Tennessee's Best Dog Trainers • 10+ Yrs Experience • Lifetime Guarantee


MLK9 Dog Training, (865) 213-7775



Training working dogs was a skill passed down from my father at an early age. This knowledge proved invaluable during my K9 handler recruitment as a Law Enforcement Officer and once again during my certification as a Police K9 trainer.

My first K9 partner, Roscoe, was a yellow Labrador we rescued from a local shelter. He put all my training to the test, but we became an unstoppable team. Roscoe showed me the potential of misunderstood dogs and sparked what would later become my driving philosophy as a pet dog trainer.

It wasn’t until my second Police K9 partner, a Belgian Malinois named Neko, that I rooted my training principles and began helping local dog owners in my area with their unruly pets. Neko and I decided to retire in 2018 after an outstanding career in law enforcement and quickly embarked on the adventure of managing a pet training business.

We strive to provide families all over Tennessee and the Southeast US with a clear communication system and ultimately keep misunderstood dogs in good homes and out of shelters.

Hunter Kearns (Florida location):

Sole owner and head trainer over his own company, H. K. Dog Training in Southwest Florida (Est. 2020), Hunter found interest and a vested future in working dogs at 12 years old. This came after seeing a Lee County Sheriff’s Office K9 team complete a K9 Demo at his school. Fast forward to 2022 and Hunter has worked three total dogs as a K9 handler, one being his current dual purpose K9 partner, Loki, for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. 

Hunter strives to better himself and help his unit in any way possible while also maintain an amazing in – home dog obedience board and train program. He is assisted in such by his Jr. trainer Livia Crews and his wife Lyndsey. 

Tanner Mathis:

I was born and raised in a small town in South Florida right on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. I grew up around primarily hunting dogs, as well as raising and training show pigs with my family. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2019 and moved to Tennessee to start working as a large animal vet tech. Soon after, a small animal tech position became available at my clinic, and I moved into that role. That is when I realized that I loved working with dogs more than horses. One day, a 9-month-old Doberman puppy was surrendered to the clinic coming from a very tough situation; it took some time for me to gain his trust, but I eventually decided to take him home with me. It was with him that I learned I had a passion for dog training. My veterinarian recommended a local dog trainer to contact to get some extra help and pointers. I called Mike and while talking with him found out that we are from neighboring towns in South Florida. Shortly after he asked my boss if she had anyone who would be interested in coming on the weekends to help with the cleaning and care for the kennel and dogs. I jumped at the opportunity and have been a part of MLK9 ever since. I am ecstatic to be a part of the MLK9 Team and to help all dogs and owners with any issues they may be experiencing with their furry companions.

Lizzy Ratliff:

Being part of the training team at MLK9 is incredible. Knowing that we can take any dog, any age and help them understand a specific set of rules that will help them live their best lives together with their families is an amazing feeling. My husband and I were among Mike’s first Tennessee clients and after experiencing the amazing results I just had to know how he did it! I wanted him to teach me everything he knew. 

Well, 3 years later the micro behaviors and body language of dogs as they learn in their own ways is still absolutely fascinating to me. I look forward to the challenges each new dog brings and to adding that lesson to my training toolbox. I joined the Coast Guard in Florida in 1998. I got a yellow lab and named Dallas when I was 21, he traveled with me from the east coast to the west coast and back, literally. I had an incredible career for 20 years and in 2018 it was time to retire.

Our family landed here in east Tennessee, and it has felt like home ever since. I live with my husband, Curt, our energetic 6-year-old daughter and our 2 dogs. Chaos, a 1 ½ year old German Shepard currently learning scent work for sport dogs, and Moose our now 8-year-old Labrador retriever with the best rabbit chasing recall I have ever seen thanks to Mike!

Brian Aponte:

My love of dogs began as a little boy. My best friend when I would stay at my grandma’s house was a mean German Shepherd that no one could pet. He even bit my sister in the face, but he was an outside dog who protected the property. I would comfort him outside in the shed when he was afraid of the thunderstorms, and he would protect me from the other dogs in the surrounding yards who would bark at me when I walked by. I always felt an unspoken understanding with every troubled dog. Growing up I always ended up with the unwanted rescue dog which I would keep.

My dream job was to be able to work with a dog as a partner and that’s what led me to the Military Working Dog program where I knew I could at the earliest possible age. I began working with Military Working Dogs in 2002 while being Security Forces in the Air Force. I went to Military Working Dog handler school at the DOD K9 school at Lackland AFB where I got my formal K9 training education. K9 school consisted of Obedience and patrol dog duties along with drug and explosives detection.

I gained lots of experience working with many K9’s throughout my six-year K9 career in the Military as well as the working experience in the combat environment of the Middle East.

At the end of my 8-year total Military career, I joined a FL police department and a year after that was chosen as a K9 handler.

Over the past 15 years as a police dog handler, I achieved many accomplishments as a trainer and competitor in K9 competitions. I have also continued my K9 education by attending numerous K9 seminars with the top trainers in the industry. I have also completed two K9 trainer courses as well as being a certified evaluator for two different K9 certifying organizations. I have also trained dozens of K9 teams in various aspects of police K9 disciplines.

I began training personal pet dogs in 2010 and began a first of its kind indoor dog training facility in the area. From there I continued training pet dogs for in home sessions. During this time, I also learned about various civilian dog sports from some of the top trainers around. I have been an AKC CGC evaluator and trainer. I have also trained in Schutzhund / IPG achieving titles 1&2 and trained for a title 3 which is the top.

My passion for training dogs continues to this day because of my love of saving dogs and keeping families together.

Need Professional Dog Training?

We Can Help.

MLK9 offers professional dog training in your area. We can train most breeds and fix just about any bad behavior. Contact us below to see how we can help. Our consultations are free!


(865) 657-1109