Hannah Ernst Wins 2018 National Dog Trainer of the Year Award

By Brett Hart Created: December, 2018 - Modified: November, 2022

Greatmats Dog Agility Flooring

As one of the most energized races in the four-year history of the Greatmats National Awards Series came to a close, outstanding dog trainers Hannah Ernst and Chrissy Joy combined to compile 68 percent of the 35,300 total votes in the 2018 Greatmats National Dog Trainer of the Year Contest. When all the dust had cleared, it was Ernst of Down Home Dog Training in Meadville, Pennsylvania, who emerged with the title. The 4th annual Greatmats National Dog Trainer of the Year Contest recognizes dog trainers who have demonstrated integrity, service and quality to make a positive impact in the lives of their clients and those around them.

Hannah Ernst

''I was very shocked by the whole thing,'' Ernst said of her nomination. ''It spread like wildfire here. When I first was told about it, I cried, because of the fact that it meant so much to me to know that I'm impacting my clients lives. It just kind of flooded me with emotion all at once.''

Starting with getting her first dog when she was in fourth grade, Ernst, now age 25, knew dogs would always be a part of her life - whether in competition or career.

''I wanted to be a canine handler in the air force, but did soccer and cheerleading in high school and caused some issues to my knee,'' Ernst said.
Having looked into political science and criminal justice with hopes of being a cruelty officer and working briefly with a congressman, Ernst said, ''It always stuck in the back of my mind that I wasn't going to be happy unless I worked with dogs.''

That took her on a path of ''paid internships'' with shelters, veterinarians, boarding kennels, doggy daycares and pet stores as she got a feel for the different environments in which dogs find themselves.

It was her work at a local shelter that really propelled Ernst to pursue her own training business in 2014.

''Dogs were coming in because owners couldn't afford training - or they had behavioral issues,'' she said. ''It really hit me hard because some of those dogs then didn't get readopted.''

Looking to keep those dogs out of shelters, after seeing first hand what the end of the line looked like, Ernst does her best to make sure every dog owner in her area has an affordable place to turn to in order to make sure their dogs fit into their families as well as possible.

She started with low pricing and added fundraising efforts to pay for the training and even donated her time and knowledge in many cases. In 2018 alone, Ernst estimates she's donated about 300 training packages to local shelters.

''I try to morph my training programs into what is needed most at the time,'' Ernst says, noting that she travels around the community to do her training as well as at her own facility to put the dogs in real life situations. She's even gone so far as to attend veterinarian appointments with clients to help the dogs adjust to that environment.

At Down Home Dog Training, Ernst's work includes obedience, tricks, therapy, agility, rally and nose work with a heavy emphasis on socialization and exercise. She offers 30 classes of 5 to 8 dogs every six weeks.

''Seeing the owners work with their dogs and overcome things - especially my dogs that have behavioral issues; seeing the bond and connection that they make has always been what it’s about for me,'' Ernst said.

As the winner of the 2018 Greatmats National Dog Trainer of the Year Award, Hannah will have the option of choosing between $250 in Greatmats Dog Training Flooring or $150 in cash for Down Home Dog Training, LLC.

Chrissy Joy

Joy, whose passion lies in tricks, stunts and performance dog training, has been able to blend her background in acting for TV, film and commercial to give dog owners an outlet to bond with their animals through work on set.

''Working animals in the TV industry was my ultimate goal - even as a child,'' the National Stunt Dog Championship trainer said, noting that after 18 years of working with dogs, she's recently found a lot of success in motivating people.

That's where the Bone-A-Fied Talent Group comes in. Bone-A-Fied Talent group is a division of BFF pet services where Joy works seven days a week as a trainer and runs the agility team.

Through the talent group, she works with clients to get their dogs ready for the entertainment industry and fulfill casting calls and has landed dozens of dogs with gigs with the likes of Home Depot and Martha Stewart over the past year and a half. All of the profits go to the owners and their dogs.

''There's the thrill of taking your dog on set and being a part of production,'' Joy said. ''We built a cool family.''

Joy says she was in utter disbelief when she first learned of her nomination for the National Dog Trainer of the Year Award. In fact, even the mention of it still gives her butterflies.

''That's kind of unique in the dog training industry,'' Joy said.

Many of her own performances focus on anti-bullying, something that hits home with her as a victim of bullying. She also enjoys helping shelter animals find homes by donating her pet photography skills to showcase the personalities of the animals online.

Joy says she truly enjoys building people up and helping them form bonds with their animals.

''Nobody’s perfect,'' she says. ''I want others to feel empowered and that it's ok to just be them.''

Founded in 2015, the Greatmats National Award Series is the first of its kind to recognize such a diverse group of individuals for both their positive professional and community influence. Learn more about the Greatmats National Award Series, including past winners and nominees.

Greatmats.com is a national specialty flooring industry leader based in Milltown, Wisconsin, since 1999. Greatmats gives back to its local community by donating 5% of its annual profits to local non-profit organizations. It also supports green initiatives through the use of solar energy at its Wisconsin headquarters and by offering a large variety of products made from recycled and renewable resources.

Hannah Ernst
Down Home Dog Training, LLC
Meadville PA 16335
Chrissy Joy Greatmats Award finalist dog trainer