I’ve worked with has taught me so much. With every behavior issue, great or small, there is a learning opportunity waiting to be discovered. By their actions and reactions, our dogs are simply giving us information. When we take the time to observe, listen, and plan we can make the changes necessary to build a positive relationship while creating desired behaviors with our canine.  As long as there is a will, there is a way to learn and grow!

    When I’m not busy training my dogs, teaching agility or competing at trials, I enjoy family time with my husband, Dan, my children Eben and Kyra, and working as an Intervention P.S.A. at Shakpoee East Junior High. 


Ali Kuschel

Puppy, Obedience, Agility Instructor


Hi!  I’m Ali Kuschel and I teach puppy, agility, and obedience classes at Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs. I grew up with dogs and cats and various pocket pets, and I always knew I wanted to do something with animals as a career. It wasn’t until I got my first two dogs as an adult that I realized my work would involve dog training, teaching, performance competition, working with problem behavior in dogs.

  • My first dog, Gidget, helped me find Cloud 9 and fall in love with agility. My second dog, Gracie, got me to really educate myself on dog behavior and training. I not only have learned a lot, but I have discovered that what I have learned can help other people with their dogs.

    Both my dogs are mixed breeds. Gidget is most likely a Sheltie/Papillon mix and Gracie is a Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog mix. They are both mostly white with black spots. We adopted Gidget as an eight-week old puppy from Safe Hands Animal Rescue and Gracie as a seven-month old adolescent from Border Collie Rescue of MN. I have trained both dogs in obedience and agility and have earned various titles with them.  We mostly do AKC agility, where the girls run in the Master classes, but Gracie also has a couple of CPE titles and I have shown her at a USDAA trial. Gidget has her AKC and CDSP Companion Dog obedience titles, and Gracie has her CD in CDSP and a couple rally titles in WCRL. We have also dabbled in nose work and lure coursing.

    When we brought Gracie home I quickly discovered that she had some issues – the biggest being her reactivity to other dogs, but there were others as well. I wasn’t prepared for this. I sent Dawn and Gracie’s foster mom many emails asking for help. With their advice and lots of Cloud 9 classes, Gracie started to improve and become a pretty good family pet. That’s when I asked Dawn how I could work towards becoming a trainer so I could be in a position to help other owners with dogs like Gracie.

    I started apprenticing at Cloud 9, and I read everything I could get my hands on regarding dog training and behavior. When I applied what I learned to everyday life with Gracie, she started to improve even more and I’m both glad and proud to report that living with her became easier. Before long, Gracie was able to be around other dogs and start competing at trials. There will always be work to do with Gracie that involves management and planning ahead, but I will forever be grateful for the dog training path on which she started me.

    I attended the University of Minnesota where I earned my BS in biology and a minor in general management. After college I was a veterinary assistant for six years, where I gained experience working with all sorts of dogs and cats. I enjoyed making the scary experience of visiting the vet as pleasant as possible, and I learned how to better understand the pets and to help put them at ease. 

    My husband and I welcomed triplets to our family in April 2015. They are a joy and keep us busy! I can’t wait to share all I am learning about raising kids in a family with dogs. So far Gidget and Gracie do very well with them! My dog training blog: http://myagilityjourney.blogspot.com/



Ann Savage

Obedience Instructor


Hello. I am Ann Savage, and I teach upper-level obedience classes at Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs. I have taught both obedience and agility classes in the Twin Cities since 2009, and I have been involved with dogs for many years in a variety of ways. I currently have three dogs that I am training and competing with in agility and obedience. I really enjoy both of these dog sports, and I think they compliment each other.

  • On my own learning curve, I have been helped along the way by many people, but I got a lot of my foundation training in agility with Anne Braue, who is a USA agility world team member. I have also trained with the German clinician, Silas Boogk, when he has presented seminars in the states. I have learned from Silas that there are many ways to handle a course! My obedience education has been with people who emphasize positive training methods. I really enjoy the challenge of the obedience training and competition while at the same time keeping it fun for me and my dog.

    Bella is a seven year old Beagle Lab that I adopted from Pet Haven. She has a CD and a CDX title in obedience from ASCA, UKC and AKC and an AKC Utility Dog (UD) title. Bella also has Excellent titles in agility from ASCA, NADAC and AKC. Kaia is a three year old Cattle Dog mix that I also adopted from Pet Haven. I am working on her AKC agility titles, and she is very close to earning her MACH. Sammy is a five year old French Bulldog who enjoys agility. He is working on his AKC Excellent titles to add to his Open/Excellent titles in ASCA and NADAC. All of my dogs have earned AKC Canine Good Citizen awards as well.

    When my children were growing up we fostered two dogs for Canine Companions for Independence. This was a two-year commitment for each dog with lots of training along the way. Both dogs were placed with young people with disabilities. One of the more enjoyable aspects of training these dogs was being able to take them out and about in the community to work through the many distractions new environments present.

    I spent five years volunteering for Pet Haven, a non-profit rescue for dogs and cats here in the Twin Cities, as the intake coordinator for the dog division. I helped 500 dogs come into the program during this time and I adopted two of those dogs into my family. My duties included managing others on my intake team, connecting with owner surrenders and other rescues in the community, working with the clinics who vetted the dogs, and coordinating donated foster slots with local doggy day care centers. I really enjoyed the broad community aspect of my job and met many wonderful people while helping that “one dog at a time”.

    I love teaching agility and obedience classes. It’s fun and rewarding to see people develop great team work with their dogs, whether it is for a show career or for a well-rounded family pet.

    My husband and I live on a little hobby farm with a retired warmblood dressage horse and the three dogs. When I am not doing dog-related activities I enjoy traveling with my family, reading, hiking, biking, dancing, and working out. I like to spend time with my adult children, and I try to see them whenever possible or stay connected with them via online Scrabble games.


Leah Glynn

Agility and Tricks Instructor


Hello! My name is Leah Glynn, and though I am new to the Cloud Nine instructing team, I am not new to training dogs and teaching others how to train their dogs. My favorite topics to instruct are agility and tricks.

  • I have been training and competing in agility since 2004, and I started teaching all levels of agility – puppies through advanced – in 2006 at Dog Works in Eden Prairie. My first Sheltie, Bailey, earned seven championship titles and is just now retiring from competition. I am currently working and competing with my young Sheltie, Xander, in AKC, ASCA and USDAA events, and he’s proving to be a wonderful teammate.

    I introduced Xander to tricks the moment I brought him home and, to date, he has earned four tricks titles. Xander is most happy to demonstrate his repertoire of tricks in the classes I teach, and it won’t be long before he is an official Trick Dog Champion. In September 2015, I became a Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI), and I’m looking forward to offering all levels of tricks classes at Cloud Nine as well as certifying dogs for titles.

    By day, I am an accountant at a manufacturing plant in Eden Prairie; I have two grown children, and I enjoy sharing my love of agility with my daughter, who is training her Sheltie in the sport.


Cloud Nine Dog Training
History & Philosophy

After more than 20 years of working with my own dogs, teaching obedience classes for another school, training assistance dog, attending seminars all over the country, and learning everything I could about canine training and behavior to that point, I decided it was time to start my own school.

My goal was to have a place where positive, motivating techniques and methods were the norm; where pinch/prong, and chain link/choke collars were unheard of; where force, pain, and punishment were not options; where people would enjoy bringing their dogs and where dogs would enjoy going.

The Result?

Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs!

  • Potty Time at New Hope
    We have generous grassy areas at both schools to exercise dogs. Clean up is a must, of course.
  • Sarah, Nicky, Kristin Massage
    Sarah Palm, canine massage therapist, helps dogs feel better.
  • Store
    We have tasty, high value treats available for purchase.
  • Minnetonka Training Ring
    The training ring at our Minnetonka school is bright and spacious.
  • AB1_2373
    The result of our “good calm doggy” exercise: a good, calm dog!
  • Training Ring at New Hope
    There is plenty of room to learn in our New Hope training room.
  • IMG_3292
    Our Minnetonka school is in the Encore business area.

Cloud Nine opened in the spring of 2000 in a small, single room, studio-like warehouse in downtown Hopkins.

Owner and head trainer: Dawn Falk; silent partner and marketing expert: Gerry Schmitt. We started with a few evening obedience classes and doggy daycare – the only one in the western suburbs at that time, in fact. Gerry’s efforts at getting the word out to surrounding veterinary clinics along with her marketing strategies allowed us to grow steadily until we had a full selection of evening obedience classes, some weekend offerings, and enough students to fill them!

As our excellent reputation spread (check out our awesome testimonials!), and our client base grew, doggy day care gave way to daytime classes, and our schedule gradually expanded to include puppy socialization classes, agility classes, Rally-O classes, therapy dog classes, private lessons/problem behavior consultations, reactive dog classes, and small dog play groups. We even added a tricks class and took a stab at having a canine drill team! More classes meant adding training staff, and in the last few years Sarah Palm and Ali Kuschel, both having started out as Cloud Nine students, become Cloud Nine instructors, along with Ann Savage, Khamsin Geidd, Luann Tillman, Kelly Dittmar, Cyndi Olson, Jeff McMahon, Julie Humiston and Dawn Plekkenpol.

Though we were happy in our cozy little air-conditioned, one door, one-bathroom training studio for many years, our growing agility program, with students who now compete at the national level, dictated that we find a bigger place. Three commercial realtors and as many years later, we finally found a suitable building – still in Hopkins – with three doors, four bathrooms, and a dedicated training ring that was as big as the entire old studio.

We expanded our training facility and added more class and activities!

A couple of years after moving into our new Hopkins space, we expanded north to a spacious 7,100 sf temperature controlled facility in New Hope that’s ideal for all the things we like to do with our dogs.

In addition to our signature Doggy Gym activity, beginner Tracking Classes, Obedience Classes, and Agility Classes, we added ”open” obedience and agility training times to our schedule.

We also began hosting Canine Seminars by internationally known experts such Daisy Peel, Hannah Branigan, and Suzanne Clothier so we could learn more about agility, obedience, the human-animal bond; we created Micro Classes, which are hour-long lessons that focus on specific topics to help people with problem behaviors such as with jumping or barking or pulling on the leash; and we added a Reactive Dog class, where people can get help learning to deal with their “edgy” dogs.

We added Conformation Handling Classes for those who want to show their dogs in the breed ring and advanced Obedience Classes for people who want to work on open and utility-level exercises with their dogs.

We expanded our Therapy Dog Program to include Team Training and Review and the Pet Partners workshop for people who are preparing for certification, and we periodically offer a Canine Emergency First Aid seminar presented by Dr. Jeanne Sutich.

In 2013, we started hosting Teacup agility (TDAA) serial (once a month) and full weekend Agility Trials, we added Teacup Open training times to our schedule hosted by Dennis and Kim Vogel, and our K9 Nose Work classes taught by Yas Bakshian took off full speed ahead. And, most recently, we added Intro to Canine Tracking classes, taught by tracking enthusiast and nationally certified Search and Rescue handler for HRD (human remains detection) work, Mark Falk, and monthly National Dog Agility League (NDAL) competitions, hosted by Dennis and Kim Vogel. 

Cloud Nine has much to offer owners and their dogs from a solid, well-planned, proven basic good-manners obedience curriculum to any number of fun, stimulating activities and dog sports that anyone can do with their dog. Really, the sky’s the limit!

People often ask how/why Gerry and I chose the name Cloud Nine Training School for Dogs, and there are three reasons. First, at the time we conceived Cloud Nine, I had nine dogs. Second, Gerry’s art director back then created a charming logo that lent itself to the name. Third, I wanted to create a dog training school where owners would enjoy the experience and where dogs would be happy when they came to learn – a place where they would be on cloud nine.

Mission accomplished.  


A dog’s vaccinations must be current for its age according to the vaccination protocol outlined by Dr. Jean Dodds

Please Note: Full payment is due on or before the first lesson of the class.

Refunds are issued ONLY if cancellation of a class takes place 24 hours prior to the start of the first lesson of a session or if the spot that was reserved for you can be filled by another student.

Prong collars, choke collars, e-collars (including bark collars) are not allowed on the premises of either Cloud Nine location.

Retractable leashes are not allowed in class. 

Cleaning up after your dog is a must. Not doing so can result in expulsion without compensation.

Bitches in season may attend class if they are properly attired, but not during the days 10- 16 of their heat cycle.

Dogs with communicable diseases must stay home, but owners may attend class.

Schedule is subject to change. Current information for each day’s classes is available on our Interactive Calendar

We make every effort to notify students of weather-related cancellations. This information is also available on the Cloud Nine Facebook page.