Dog Training Elite

Co-workers open Dog Training Elite franchise that serves Michiana

Rich Naponelli and Diana Hyepock saw a need for dog training in the Michiana area and found just the right franchise for their needs. Dog Training Elite of Michiana opened in August of 2023 after much research.

“Dog Training Elite was head and shoulders above the others and aligned with our values and the way we think it is best to train our dogs,” Naponelli said. “While we do a lot of exceptional general obedience training, Dog Training Elite also has a focus on training service and therapy dogs and giving back to the community, which aligns with the way Diane and I wanted to run our dog training business.”

The two started working together when Naponelli opened a pet sitting and dog walking franchise of Fetch Pet Care in Michiana. Hyepock was one of his first employees.

The two got along so well that they discovered a shared goal of helping people train their dogs, so they opened the Dog Training Elite franchise. Both also live in the Michiana area.

“There was a high demand for dog training that the current trainers in Michiana couldn’t fill, so to satisfy this demand, we thought it would be great to launch a Dog Training Elite in our own backyards,” Naponelli said.

While the two do not have a brick-and-mortar location, they do serve the South Bend and Elkhart areas, and have branched out as far north as Kalamazoo, Michigan, and west to Chesterton and Valparaiso. They also have two locations in Chicago.

“We are willing to go where exceptional dog training is needed,” he said.

Naponelli first practiced law for about eight years in Chicago, then spent five years fundraising at the University of Notre Dame before deciding to start a business of his own.

Hyepock starting working in the pet industry in 1995, including 12 years owning a mobile pet grooming business. She also researched black rhinos in Kenya as part of a volunteer project. In 2020, she trained a puppy to be her daughter’s service dog, prompting her to get certified in service and therapy dog training at the Animal Behavior Institute.  

Dog Training Elite CEO Betsy Feaster said Naponelli’s experience in another franchise has helped him in his new endeavor.

“We thought he was an excellent fit for our brand,” she said. “Diane Hyepock has trained service dogs in the past (privately), so they make a great team!”

Feaster also said the DTE company has 243 locations, with two more on the way.


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