K-9 Kampgrounds
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A luxury boarding facility.

Best of Syracuse 2016 - Best Pet Daycare

Two Great Locations:

East Syracuse

(315) 437-7110


(315) 635-DOGS

Dog Training

Rocco's Pack Leadership - Dog TrainingRocco's Pack Leadership
Clif Van Auken, Dog Trainer/Certified Vet Assistant
(315) 214-9992 • vanaukenclif1@verizon.net

Determination: "Continuous effort is the key to unlocking our potential." Winston Churchill

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Group Training Classes

  • Call for scheduled dates and times
  • Classes held at both locations

Private Lessons

Basic obedience, behavioral problem solving.

  • $255 for 3 private classes at your home for K-9 Kampers.
    After the 3rd session, a discount rate will apply for future training. $255 must be paid prior to first training session.
  • $340 for 4 sessions for all clients, new and old.
    Free consultation. Discount for a foster dog or a rescued dog (non K-9 Kampers only)
  • A $10 charge will be added for a travel time greater than 30 minutes


  • Clif Van Auken
    Clif Van Auken
    Dog Trainer, Certified Vet Assistant

Achieving a lasting bond, my dog Rocco taught me this.

I started Rocco’s Pack Leadership, Establish the Leader of Your Pack, to help educate families about dog behavior, how to eliminate negative behavior, and create positive through rehabilitation for the dog, and training for the family.

To create the achievement of a lasting bond between human and dog, one needs to have an understanding about dog psychology. Once you have an understanding about “Leadership,” and the new, positive energy about the mind, you have the foundation to establish leadership.

I take a different approach to training, I focus on the people as much as the dog. I believe that by training people, you will succeed at rehabilitation for the dog. Training is not only helping the dog, but teaching the family about dog psychology and the importance of leadership, an emphasis on “Pack Leadership.”

Imagine being able to walk your dog anywhere, without problems. No pulling, lunging, or barking at other dogs. There is no struggling, just an enjoyable relaxing walk.  This stems from “Pack Leadership.”

Dogs use energy to communicate with us and other dogs. Every interaction we have with dogs, can create a positive or negative perception of us. Not understanding how to communicate with dogs can create behavioral problems.

Pack Leaders provide and maintain tranquil energy. They also provide structure, security, limitation, and boundaries. When humans do not provide “Pack Leadership,” there is no foundation, and the dog may look to take on this role. This is when dogs can become destructive or aggressive, and separation anxiety can develop.

  • Having trouble providing “Pack Leadership”?
  • Has your dog taken that role?
  • Does your companion pull while walking?
  • Does your dog lunge or growl at people or dogs while walking or entering the home?
  • Does your dog jump on people?
  • Would you like to have a better behaved dog in the house with guests?
  • Would you like to enjoy your walks without hesitation, avoiding circumstances that you fear, projecting the wrong energy and have a better behaved companion?
  • Does your dog need a job? Your dog can learn how to properly and effectively use a backpack, or pull a sled. He/ She can even go snow shoeing or cross country skiing with you and your family.
  • Are you looking for basic obedience? Effectively command sit, stay, down, leave it, recall?

I offer private, customized training programs based upon the dogs needs. These sessions are done, not only in the home, but we learn outside of the home as well, with distractions that you will come across on a day to day basis. Training sessions are also done at dog friendly parks. I use Onondaga Park.

Prices vary upon set goals, number of sessions (depends on the behavioral problems being displayed), distance traveled, temperament of the dog, and number of dogs being trained.

Discounts are available for adopted, fostered, or rescued dogs. Verification of paperwork is required for discount rate. (Dogs taken from family or friends, found on street, do not receive discount price.)

All dogs must be up to date on all vaccines and provide certificate upon arrival.

For best results, attend training sessions as a family, and continue at home practice with consistency.


My beloved Rocco, the inspiration behind Rocco's Pack Leadership. Rest in Peace, I miss you

Partial consultations are done over the phone and cover a brief history of the dog as well as any behavioral issues being displayed. If you choose to continue after the phone consultation, the first session will include an evaluation of training needs, a suggested training strategy, and training. Strategies are subject to change as the needs evolve.

If you prefer a consultation done within the home, prices vary based on travel time, and can last an hour or more.

Group Sessions: Sometimes dogs in group settings, whom are unfamiliar with their surroundings can become over stimulated, reactive, or distracted. They may shut down or cause distractions to others in the class. If this happens to your pet, you and your companion may be asked to leave, and the money paid for the group sessions will go towards private sessions. There will be further expenses for private sessions. There are no refunds.

Private Sessions: These are customized training packages based upon the dog's needs. The number of sessions and prices vary. Private sessions are for solving behavioral problems, learning to walk on a loose leash, focus exercises, basic obedience, long lead working. This works best for people who want the one-on-one interaction where they can get answers to all of their questions.

Puppy Socialization and Start of Basic Obedience Training:

8-16 weeks, learn about socialization with other dogs, adults, and children, handling exercises, fun and rewarding positive reinforcement using food based rewards or toys.

Puppy Kindergarten:

From birth to approximately 12 weeks of age, your puppy is learning important life lessons, habits, and the foundation of his/her personality take form.

In “Puppy Kindergarten,” you will be teaching your puppy:

House Hold Training:

  • How to be accepting when you are away
  • House rules
  • Not to guard valued objects, example: toys or food bowl
  • How to accept a crate if one is used
  • Focus on appropriate chew toys, and not your belongings

Temperament Training:

  • Puppy Handling
  • Teaching gentleness towards humans and dogs
  • Teaching handling, being held, grooming, trimming nails, touching mouth, ears, tail, toes to help reduce fear and stress during vet visits

Manners Training:

  • Puppy Obedience
  • Teaching sit and stay, recall (come)
  • Being polite during greetings


  • To people, dogs, and new environments
  • How to properly introduce your puppy to new people, objects, environments, and sounds- all building exercises to help you reduce fear in your puppy, and build confidence


  • Age 8-16 weeks
  • First shots, DHLPP, DHPP, (Distemper and Parvo)

Important reasons for puppy classes:

  • Teaching about bite inhibition, this comes from play sessions, dog-dog interactions
  • Teaching puppies to enjoy being handled and interacting with people (both men and women), children, strangers
  • Learning about obedience and verbal commands,

This is a five week class, price and date/time to be announced

Beginner: Basic Obedience:

These sessions are a group setting, the dogs will always remain on a leash. You will learn basic key phrases and walk with a leash with no pulling (heal).

This will be a 5 week class, price and date/time to be announced

Intermediate Obedience:

These sessions are a group setting, the dogs will be leashed at all times. These sessions are meant for a strengthening bond between you and your companion. The sessions are similar to the Beginner: Basic Obedience sessions with added duration, distance in the sit/down stay, with added distractions
This will be a 4 week class. Price and date/time to be announced

Are you getting married, and want pictures of your companions taken? You need a handler to bring the dogs to you, and back? I will bring the dogs to you, and back to where they need to go. Prices vary based on number of dogs, distance traveled, and include the first hour of photography time. A consult to meet the dog(s) is included in the price.

Payment for Private and Group Training must be paid for in full before first session begins.

There are no refunds for Private or Group Classes.

The waiver form must be filled out in full and handed in at first group session.

The family is responsible for attending group training weekly, there are no make up sessions.

Private sessions are scheduled in advance, if you are scheduled for training, and are not there, I will call and send a text message, I will leave after 15 minutes of waiting, and this counts as a session. You are responsible for contacting me to schedule the remaining sessions. Cancellations must be made as soon as possible. 48 hours prior to the training session is preferred. Thank you.

All vaccination paperwork must be provided at or prior to first session.

Information form and waiver form must be completed in full detail and handed in or emailed prior to first training session.


Sadie and Julie (Pooper):

"We are a two dog household that was having issues with one of our dogs, Sadie's, behavior. We got Sadie as a puppy, and tried to socialize and train her while she was young. As a pup, she did not exhibit any significant issues. She generally enjoyed being around people, and even other dogs. A few years later, we found a pit bull, Julie, which was not in good health or conditions. We made a decision to take her in. Lucky for us, the dogs got along pretty well and made it an easy transition. However, as time went on, Sadie's behavior began to deteriorate. She did not listen well, walking was a nightmare, would growl at family members that came near her (when she didn't want to be bothered), and she began to attack Julie. Luckily, we were always able to separate the dogs. We were not sure what to do, and thought we would try to sign up for some training classes. Clif came highly recommended from a co – worker that had worked with him for her puppy.

We called him in the summer of 2012, and he came to meet the dogs and have the first session. After one session, we were amazed at how well Sadie could act and even walk with other dogs out in the neighborhood. Clif provided a number of things for us to work on, things to work with Sadie on, and some great insights. Unfortunately, we did not hold up our side of the training as well as we intended to. Due to work obligations, and school obligations, we had to reschedule and cancel sessions. During this time, Sadie's behavior got worse and worse. The frequency of her attacking Julie was increasing, and we were concerned that when we were at work, she would attack Julie or one of the cats. When we were home, we were concerned with people walking into the house if Sadie was not separated, for fear of someone being bit. At this point, the option of putting Sadie down would come up here and there. But she is a part of the family and wasn't an option that we really wanted to take. Instead, we called Clif. This time, his entrance into the house wasn't as easy. We had to put Sadie on a leash, and Julie into a separate room. Her behavior had significantly deteriorated since the first time Clif came to work with us. During that session we discussed our concerns, and the potential of having to put her down. Clif told us that if we committed and continued to work with her, we wouldn't and shouldn't feel like we have to do that. Since then we have had biweekly (and ok yes, sometimes, every third weekly) sessions with Clif, and continued to work with Sadie on our own in-between. Sadie's behavior has improved greatly! It is no longer even a remote thought to put her down. We have even started adding Julie to our sessions (because she is a spoiled instigator of bad behavior). Without his help, we are not sure what would have happened and are so excited to continue working with Clif!! "

~ Christina


"We didn't want to wait for next week to tell you about our vet appointment with Sadie this am. We are very impressed with her, and a little less so with the vet. Mom did the focus with Sadie in the waiting room while waiting to go into the room, she took her back (without incident) to get her weight, and back to the room. No muzzle! She barked at the vet tech once when she came back into the room (however mom corrected her and that ended the behavior). The vet came in and required a muzzle in order for her to go near her even though Sadie was being very well behaved ( they are visibly scared I think), Sadie was so good she left the muzzle alone (for the most part) and listened to mom. She let the vet go about her visit and at the end the muzzle came off and she did not bark or growl ... Just wanted to be line to the car. We were really excited with her, and wanted to share the good news!!"

~ Christina


"My goldendoodle Jack started exhibiting protective and aggressive behavior towards strangers when he turned a year old. Cliff was recommended to me through a mutual friend. I enrolled Jack into six training sessions with Cliff. He came to my house and taught me the basics as far as teaching your dog that you are the pack leader. My dog Jack I found out later is actually shy and unsure of himself, and was acting aggressive out of fear instead of looking to me as the pack leader. During the first session with Cliff, Jack was aggressive towards Cliff. But by the sixth session Jack allowed Cliff to enter my house, and Jack's demeanor was calm and at ease. Cliff does a great job not only training dogs, but also their owners."

~ Michelle M.


We adopted a Greater Swiss mountain dog mix named Rocky almost two months ago. Within days we knew we were over our heads and needed help! Clif was highly recommended to us by a close friend. He was willing to come over the very next day and start working with us which was great & exactly what we needed! He was extremely accommodating to our schedules and made himself available if we had any questions or concerns, which was awesome! After the first session, I noticed significant changes in Rocky and his behaviors. After the last session when it was time to say goodbye, we had a completely different dog on our hands. He is so much better behaved and obedient. Clif's training worked wonders with Rocky and I would recommend him to anyone who needs help training their dog!

Aggressive Six Year Old:

My six year old dog has had a steady development of aggression with other dogs for the past three years. He had become impossible to walk and that led to such a weight problem that his health was compromised. He was unmanageable on a leash with me and had escalated with his aggression so badly that people could not enter my apartment or interact with me outside of the apartment without the danger of being attacked. He became an uncontrollable alpha and was very excessive in his protection of me. After just a few training sessions working with Clif Van Auken my dog has vastly improved. Clif has worked directly with me to change my nervous habits that perpetuate the alpha behavior in my dog and to correct the misbehaviors of both owner and dog. Since working with Clif I have noticed a great change in my pet's behavior and response to commands I direct at him. We can now go on short walks together alone and I am confident that the duration of the walks will exceed my expectations with more training sessions with Clif. I have been continually observing changes in my dog's behavior that show he is now starting to see me as the one in command. I thought this shift in his mind would be impossible. Through the work Clif has shown me I have moved from having a dog I could not enjoy and feared eventually having to put down for attacking another dog to having a great deal of hope that my dog and I can enjoy a long, healthy, and happy life together.


We found our lab-pit mix Reuben 3 years ago abandoned. As a result of his past, he maintains anxiety and fear in interactions with people and animals outside of our family. We decided to look into dog training when Reuben started channeling that anxiety and fear into aggression. We decided that we needed to have a professional help us tackle Reuben’s behavioral issues, so we first went to a training facility for a free consultation and demonstration. They used a shock collar method which seemed to instill more fear into Reuben. Their training dog was also in the facility during our training, and she just seemed like a zombie. We knew that this wasn’t the right training method for us.

After further research of local trainers, we came across Clif’s website and felt that the one-on-one pack leader based training was a better fit for our family. Clif would come to us, which was more convenient, and easier to demonstrate Reuben’s behaviors in his normal surroundings. We e-mailed Clif and he called us within a couple hours to perform a phone consultation. At his first visit he really took the time to explain the various methods he may try with Reuben, and how he would tailor the training depending on Reuben’s response.

Clif’s first recommendation was a prong collar. He was aware of some people’s perception of this training tool, as it can look intimidating. He gave us a full description of the proper use and expected response to the prong collar to ease any concerns we may have while giving us the option to choose an alternate training method with no pressure. As a family, we agreed that the prong collar was the right choice for us to start. The prong collar allowed for quick, painless corrections that applied just enough pressure to get Reuben’s attention and to get him to re-focus if he was acting in an undesired way. After the first session, Reuben was walking at our sides and doing a sit-stay while we walked away.

As positive as the first training session results were, we still needed to put the time in with Reuben in order to reinforce the training, and slowly introduce new challenges. As we worked with Reuben between Clif’s training sessions, we would notice negative behaviors that seemed to persist. Clif would later talk us through what had happened, how we could improve our handling of the situations, and identify possible triggers.

Over the next three training sessions we practiced walking Reuben on the street, down to Onondaga Lake Park, and continued focused training. Even with training, Reuben still kept his lovable personality and wasn’t a zombie, which was very important to us. For the last of our four training sessions, Clif brought his dog Molly so we could practice introductions. The goal was to try to get Reuben to understand what is considered acceptable behavior with other ‘strange’ dogs. The first five minutes were a little rough, Reuben lunged, but we just kept trying and by the end Reuben showed no aggression towards Molly at all. It really gave us the encouragement we needed.

Clif is always on-call for any questions or issues we may be having and never makes it feel like you are inconveniencing him by doing so. You can tell he is truly passionate about what he does. He gave us the confidence to be pack leaders and handle any situation. This training is a journey but it is one that we are very happy to be on.


I adopted a very sweet, rambunctious, 2 year old pit mix from a local rescue. When Simon came home, he was full of energy and love, but did not know any basic commands. He was incredibly sweet, but was also dominant and clearly used to being pack leader. For the first few months, I took on his training but was not getting the results I was hoping for. Simon was a good boy, and always up for an adventure, but could be a complete handful. It was hard to get or keep his attention, and he definitely had a mind of his own.

At the advice of the rescue, for walks, I was using an Easy-Walk harness and although Simon couldn't slip out of it, it did not prevent him from constantly pulling and walking in front of me. I needed help. I spoke with multiple friends, who are all veterinary professionals, and Clif Van Auken came highly recommended by all of them. From our first meeting I was so impressed with Clif's professionalism and knowledge. After speaking with me and introducing himself to Simon, Clif recommended that we try a prong collar for training, but that there were plenty of other methods we could use (martingale, electronic vibrating collar) if Simon wasn't comfortable. Clif assured me that if at any time I was uncomfortable, we would immediately stop using the prong collar. He also assured me that the goal, with prong collar use, is to be able to, eventually, stop using the collar

The results with the prong training, were nothing short of amazing. Within minutes, using simple, gentle corrections Simon was walking and sitting by my side. He was giving me his full attention and waiting for commands from me. Within a week of using the prong collar, while out on our walks, Simon was walking by my side, with no correction needed, and was listening to me more, all of the time. Even when walking without the prong collar, he now stays by my side and is a much more well behaved dog. He accepts my pack leadership and has blossomed into an incredible friend and companion. I would highly recommend Clif to anyone in need of professional dog training.

His Aggression Was Out of Control

I have ( or I should say had, since he isn't this way anymore) an extremely people/dog aggressive dog. I had him for years and just managed his aggression as best as I could with many different methods. His aggression towards men and other dogs got so out of control that I could no longer take him on walks unless it was extremely late at night, there had to be NO chance that I would run into another person or animal.

He got extremely overweight regardless of a strict diet and became very destructive in apartments that I lived in because he had nowhere to get his energy out. I tried multiple training methods throughout the years, even positive reinforcement because he is very food driven. Nothing worked. On walks I tried harnesses, gentle leaders, etc. and nothing could control him. At his highest weight he weighed almost 100lbs and he could often overpower me and slip out of anything he had on, or me if I was trying to control him. Nothing was working and I was too in love with him to give him away and strongly felt that he would not be able to be placed in a good home, and eventually would be euthanized because of his aggression if I did so.

I eventually reached out to another trainer before contemplating getting a shock collar (which I do not agree with) as a last resort after he tried to attack one of my female friends. I had never heard of a prong collar, but Clif explained in full detail about their positive aspects, and how to use them correctly. He also mentioned that he would do what works best for my dog, if he acted adversely to the prong, then this training tool would not be used.

While using it during the training sessions, my dog responded very well to the collar. He never whined, winced, or seemed like he was in pain. Instead of pulling on the leash to go after people and dogs, with a small gentle correction on the collar he would sit down calmly and stop thrashing around trying to attack what he saw. Throughout working with my dog and the trainer, his behavior only improved. It was only after trying to walk him without it one day that I realized that the collar was the most important part of his behavior change. He started to listen and be much closer to me in general around the house when he wasn't wearing it.

He let strangers in my house without lunging at him. The trainer even had a six-month old puppy sitting on my dog towards the end of the sessions. The prong collar was an essential tool in rehabilitating my dog. I have never had to use it with force or in any manner other than a gentle correction. If anything, using any other method felt cruel to me because I would have to yank hard, only for him to not respond. While it may look, by appearance, that it is uncomfortable, when used properly I would absolutely contribute to it saving my dog's life, and reducing my stress and danger to those who were around him. I still use it, and his behavior in general has completely changed permanently and for the better. I can now walk him whenever I want, wherever I want, and I don't have to worry about someone or another dog getting hurt. Now that he can go for a walk he is a healthy, happy dog, and I couldn't be happier with the way the collar worked for both of us. Since learning the proper use of the prong, and finally able to walk my dog during hours that people and dogs are out, my dog has since lost 35 pounds, and is now a healthier, happy dog. I would recommend using it to anyone as long as it was used with care and under the supervision of a knowledgeable trainer to ensure it is used correctly. The prong collar is a safe, effective method of training and I wouldn't have my dog alive growing old with me without it.


My husband and I adopted a Pit-Bull mix from the Humane Association about 4 years ago. As a puppy, Colden seemed very shy and was scared to be in a room or even outside by himself. Overtime and as he matured, this shyness developed into what we were later told was fear aggression. Colden was not scared of other dogs, just unfamiliar people. He had the ability to forms bonds with certain individuals, he saw on a regular basis, but could not tolerate any new faces. At first we were not overly concerned because he seemed to be functioning fine at his daycare (K-9Kamp) and when he was scared he would retreat instead of attack. However, the shyness quickly turned to full on aggression. It became difficult to have people over to our house and one day Colden summoned enough courage to bit one of our friends when she came to visit. We were now faced with the cold reality that Colden had the potential to seriously hurt someone and as a result, his life could be at stake. Thankfully the good people at K-9 Kamp suggested a trainer that dealt with aggressive dogs. This is when we met Clif Van Auken.

Our first training session with Clif was almost a disaster. Colden seemed okay at first, but 5 minutes into the walk, he turned on Clif and tried to bit him- several times. Being the professional handler he is, Clif came out unscathed (other then a large tear in his vintage jacket…sorry!) as he looked into my tearful eyes, he explained that Colden is a “red zone “ dog, meaning that he has a tendency to attack without warning. He then went on to explain that having a dog like this requires special attention, but is not a death sentence. Clif assured us that if we worked hard and were dedicated, anything was possible.

We currently are finishing our 3rd training set with Clif (each set has 4 training session included.) during this time we have learned how to become more effective leaders, what to do when Colden reacts on walks, how to handle Colden when people come into the house, and most importantly, we have gained the confidence that is required to reinforce positive behavior and effectively deter negative behavior. Training has definitely been eye-opening and a lot of work we will have to maintain throughout Colden’s life. We still have good days and bad days, but we are learning from each set back, and becoming better leaders as a result. I can honestly say that Clif has helped save Colden’s life, and we are forever grateful.

Walking Your Dog: The Most Essential Tool to Establish Pack Leadership

For a pack leader, the walk is the key to a true bonding experience with your pack. A strong foundation in your alpha/ omega relationship is built through the walk.

Many people do not walk their dog(s) as they should, or even at all. People are often discouraged by problems controlling their dogs while on walks like pulling, lunging, marking (urinating), or showing signs of aggression. These behaviors are indicators that "pack leadership" is not being provided, and the dog is trying to take on this alpha role. From birth, puppies learn to look to their mother to control everything they do. When you take a dog into your home or "pack" you and your family members assume this full time role. Your family should be prepared to provide consistent structure so it is clear to your dog that he/ she is not the leader. Regular walks are a great way to maintain this relationship.

As the pack leader, your dog will look to you for leadership as they would in any natural pack. A good pack leader will walk with their head up and shoulders back. Be calm, and walk with confidence. Keep your dog to your side or slightly behind you on a leash with a marginal but comfortable amount of slack. It is critical to provide positive energy as pack leaders do in the wild. Negative energy, such as nervousness, fear, or intimidation on walks can be confusing to dogs, and can trigger the "fight or flight" response resulting in aggression. Some people are afraid of large dogs and tend to tense up around them and start pulling the lead. This tension in the lead will be picked up by the dog as they are well tuned to us, but the signal can be misinterpreted.

The walk helps establish a true bond with your pack, and makes a strong connection that you are the pack leader. Provide daily exercise for your pack, and walk together regularly. A pack that does not have pent up energy is a healthy pack. Excess energy can lead to behavioral problems. Stay balanced. Keep a healthy state of mind. Follow through every time. This will create strength within your pack's relationship and keep you identified as "Pack Leader".

Multi- dog households and adopted dogs will receive discount rates.

(Proof of adoption must be provided. Multi-dog discounts apply only to dogs in the same class.) Proof of current vaccinations must be provided prior to first session. All dogs must be 4 months or older.

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East Syracuse

228 Old Bridge Street
East Syracuse, NY 13057
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T: (315) 437-7110

Office Hours
Mon - Fri: 6:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Sat: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Dogs must be dropped off by 11:00 a.m. on Fridays
Daycare, Boarding, Grooming, Training, Retail, and Self-Serve Dog Wash Available


Dog Day Care Baldwinsville2115 Downer Street
Baldwinsville, NY 13027
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T: (315) 635-DOGS

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Tue - Fri: 6:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Daycare, Training, and Retail


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