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How I Became a Professional Dog Trainer



I really shouldn’t like dogs.

At 18 months old I was bitten in the face by our family dog, Luke (left). The scar on my face is still easy to spot.


At 10, I was chased down the street by a friend's dog.


Then at 14, I was bitten by another dog while babysitting their two kids.


So unlike a lot of animal professionals, I haven't "always liked dogs."


Then came Trixie.


Trixie was the best!


She joined our family when I was in 7th grade and showed me that I wanted to become a dog trainer. She was my best friend and taught me so many lessons throughout her life.


It was at her puppy classes that I knew dog training was what I wanted to do with my life. It was so fun, so freeing, and so relaxing.

Middle school me with Trixie, my sisters and I with Trixie, College me with Trixie, Trixie at 14.5 yrs


I wish I had more pictures with Trixie, but she was always camera shy.


In my senior year of high school, I made it very clear to all my teachers and advisors I wanted to become a dog trainer. I was told to go to school, get a degree, and find a real job.


That is exactly what I did... well, kind of.


I moved to NYC to pursue my undergraduate degree at The City College of New York (CCNY). But, while in school full time, I also worked full time in various dog related positions. First at a dog daycare, then as a dog walker, then an apprentice for a dog trainer.

In 2015 I graduated CCNY with degrees in Advertising & Public Relations, and Digital Design. And that same year I became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CCPDT - KA) through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.


Much to the dismay of several professors, I ignored the degrees I had just received, and I jumped right into dog training full time. I liked what I studied in school, but so far nothing had convinced me to give up dog training, so I didn’t. I knew dog training was what I was meant to do.


For the next 5 years I worked hard building my business, training dogs, and surviving in NYC (lol). Along the way I completed a variety of other certifications, including a certificate in Applied Animal Behavior through the University of Washington. I also had a lot of fun with dog training side projects such as my monthly newsletter, blog posts, and posters I created about dog training.


All of these side projects have been important to me because I believe that if people are looking for quality information to help them train and understand their dog better, they should have a way to access it.


When I graduated CCNY I knew that at some point I wanted to go to grad school, I just had to wait patiently until I found the right program. Luckily, in 2020 that goal became a reality and I enrolled in Virginia Tech’s School of Agriculture and Life Science in their Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare online Master’s degree program.

I had a lot of fun with my classes, and surprisingly fell in love with research!


Under the mentorship of Drs. Erica N. Feuerbacher and Lisa Gunter, I carried out research examining puppy owners’ perceptions of puppy socialization and their ability to interpret canine body language.


I never had considered that I could be someone who did research, I'm not a science person! But, I guess it turns out that I am. In the future I would like to pursue a PhD, write a book, and do some speaking engagements. But, I love training dogs, and no matter what path I go down, I can’t see a future for myself that does not include dog training.


But, Do You Actually Know What You Are Doing?


Yes, I do! I promise! And I also promise that if and when I don't I will let you know, refer you to a different professional, and/or ask for help.


Credentials

Certified Professional Dog Trainer - KA

Certified Behavior Consultant Canine - KA

Family Paws Family Educator

Fear Free Certified Professional

Certified Trick Dog Instructor

AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator

American Safety and Health Institute, Pet First Aid Certified

Masters of Science in Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare (Coursework complete, graduation anticipated Spring 2023)



Fun Facts


Favorites:

My favorite flavor of ice cream is Ben and Jerry's Phish Food, and there is never a time it's too cold to enjoy a bowl.


My favorite color is green. It always has been and I’m sure it always will be. Sometimes its a problem because I buy green everything, but they are all in different shades and then nothing goes together.


My favorite movie, by far, is the original karate kid. It's the only movie I never get tired of watching. I might know all the words by now.


My favorite day of the week is Friday. Is it weird I have a favorite day of the week? I always find it so nice to know that I have the whole weekend ahead of myself and some time to catch my breath.


Where in the World:

I have absolutely no idea what country I would live in ff I had to live in another country. I would probably prefer somewhere that had more warm weather than cold weather. And I would probably want somewhere that has a larger population instead of a smaller population. And of course, there must be dogs! But I'm not sure if I have traveled enough to know where else I would want to live.


There are currently three vacation destinations on my bucket list. I want to visit Iceland to see the northern lights, visit London, and to visit San Francisco to see the giant sequoia trees. I think that San Francisco is likely to happen first, and I want to bring Dustin with me to see the giant sequoias!


The best vacation I have ever been on was to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the first family trip we went on that was purely for fun and was not to visit a relative. We had so many new adventures as a family, I loved the weather, and we stayed in the gorgeous Viejo San Juan.






© Leash and Learn 2022





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