The History of Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club

The Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC) was founded as a nonprofit in 1964 by Eva and Tony Caesar to meet the needs of North Pinellas County. At first, however, we were called Upper Suncoast Dog Obedience Club, as our club focused only on obedience training. We offered classes twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Proud owners of Standard Poodles and a Welsh Terrier, Eva and Tony were passionate about dog training. USDTC joined the Dog Training Club of Tampa and the Dog Training Club of St Petersburg serving the Tampa Bay area.


In the early days, our club met and held classes at the Lion’s Den in Dunedin. Thanks to word of mouth, ads in the Yellow Pages, and referrals from veterinarians, we quickly attracted a core group of founding members, including Herb Dolan, Pat Hammerslee, and Libby and Toots Seiber. Financial support from these founding members, along with revenue from paying students, helped sustain our operations.


While founders Eva and Tony Caesar were heavily involved with the club, Eva played a pivotal role in our early success as an Obedience Instructor and an AKC Obedience Judge. She also served as our first President, a role she held for about twenty years. After she stepped down, Stella Larson assumed the presidency around 1985. Tony Caesar passed away in the mid 1970’s, and eventually Eva married Art Neargarder, a fellow Obedience Judge who shared her passion for training dogs.


Eva and Art became increasingly involved with the AKC and served as our first official AKC delegates. They played a key role in the club becoming an AKC member and were instrumental in testing the newly created Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award in the 1980s. In fact, there is a fun memory about the AKC team flying in to run the first CGC test on a basic class of approximately twenty dogs to see if the test was appropriate for basic graduates at Upper Suncoast Dog Obedience Club.


In the early 1970s (1971/1972), USDTC relocated to Stirling Hall on 730 Broadway in downtown Dunedin, which today houses the Beatles museum. Several original members contributed funds to purchase this larger, more suitable location. Back then we shared Stirling Hall, then a one-story building, with the local Recreation Center, which used it by day while we used it in the evenings. Members set up for dog training every evening before the first class and rolled up all the mats after classes finished. During the construction of the second floor, we held classes outside across the street in the parking lot. Once the second floor was completed, the upstairs was used exclusively for dog training and the downstairs was used for Square Dancing, Round Dancing, and Jazzercise. Twice a year we hosted Obedience trials, Open & Novice classes upstairs and Utility downstairs.


Before we could host our own trials, we rented the Dunedin High School Gymnasium and the Armory. We did use the one-story building a few times for the October trial by having Utility indoors and Novice & Open outside under the carport.


After a while, Eva and Art Neargarder stepped back from the club, paving the way for new leadership under David Gueraldo, followed by Kristy Lockard, who served as President from 1994 to 1995. A member since 1973, Kristy is still an active member today, volunteers as an instructor, and enjoys great success with her miniature Schnauzers.


In the early 1990s, we expanded our training to include sports beyond Obedience. At Stirling Hall, we first offered Scent Hurdle Racing. Helen Temmel introduced Therapy Dog training. Later while we were in the Laundromat, we added Agility. By 2007, we changed our name to Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club reflecting its broader focus.


Over the years, USDTC has occupied five different locations:

1) The Lions Den in Dunedin

2) Stirling Hall at 730 Broadway, Dunedin (20+ years)

3) A laundromat (this building didn’t have airco when we moved in, so we installed three window units to cool the building down for our classes (4 or 5 years)

4) The strip mall at 1415 Pinehurst Road

5) Since August of 2001, 2101 Logan Street in Clearwater (20+ years)


Throughout the years, USDTC has steadily maintained a membership of approximately 80+ members. We’ve helped train thousands of dogs. We’ve had several dogs achieve perfect scores of 200 points in Obedience competitions. Some of the early notable achievements include Jean Whittler’s Shelties and Sally Frye’s Shepherd and Shelties who received perfect scores multiple times, well before the OTCH came into existence. More recently, USDTC has produced multiple OTCH dogs by trainers such as Genie Stotlar, Delores Connelly, and Dawn Kennedy. 


The club has also had a lot of success in Agility. Our Agility program started with Doug Hurley (who is now a Sr AKC Field Rep), Alan Silvey and Mike Fritz. Our club continues to compete and prosper in the Agility venue having many members achieve their MACH’s and PACH’s and compete at Nationals and Invitationals.


After sixty years, our club is still thriving. We’ve added Conformation, Rally, Tricks, and Fit Dog to our schedule. We have several AKC Canine Ambassadors and have launched a Public Outreach Program. Steeped in a long and colorful history, USDTC continues to find many ways to serve the dog lovers of North Pinellas County.


Our motto ‘Happiness Is A Well Trained Dog’ has guided us for the past 60 years and continues to be at the heart of what we do today and in future.

Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club

2101 Logan Street

Clearwater, FL  33765