During the day, Mike Heaner is a top dog in commercial leasing at the Kaufman Organization. But at night and on weekends, he’s focused on true canine competition.
A dog sports trainer, Heaner spends five days a week preparing his Belgian Malinois, Dixie, for competitions in locations like Indiana and Florida. The two compete several times a month in events for agility and “competitive obedience,” which tests Dixie’s ability to respond to commands. (Dog sports competitions are different from the well-known Westminster dog show, which judges a dog’s appearance and breeding rather than performance.)
Heaner stumbled into dog sports training 16 years ago when he inherited Max — an untrained, 80-pound Bouvier des Flandres — from a neighbor who could no longer handle him. After training Max, Heaner began showing him competitively.
“I kind of got the bug,” recalled Heaner, who discovered that working with the dogs helps him relax. “It’s like therapy to me.”
He has since trained six other dogs and competed with the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club and the United States Dog Agility Association. Right now, in addition to working with seven-year-old Dixie, he’s training a new puppy for future competitions.
Heaner and his dogs have earned hundreds of ribbons, and he won his highest honor when one of his dogs, Sophie, was named “the No. 1 obedience dog in Canada,” he said.
For Heaner, dog-training is just a hobby, but he said the sport does have some similarities to commercial real estate: the need for dedication, focus, organization and commitment, for example.
“I always tell our young brokers that this business is a marathon and not a sprint,” Heaner said. “Same goes for training — you have to set achievable, intermediate goals, all leading toward long-term success.”