Some of Hollywood’s biggest canine stars — including Toto from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, Lassie, star of one of the longest-running series in television history and Rin Tin Tin, from the eponymous 1950s television series — lived and trained at the facility in North Hollywood.
The school was established in 1927 by Carl Spitz, Sr., a German immigrant who had learned dog training from the man many consider to be the “Father of Dog Training,” Colonel Konrad Most. Spitz found work in Hollywood, training dogs for the movies.
The first location of Spitz’s school was a ten-acre parcel near Laurel Canyon Blvd. Spitz had to find a new location in the 1950s when the Ventura Freeway was being built. As it happened, the property owned by another famous trainer, Rudd Weatherwax (Lassie’s trainer), became available.
The Vanowen property, where the school now sits, actually figured into the creation of the Lassie TV series. It was here that Lassie chose her Timmy. In Rudd Weatherwax’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times, the reporter cites an interview from 1979 with Tommy Rettig, the boy star of the show. Rettig says, “It was narrowed down to three of us. Each spent a week at Lassie’s house.
Whoever got along best with the dog got the part. It was Lassie’s choice.” Shortly thereafter, Weatherwax was ready to sell the property to Carl Spitz since the television show would be his full-time focus.
Spitz bought the property, but maintained the Weatherwax connection. In fact, we still have Lassie’s paw prints that were embedded in cement that was poured for new kennels at the time.
Lassie “was living really well,” said Karl. “She used to have a limo that would come here and pick her up and take her to the studios.”
In fact, Lassie was so famous that she didn’t sleep in a kennel — she had her own bedroom.
Hollywood Dog Training School before
Hollywood Dog Training School today. The storied Hollywood Dog Training School is closing its doors after 90 years in operation. The current owners moved the operation to Acton.