Pop Quiz

Matt ’89 and Kelly

Bugle Elvin ’89

Going to the Dogs

Matt ’89 and Kelly Bugle Elvin ’89 left behind careers in law to train dogs and their people. After practicing law for a decade, Kelly founded TipTopTails Dog Training in Kalamazoo, Mich. Matt, who practiced law for 14 years, has been a certified missing animal response technician since 2007, when he trained a dog to search for lost cats. Matt and Kelly developed the Puppy Day School program and are instructors for the dog*biz Dog Walking Academy.

Matt and Kelly Bugle Elvin pictured smiling sitting with their two dogs
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Matt ’89 and Kelly Bugle Elvin ’89 with Tonka (left) and Wags McGee.
Photo: Courtesy of Matt ’89 and Kelly Bugle Elvin ’89

What’s the name of your favorite TV or movie dog?

a. Lassie
b. Benji
c. Beethoven
close up image of Higgins, the original Benji

Matt says, “I’ve always preferred big dogs as pets, but Benji is the movie dog of my generation.” Kelly agrees, saying the Benji movies were a part of her childhood too.


What flavor of treat is your go-to for training?

a. Bacon
b. Cheese
c. Peanut butter
Both trainers are advocates of string cheese, which is easy to portion out and can double as “a quick snack for a hungry trainer,” Kelly says. Matt’s tip: Use spray cheese on a long wooden spoon to reward small dogs in a heel position.

Which dog trainer has the best program?

a. Cesar Millan
b. Victoria Stilwell
c. Patricia McConnell

The Elvins went on an African safari with this co-author of the Puppy Primer, whom Matt cites as an influence for their training methodology and philosophy. Kelly adds, “In person, she is kind, funny and makes an excellent pie.”


Which activity is best for high-energy dogs?

a. Agility
b. Frisbee toss and catch
c. Lots of walks
Matt picks agility, as he “prefers activities that engage the brain.” He also favors “scent work, which exhausts dogs much more quickly than physical exercise.”

Kelly says lots of walks are key: “It’s crucial to balance cardio-type exercise with calm, low-intensity activities to teach them how to downshift and relax.”


Which would you rather be?

a. Supreme Court justice
b. Westminster Kennel Club judge
c. Movie dog trainer
The Elvins note that it’s a professional challenge to have a dog perform under stressful circumstances. Plus, Kelly adds, it’d be pretty “cool to peek behind the curtain of the movie business.”

What aspects of your Bucknell education supported your leap from law to canines?

“I credit the late economics Professor Charles Sackrey for challenging my personal beliefs and instilling in me the willingness to hop off the expected path when a new, more rewarding opportunity to help people emerges,” Matt says.

“The late English Professor Jack Wheatcroft ’49 and The Bucknellian taught me to be precise and thoughtful with language,” Kelly says. “Dog training is people training, so communicating clearly and effectively is essential.”