Evansville Obedience Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a new look.
Membership has tripled to 90 in the last two years, with officials says the club adds about five new members a month. As a result, the 501(c)(7) social club quickly was outgrowing its 2,800-square-foot building on North Cullen Avenue. It also was challenging to host American Kennel Club trials, something the AKC-licensed club prides itself on. Its new facility at 1101 N. Congress Ave., formerly occupied by Fitness World, is 18,000 square feet. EOC takes up 11,000 square feet and rents out the remaining 7,000.
EOC bought the property, moved in as the calendar rolled over to 2024, and began welcoming canine students on New Year’s Day. In addition to three separate training rings — critical for holding simultaneous trials — the new facility hosts dedicated office space, locker rooms, an equipment room, and spacious bathrooms. A fenced-in yard allows dogs to tend to business, stretch, and run off leash in a safe, enclosed area.
“The space outside is so much better — there is plenty of room now,” EOC member Ashlyn Herke said while training her Labrador mix Rico during a Jan. 18 agility class.
The facility did need an aesthetic overhaul: It took 70 gallons of paint to turn Fitness World’s lime green walls white.
“At first, we thought we’d get used to it. But … it was a lot,” EOC president John Metzger laughs.
With the new space, multiple classes –– including for obedience, agility, rally, aggression correction, competition heeling, motivational retrieve, and more –– as well as AKC trials can happen simultaneously. EOC aims to add more programs, including a school-sponsored junior handler program teaching children dog training and agility.
“That’s where a lot of interest gets piqued — as children. We want to get them started early,” Metzger says.
Still, the renovations to the space are not finished. Flooring is set to be replaced before the next American Kennel Club obedience and rally trials Feb. 17-18, in which judges will score handlers and their AKC-registered dogs on maneuver performances and advance the top-scoring pairs to state and national AKC competitions. In the past, some members have chosen to go out of town for trials instead of trying to qualify in Evansville, but the new facility gives them more space for competition and health calls by veterinarians. A point of celebration: EOC finally has enough room to welcome public spectators to the trials.
“Some competitors used to travel than rather come to a trial here, because it was so small. Now, it’s a better environment here before big trials,” EOC member Alley Metzger says.
At the Jan. 18 agility class, attendees learned the rear cross maneuver, where a dog jumps ahead of its handler over a series of jumps and then turns back. Dogs — a group of older and younger canines, with several Australian shepherds, German shepherds, a Labrador mix and a Doberman in the mix — and handlers also practiced acclimating to the thud and movement of a teeter-totter and a course involving a retractable tunnel.
Patiently demonstrating each maneuver was Raven, a black Labrador better known as a certified bedbug detector with Evansville’s McMahon Exterminating. Raven dutifully performed each task under the instruction of EOC member and McMahon trainer Shelby Buono.
“I’m usually training after work so my canines can be the best in the Tri-State,” she says. “Plus, when you have seven dogs like me, you have to be active with them.”
Though not every dog perfectly landed each agility exercise, they all received lots of encouragement. So did their owners.
“We did it!” Karen Wright yelled after Yukon, her 2-year-old German shepherd, successfully tunneled his way to the other side and completed two jumps. “Where’s MY treat?!”
Evansville Obedience Club class enrollment is open to the public while spots are available. Club memberships grant access to additional courses, private use of the facility, members-only training seminars, and more. Dues are $25 per year for a junior member ages 13-18; $40 for a single person; and $50 for a family.