Dogs with Heather or their owners
Bernie and Bella

"We met Heather, owner and operator of Best Friend Academy when we got our first Basenji puppy 'Bernie' 3 years ago. We were so pleased with the training, group classes (and boarding) that we decided to tackle another Basenji pup a year later named 'Bella'. Heather did a wonderful job working with both dogs, encouraging agility classes along with obedience—watching your dog totally enjoying a class is great fun!

We are always proud when people come to our house and meet these two unique doggies who are also very well mannered and trained."

"Boarding our dogs with Heather is a plus because we know they are in good hands while we are away and know that if there are things we are working on, the education will be continued under Heather's care. She also does grooming, so it is extra nice treat to pick up our dogs after boarding all nice and clean, smelling good and nails nicely trimmed so they don't scratch our hardwood floors."

"We have recommended Heather at Best Friend Academy to everyone we know that has a dog for training, agility and boarding and will continue to do so in the future.

Thank you. Heather (and Miles and Meka) for all you do."


"Thanks to Heather VanKalker-Sherwood, we have our lives back.  On December 26th we picked up our new puppy expecting to enjoy and love Gus thoroughly.  BUT, he came with problems some physical and most annoyingly some behavioral.  We participated in one class which was not helpful at all.  We could not even get the dog potty trained.  I had worked with animals most of my life but could make no headway.

Then we enrolled in a class at Best Friend Academy.  After 3 classes we were due to leave on a 3-week trip.  We decided to board Gus at Best Friend Academy and have Heather work with Gus.  We had also decided that if Gus’s behavior had not improved we would not be able to keep him and would have to find a new home for him.

What a wonderful surprise we found upon our return.  He was well behaved and is much happier.  He is a pleasure to be with.  We take him everywhere with us. I am happy to recommend Heather’s training and boarding facility.  It is truly a great value.  I plan to take Gus back for an agility class."


"Our family was looking for a dog, and we ended up with Sara, a very cute golden retriever puppy.  We went with a golden because we'd read and heard about how great they are as a family pet.  After a few weeks, we despaired that Sara would ever be that family pet for us.  She charged our daughter.  She chased us and bit at our clothing.  She growled and fought with the leash.  She jumped and nipped and scratched in a very dominant way.  Although we'd had puppies before, none had ever been this dominant.  We went to training at the vet and hired a private trainer.  Despite following through with that training, Sara continued to get worse.  The trainer suggested using a shock collar.  We did not want to go that route.  We felt that Sara was actually a pretty good dog, and we feared that a shock collar would ruin her.  At the same time, we could not continue the way things were.  Home became more and more stressful for all of us as we tried to keep ourselves safe.  Our 7 year old daughter actually wanted us to carry her so she would not have Sara nip at her.  If we did not get things turned around, Sara would have to go.

I found Heather and Best Friend Academy, and we decided it was worth one last attempt at reform.  Sara boarded there and Heather worked with her on behavior for two weeks.  Heather worked with Sara daily on helping her overcome her dominant behaviors and allowing people to be her leader.  I was astounded at how well Heather did with Sara.  She immediately took control, taught Sara what she needed to know and then taught us what we needed to know to keep it going.

We finally have our family pet!  Sara is a much more balanced dog.  She no longer chases or nips, and the biting of our clothes, furniture and bodies has ended.  Sara does not charge us or head butt us, and when we need her to be calm and relaxed (like when guests arrive at our home), we can help her overcome her instinct to bark and jump.  Our daughter has the dog she'd wanted, where she can relax with the dog and have a buddy.

Our family is still in the training phase with Sara. We have an exercise routine that includes the treadmill in the morning and a long walk in the evening. We know what behaviors are dominant behaviors that need checking. Thanks to Heather, we feel we have the tools to undertake it. I'd recommend Best Friend Academy to any family adopting a new dog."


"I have always wanted a dog I could take to a library, or to school to read with kids, or to a hospital to visit patients, or take any place where I can share my loving dog.

After working with Heather VanKalker I now have a “Therapy Dogs International” certified dog---Bailey. He is the dog for the “Reading with Bailey” program at the Kalamazoo Public Library this summer.

Two years ago I enrolled in a dog obedience class at a local pet store. I was lucky to get Heather as my instructor. She has a very gentle but firm way of teaching you how to train your dog. I took two obedience classes at the store with Heather and then hired her for private training to help us pass the TDI test for certification. Heather created several “real life” training situations; meeting all over town to expose Bailey to different conditions; going to a skate board park to familiarize him with the noise and actions of active kids. Our last two sessions were a run through of the test for the Canine Good Citizen award, which was basically for my confidence, not Bailey’s!

After taking the test and passing it, the evaluator said that I should become an evaluator for TDI—my dog was so well trained! At the time we passed the TDI test, we also received the “Canine Good Citizen Award”. Bailey proudly wears both tags when we go visit.

Heather has taught me a lot about my dog. Several of his problems were really my fault. Now, I know how to correct both his behavior and mine. She also reminded me that training Bailey should be FUN for both of us. Now Bailey jumps with excitement when I get his training leash out.

I highly recommend Heather VanKalker as an extremely capable dog obedience instructor. She is very good at teaching you how to train your dog and having you and your dog enjoy the process."


"We recently hired Heather to help my husband and I better understand our 13 year old beagle Scout. We asked her to help us with her disruptive barking, whining, and needy behaviors. It did not take Heather long to realize she had her hands full, not so much with Scout but with Scout’s “mother”. We cannot begin to thank Heather enough for her honesty, her professionalism, and her genuine interest in helping us. It did not take her long to assess the situation and then help us in the right ways to correct Scout’s aggravating behaviors. Introducing us to the EZ swivel leash and showing us how to correct her and walk her in the appropriate way has made a tremendous difference.

We can now eat a full meal, watch T.V., and actually relax without yelling at the dog! We have learned so much from Heather in a short amount of time. More importantly, we now have the much needed confidence to take charge of bad behavior situations and enjoy our Beagle instead of constantly be frustrated by her. It truly is never too late to teach an old dog a new trick! We highly recommend Heather for all your dog training issues. She is one in a million. Thank you so much for making our lives much more enjoyable!"


"Having been turned away by other trainers, my experience with Best Friend Academy has proven that even the most disobedient friend can be rehabilitated.

I came to her with my wild and crazy black lab, Quincy, half expecting her (Heather) to retreat and direct us to the door! Heather didn’t flinch, but immediately took control of the hyper-active-strong willed girl and with patience, love and direction turned my dog into a much better friend and companion than I ever thought possible. She made me into a better dog care provider in the process. I can’t say enough about her training process and the other classes she provides just makes dog ownership so much more enjoyable.

I truly thank her for her dedication to making all dogs and owners better citizens."


"Living with a Pomeranian started off not so enjoyable. I read the books and did my homework on raising a Pom puppy only to find my sweet cute little puppy Meeka was out of control. Working with Heather on obedience with Meeka helped transform a wild puppy into a healthy fun dog. I started to enjoy working on daily exercises suggested by Heather to improve my companionship with Meeka. Heather spent class time working with Meeka and provided individual training time when needed. Heather’s ongoing support has been appreciated and valued as Meeka grows into an enjoyable companion dog.

Heather's compassion and understanding of dogs make for a fantastic trainer for dog and owner."


"...thanks for the recent work w/Bella. She doesn't run away any more!!!! This is huge for us. She can be outside in our front yard with us and doesn't run."

Lexie and Artie

"Taking my dogs to Best Friend Academy was the best decision I've ever made.

I have two dogs, Lexi and Artie. Lexi is a 2 yr old hound mix and Artie is a 1 year old lab mix. I rescued both dogs from animal services. When I moved into a new apartment complex in the fall of 2008, I noticed Lexie was very anxious around other dogs and would also become aggressive. I adopted Artie that fall, but she got along with him fine. Over the next year she got progressively worse. She was getting very protective of Artie and very aggressive with any other dogs. She would lunge at the sliding glass door just when other dogs were walking by. It was impossible to take them for walks because she would go after any other dogs and neither of them could walk on a leash properly.

Lexie ended up getting into a bad fight with my mom's dog that summer and went after another dog at my apartment complex that winter. It was getting exhausting because I knew something needed to be done but I couldn't do it by myself. After doing some research online I found Best Friend Academy. I called Heather and she came out to my apartment within a few days. After observing, she suggested that I have both of my dogs trained because Artie was so hyper and he needed to learn to be around other dogs. I decided on the Boarding Training because I thought that would be best for them both.

Artie only stayed a week and Lexie stayed for 3 weeks. The results were phenomenal. After picking Artie up after only one week he was a completely different dog. The changes in him were so great that other people were astonished, too--nobody could believe it.

After getting Lexi back I was even more impressed. She now knows that she isn't the dominant one. She is also in a class every week at Best Friend Academy and is able to be social with other dogs without getting aggressive at all. Heather definitely did miracles with my dogs. Without the training that Lexi got at Best Friend Academy, I think something would have happened eventually where I would have had to get rid of her. I am so much happier now without having to always worry, and I think my dogs are happier too. I would recommend Best Friend Academy to anyone."


"As a college student, I wanted that cute little purse puppy I could take around... so I bought one, didn't research breeds... just made an impulse decision. Bad job on my part. From the moment I got P.J., I knew I had made a mistake; he was the devil reincarnate. He peed and poo'd everywhere, bit (not just little puppy bites, but aggressive biting), chewing everything he could get his mouth on, barked incessantly when I put him in his crate... I was at my wits end. Two weeks after I got P.J. I thought I would put him up for sale in the local newspaper. But, I knew I had made a commitment to P.J. and I was willing to try some things and see if I could hang in there.

Seeking advice on potty training, crate training, chewing, and general help, I went to Best Friend Academy and met Heather. She helped me by talking about different solutions I could try with PJ, but since I had just made a big purchase I couldn't afford the obedience classes.

The advice helped, but by 8 months, P.J. was not only a "bad dog" he was also going through his "juvenile stage" as Heather told me. So, I gave in, and I paid for my first basic obedience class. Just from that, I saw a miraculous change in P.J.

Still in contact with Heather, I needed someone to watch P.J. while I went out of town over Christmas vacation in 2006. Heather told me she could train him while boarding him and I figured Heather would be able to handle him. He was still so bad… destroying everything... but he did know basic obedience. I was actually worried for Heather's sake leaving him with her. I came back from my vacation and I thought she had gotten rid of P.J. and got me a whole new dog... P.J. was a COMPLETELY different dog. He listened, he obeyed, and he never put a foot outside of the boundaries I gave him.

But then I started slacking.... he would still mind me, just not as well as he used to. I decided to take another one of Heather's training classes at Best Friend Academy, this time, Intermediate level. P.J. excelled. Even the commands he never learned before, he got the hang of right away because of how precise Heather's training had been months before. Heather really gave P.J. the basis for all obedience commands. How she did it… I will never know. All I do know is how grateful I am to have found Heather. In this crazy world where everyone's trying to be the new "Dog Whisperer"... she is the real deal. She knows what she is talking about. She has taught me how to be a better pet parent, just by giving my dog (and me) boundaries. She always reminds me that he is a dog and needs those boundaries and that dogs like to work for what they get, otherwise they will be unbalanced. That is the truth in my book, because my dog is perfect!!

I have gone from wanting to get rid of him 2 weeks after I got him… to not being able to think about him passing away in 12+ years. Heather has made me a better person and my dog a better dog.

Thank you Heather, for everything you have done for me and P.J."