Q: Tell us about the first animal you trained.
A: It was our family dog, Tiffany, a Maltese. I used luring with treats and taught her to roll over, shake, sit, and lie down. I was 10 years old without any experience or guidance, so Tiffany must have been a quick learner. She was certainly very food-motivated and patient with my antics!
Q: Was there a particular dog/animal in your life that was your most important teacher?
A: BeJay, a large mixed-breed dog, was my first dog as an adult. He was my guide toward positive reinforcement training and science-based behavior modification. I dedicate my VTS (Behavior) certification to him. We struggled through years of poor advice, punishment, and all of its side effects before reaching effective knowledge and compassion. BeJay made me a better person.
Q: What is your favorite activity or sport to do with your own dog(s)?
A: I love K9 Nose Work, hiking, and exploring life with my dogs. I also have a greyhound that believes that cuddling should be a sport!
Q: What is your proudest training moment?
A: I am currently training my newest family member, a mule named Daisy. I think she will produce my proudest training moments, as she is collimating all of my knowledge, skill, and patience. Plus, working with a large species requires me to think about technique and safety at every interaction.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: My days are quite varied and include remote meetings with my research teammates at NC State; planning, analyzing, and compiling study data; assisting my KPA DTP students; collaborating on the Fear Free practice certification task force; reading and writing publications; creating educational presentations; and training my mule.
Q: What advice would you give to a new training student?
A: Be compassionate toward your learner(s). Gain knowledge and try your best to consider their reality (human and animal). Your focus may be on animals, but your ability to teach them requires a strong aptitude for human communication. Never stop learning.
Q: Do you have any student success stories you can share?
A: I’m currently finishing my first KPA DTP course and hope to foster success in my current and future students. I am proud of the veterinary technicians I taught while working in small-animal medicine. They are still teaching puppy class, promoting and enhancing behavioral health eight years after my departure.
Q: What do you do to continue your training education?
A: I love learning! Attending lectures and lab, in the areas of veterinary and animal behavior and training, as well as in ancillary areas such as communication and teaching. I also love collaborating with colleagues, reading research articles, and trying techniques with my own animals.
Q: If you were a dog, what breed would you be?
A: I would be a mixed breed. Alas, my heritage is not pure but I embrace diversity, which brings strength.