Q: Tell us about the first animal you trained.
A: Her name was Sadie and she was a 1-year-old chow/retriever mix. I adopted her in my early 20s. I didn’t tell my parents at first because I knew they wouldn’t approve (ultimately, they loved Sadie!). Sadie and I learned a lot together; I am forever grateful to her and for that impactful and rewarding relationship. We adored each other. Sadie was also my brilliant KPA dog—at age 12!
Q: Was there a particular dog/animal in your life that was your most important teacher?
A: Sadie! There were also a couple of dolphins that taught me a lot. One of them was named Josephine and the other was Theresa. They were older dolphins (each living to their 50s), and knew much more than me. So I had to listen and follow their leads. Working together is the only way to get great things accomplished.
Q: What is your favorite activity or sport to do with your own dog(s)?
A: We compete in the sport of couch-cuddling (I am pretty sure we are winning!). I have done nose work with both of my dogs, first Sadie and now Bert. I also really enjoyed running with Sadie and now do so with Bert. For a little guy, he is very fast!
Q: What is your proudest training moment?
A: It was probably a husbandry behavior taught to a marine mammal. You train the behavior, but when it comes time to get a real sample, it can be tense. With husbandry behaviors, both the animal and the human trainer are really trusting each other with personal safety. It always feels really good when an important medical procedure occurs and everyone is safe and happy.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: A real day or how I would like my days to go? My morning is getting my little human off to school. I try to be as graceful about that chaos as possible. I also attend to the dog and the cat. Then I get to work. During the day I create course content for KPA. I LOVE MY JOB. It is rewarding and challenging. I feel very fortunate to be such a close part of the KPA organization.
Q: What advice would you give to a new training student?
A: Seek out your training sources and mentors. This way, you can build off of solid knowledge, mechanics, and techniques from the get-go. Take time to invest in your education. Sometimes the amount of knowledge needed to teach animals responsibly is underestimated. As professional trainers, we NEED to be able to explain why we do what we do, scientifically and compassionately.
Q: Do you have any student success stories you can share?
A: Oh, it’s always enjoyable to see a new student , someone taking the time to learn, spending time teaching his/her dog and being rewarded with success. I have had students tell me they are so nervous at the start of class and by the end of the course they are stars.
Q: What do you do to continue your training education?
A: I spend time with smart people. The good news is that they are everywhere. Through my work history and through KPA I have access to a wide variety of trainers. When I need help, I seek out the ones I know have experience with the situation I am in, or I seek someone whose advice I trust. I attend ClickerExpo conferences and online webinars and I read articles. We are a community. No one can operate alone. It would be doing ourselves, and the animals, a disservice.
Q: Outside of dog training/dog sports, do you have any hobbies?
A: I enjoy running, swimming, and water-skiing. I also enjoy writing and reading.
Q: If you were a dog, what breed would you be?
A: This is a tough one, as I have taken those tests and never really agreed with the results. I would think I would be a happy, easygoing dog breed, but one that also needs my people. I would like to go out and have some adventures, but, at the end of the day, always come home to my dog bed.