Oak Hill Kennel
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History of Oak Hill

Oak Hill Kennel has been a family-run local business since 1971, when John Dahl, then a professor at the University of Maine, decided to turn his dog training hobby into a career. John chose to return to the Sandhills because of its ideal combination of terrain, climate, and abundant water for training retrievers.

After a long search, John found a truly beautiful seven-acre tract, featuring stately oak woods, unusual in this area. He cleared the drive, kennel site, and yards using a Swedish saw, leaving the healthiest mature trees for shade. He built the buildings himself, digging the footings by hand, finishing the concrete, and carrying water from Nick's Creek to mix mortar for the blocks.

Although John had several ready-made customers who had for years been asking him to train their dogs, he taught part-time at Sandhills Community College to help make ends meet. In 1977 he began training dogs full-time, and in the fall of that year he won his first Open All-Age stake at a retriever field trial, defeating 104 other dogs with his black Lab, Tarheel Jade.

Back then the area was much less built up than it is today. John trained his retrievers all over Lake Pinehurst, Lake Aberdeen, what are now Little River Farm and Pinehurst No. 6 golf courses, and elsewhere. He quickly earned nationwide recognition, training a number of retrievers to their field championships, including two dual champions (both field and show champions). People brought or shipped dogs from all over the country for him to train.

John also boarded dogs at the kennel, voluntarily maintaining a state kennel license to demonstrate that Oak Hill was designed and maintained above the standards specified by the state of North Carolina.

Since those early days, other family members have participated in the running of the kennel, including John's former wife Jackie, daughters Susan and Laura, son Anton, and daughter-in-law Susan. In 1996 John married Amy, who was then a faculty member at Mercer University, active in training her own retrievers--and the recipient of many requests to train dogs for others. Since then Amy has participated in boarding and training at Oak Hill, and has helped develop our current procedures.

As population (and golf) growth took over more and more of our training areas, John and Amy looked for a solution. In 1998 we bought an unimproved acreage near Vass to develop as our own private training ground. We completed our new kennel and moved the retrievers in 2006. We began refurbishing our original kennel (now Oak Hill Kennel West) as exclusively a boarding kennel for dogs and cats. Retaining the large runs and park-like grounds established for retrievers, our kennel now includes full grooming facilities, redesigned indoor enclosures, improved heating and security, new paint, and comfortable Kuranda beds.

Renovations are now complete, and our kennel combines its new interior with its excellent outdoor access-protected by grandfathering and thereby impossible for any newer facility to match.

We welcome you and your pet to join the Oak Hill tradition!

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