Graduates in the Spotlight
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Mike didn’t know he wanted to be a dog trainer and work with animals until later in his life He spent 32 years working for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in the Army Continuing Education System (ACES) and Office of the Secretary of Defense. It wasn’t until 2008, when his wife Kathy was paralyzed, that the direction of his life changed. In 2011, Kathy received a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence. During their two-week team training with the new service dog, Mike realized he wanted to train dogs.
While working for the DOD’s Military Spouse Career Advancement program, Mike came across a variety of dog trainer schools—all of which were applying for admittance into the program. After doing more research, he determined that ABC had the best all-around training approach. While enrolled, Mike went through radiation and drug treatments for prostrate cancer and was very pleased with the support and flexibility that ABC provided.
Because of his teaching experience with ACES, Mike felt very comfortable in his externship at a shelter and was able to help adopt out many animals. One incident in particular stands out for him. One day, a family came in to look at a Lab/Pit mix he had been working with; just as they made the decision to make the dog part of their family, their daughter ran up to them with tears in her eyes. She had just found her cat who had been missing for days; Mike was thus able to save two animals that day.
Mike isn’t currently offering any classes, but plans to offer free training sessions to people who adopt pets from the shelter. He decided to not pursue a full-time career in order to have time to take better care of his wife. His decision allows him to continue volunteering at the shelter. Whichever direction is training career takes, Mike is always looking for more ways to help out the people and animals in his neighborhood.
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Karen Fleming, a lifelong dog lover from Sedona, Ariz., is the mother of two rescue dogs, a blue nose American pitbull terrier, Luna, and a Lab/Shar Pei mix, Lyla. She said she was drawn to dogs from a young age.
“I couldn't stay away no matter where I encountered them,” Karen noted.
Prior to having a family dog, Karen ran a dog-walking service for her neighbors so that she could be around them.
“At times I related to dogs better than people, and it seemed I also had a talent for getting them to respond to me,” she said.
Karen knew she had a gift for communicating with dogs but didn’t realize that becoming a dog trainer would be her calling. It wasn't until many years later—and after being approached by countless people—that she considered a career in the field.
Through trial and error, Karen developed her own training methods that worked well enough, but she also understood there were gaps in her techniques. She knew that if she wanted to be taken seriously as a dog trainer, she would need a cohesive obedience program.
“I wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could advance my own skills, as well as help dogs and their owners relate to each other better,” Karen said.. “I researched schools online and found ABC. Since enrolling in the Dog Obedience Program, it has made me knowledgeable and an overall better trainer. I think most dog trainers out there who aren't certified will continue to do things ’their way‘ without opening their minds to a better way, which is unfortunate-especially for the dogs. I am one of only two or three other certified trainers in my area, which has earned prospective clients’ respect, as well as made me more marketable.”
The volunteer portion of the program influenced Karen’s perspective on training, particularly when she changed the fate of some of the dogs at the shelter.
“It was one of the greatest experiences I had during my externship,” Karen said. ”I have seen a couple of the dogs I worked with at the shelter playing with their new owners at the dog park. They were able to pick me out of a crowd—dogs never forget your kindness. There were times I didn't think I was making a difference, and then months later, to see them again, I was shown that I did.”
After graduating from ABC, Karen started her own dog training business, Red Rock Balanced Canine. She offers private in-home training sessions, obedience training and dog socialization, problem solving and puppy classes. Karen continues to work with local shelters and rescues, evaluating dogs and training them so they become more adoptable.
“I try to emphasize how training can literally saves lives, not only from the standpoint of prevention of accidents but if the dog needs to be turned into a shelter for whatever reason, he or she has a better chance of finding another home,” she said. “Without proper socialization and obedience, the dog’s chances decrease considerably.”
Karen also formed partnerships with pet-friendly apartment communities to help tenants become more educated on topics such as daily walks, separation anxiety and socialization. In addition to private session, she teaches a basic obedience course at local dog parks through the city’s Park and Recreation department.
Future plans include expanding her dog training business and becoming an established, reliable resource for dog owners in her area. Karen is currently in the process of moving and benefits from the ability to move her dog training business with her wherever she goes. Karen’s long-term goal is to work with and train cancer and diabetic assistance dogs for the public.
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Like many military spouses, JoAnna’s lifestyle always brought her to unexpected places. While living in Massachusetts she pursued a career in law enforcement but was unable to continue because of the military’s frequent relocation schedule. When JoAnna’s recent move brought her to California, she knew that it was time to take a different career path, one that would be more conducive to the military lifestyle. An online school seemed like it would fit the bill but she knew that hands-on experience actually working with dogs was important as well. JoAnna’s careful research led her to find ABC which she soon knew was the right place for her. After all, she had loved animals, especially dogs, her whole life so why not make a career out of her long-time love? JoAnna enrolled into the ABC Certified Dog Obedience program and hasn’t regretted her decision
JoAnna knew she would be able to make an impact as a dog trainer when she started getting reactions from others about the behavior of her own dogs, an eight year old yellow lab and a two year old golden retriever. People wanted to know what her secret was. The truth was that JoAnna was practicing the dog training techniques discussed in the ABC curriculum with her own pets. As JoAnna’s confidence around dogs grew she gained a better understanding of how to work with all different types of dogs, including those with behavioral problems. Additionally, the Dog Obedience Program gave her insight into how to teach owners to bring out the best in their furry friends. JoAnna tells others that the dog training course “was a great opportunity to get out there and follow what makes you feel great as a person.”
JoAnna currently resides in Oceanside, California where she uses the knowledge she’s acquired through ABC to volunteer her training services within her community. You can find her working part-time with families and their dogs on basic obedience and socialization. She feels this is a great way to give back and stay sharp on her dog training skills while maintaining a full-time job in the insurance industry.
We at ABC are glad to know that there are ABC certified dog trainers like JoAnna who enjoy sharing their talents to benefit dogs and people in their local communities!
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Michelle Schaa is an ABC graduate and certified dog trainer from Fort Worth, Texas. She has always wanted to work with animals but her fears of financial stability prevented Michelle from searching for a job in the industry. However, her concerns were put at ease once she spoke with an active professional trainer. That conversation changed her life. She felt motivated and hopeful for the future. Michelle immediately began searching for a school that would help her realize her dream.
When looking for a training school online, Michelle stumbled upon ABC. After spending some time researching the website, she realized that ABC had all the requisites she was seeking in a college and decided to enroll in the Dog Obedience Program. The program is taught by certified dog trainers which includes a hands-on portion. Michelle comments, “My experience with ABC has made me love dog training! It is the best job in the world. There is no feeling like finding a way to create communication between the owner and his best friend and strengthening their bond. I only wish I had found out sooner that I could be a dog trainer so that I could have helped many more people have a great relationship with their furry friends.”
Michelle would recommend ABC to anyone looking to pursue a career in dog training. ABC’s dog training courses were easy to read and understand. Each course gave her step by step knowledge on a variety of training concepts. In addition, ABC taught dog communication which gave her the ability to read situations and pick the best way to approach a dog. Michelle says, “ABC is a good school that puts into practice positive reinforcement so that a friendship is born out of the bond built in training. The dog learns to trust and respect his owner, not to fear him.” These are the same methods she practices in her own training classes.
Since the externship, Michelle has not stopped training dogs. She spends a lot of time volunteering at her local animal shelter. Her time at the shelter has improved her training techniques as well as helped to promote her dog training business. She currently offers private basic obedience classes, problem solving training, and leadership training. Also, Michelle has recently partnered with a dog daycare hotel in the area that has let conduct dog training classes. Michelle says, “Each day I think to myself I want to be the best dog trainer I can be for both clients: the furry ones as well as its owner. I have always had a connection with animals but it was not until I started helping shelter dogs that I knew I was in the right career.”
Elaine Rinicker, ABCDT
Following That "A-Ha" Moment
Sometimes it takes having that “a-ha” moment to realize what it is you truly have a passion for, igniting the determination and inspiration you need to pursue your dream career. Elaine Rinicker’s occurred when driving to Mississippi before Christmas 2010. “I was driving along thinking about how I had always loved dogs and wondering as I had a number of times before, how great it would be to actually train, help and make a difference in their lives when, bam! I had one of those A-ha moments and decided I wanted to pursue a career as a certified dog trainer”.
Elaine discovered ABC after searching online for a reputable dog obedience program. She explains that ABC caught her attention after her search results consistently brought up the ABC website containing all the information she was hoping to find. Through further exploration, she came across the link to the ABC certified dog trainers search engine on the ABC website and decided to search for instructors in her local area. Elaine was very pleased to discover that there were several successful ABC certified dog trainers near her.
Elaine began her journey toward attaining her goal as an ABC certified dog trainer, and completed the program just short of a year. After finishing the program, she began noticing the positive effects her training was having in the lives of her own dogs, and she thought to herself, “Goodness, it really works!” She says it was then that she realized her hard work had paid off, and she was determined to make it only the first of many successes as a dog obedience instructor.
Aside from training, Elaine is also an Executive Director of a non-profit organization. She decided she wanted to take on a second career that would be challenging, and feels a profession as a dog obedience instructor offers both a challenge and the possibility to grow in a new direction.
Elaine is currently living in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, and is conducting her training part-time near Tampa, Florida. At this point in time, Elaine is training both private in-home and group classes at a local park. She is offering a variety of services including puppy training, problem solving, retraining, and basic obedience and manners classes. Elaine really enjoys working with and helping dogs with different behaviors and witnessing their drastic improvements.
Elaine’s experience since graduating ABC’s Dog Obedience Program has been quite pleasant. She is rapidly expanding her business through networking, referrals, and advertising. Elaine recommends ABC for anyone looking for a career in training dogs and helping both canines and their owners alike.
Lea Treat, ABCDT
Lending a Helping PAW
Many dog-lovers dream of making a difference in the lives of their four-legged companions, and Lea Treat, ABCDT, was no exception. Growing up, she had always wanted to be a dog trainer. “I had this belief that being a dog trainer would be such a cool job that everyone would want to do it and there would surely be no room left for me. It wasn’t until later in my life that I said to myself, ‘Wait just a minute! I can do that!’”
When Lea first began her journey in pursuit of her dream career, she quickly fell into a path which led to many accomplishments and rewarding experiences; however, none more worthwhile or gratifying than her realization of the career she truly had envisioned. She had just finished obtaining her Associate of Science degree and was considering furthering her education to become a Veterinary Technician. It was then she had the thought mentioned before, “If I can become a Vet Tech, why couldn’t I just do what I REALLY want to do and become a Dog Trainer?”
Lea knew undoubtedly she wanted to pursue her passion to become a dog trainer. She also knew that she wanted to have the best education she could find and “felt very confident that ABC would provide it.” Lea discovered ABC after doing some research on the internet for reputable dog training schools. She graduated from the program with honors and became an ABC Certified Dog Obedience Instructor in August 2011. She began training in September of 2011. “ABC worked with me until I was ready to start. Now I am an ABC Certified Dog Trainer! My dream job!” she says. In tangent with the ABC Dog Obedience Program, Lea was also doing some preliminary work, which included obtaining a business license, advertising when classes would begin, and building a website for her company.
Currently Lea is living in Stone Mountain, Georgia, just east of Atlanta. She is a part time dog trainer, offering basic obedience and problem solving classes in her neighborhood in a common area owned by a homeowner’s association. Aside from it being a really great place for her to train, $5.00 of every paid registration goes to the homeowner’s association to help pay for property tax and upkeep for the commons. “I’m hoping I’ll eventually be able to donate enough to fund speed bumps!” In addition to all of this, Lea is also teaching a basic obedience class at a large no-kill shelter called PAWS Atlanta. “This is where I did my volunteer training during my externship. I’m happy to donate $25 of each registration fee to PAWS and to offer PAWS adopting families their first class for free. My goal is to help the shelter dogs find homes and to help them stay in those homes permanently. I currently have three shelter dogs being brought through my class by volunteers. I’m very happy about that!”
Lea’s graduation from ABC has been both rewarding and fulfilling for her in countless ways. She would highly recommend ABC to anyone looking to pursue a career in dog training. “The ABC program is comprehensive, flexible, and offers on-going help even after graduation. It is well-respected by people in the industry due to the depth of knowledge it imparts to its students. I feel competent and confident when I’m speaking to a client, a potential client, or a business owner, whether about training or a business proposal. ABC gave me that confidence. Everyone at ABC was professional, friendly, and made me feel as though I were the only student they had.”
Although Lea’s passion, dedication and hard work were three main components towards her great success in obtaining her “dream job,” it is her natural talent and ambition which makes her an exemplary dog trainer. Lea is hoping to expand her training services, and is currently in talks with PAWS Atlanta to start a puppy class.
“I’m so proud to be an ABC Certified Dog Trainer and so happy I went the extra mile and completed the ABC program.”
ABC Honors Graduate, ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Some dog trainers know from a very young age that they want to work with animals for the rest of their life. This was not exactly the case for Megan Sanchez, who joined the Army directly out of high school to work in Aviation Systems Repair. Megan remembers her initial career path fondly but with little fulfillment. “With a background and certification in electronics from high school I thought that was the path I should take. I absolutely loved the Army and was good at it, but I knew it was not anywhere near what I wanted to do. There was no satisfaction in it for me.”
A couple of years ago Megan decided to make some time in her busy schedule for a hobby she enjoyed. Her activity of choice was volunteering for her local Humane Society. Even though she didn’t originally see herself having a long term animal career, Megan had always loved dogs and wanted to put her time to use in helping out some needy canines. As Megan spent more and more time at the Humane Society she realized that there was an immense need for good trainers. “The light bulb went off! I knew some of these dogs will more than likely need training as they went home with their adoptive families. Knowing of the apparent crisis with puppy mills (and even pet stores) getting dogs from “breeders”, I knew these dogs were not getting the proper start in life and would most likely need training. Even puppies and dogs acquired from “reputable sources” need training. Without it they can end up right in that same shelter and begin the same terrible cycle.”
Megan knew that she wanted to help in this area and began researching reputable dog training schools. Megan was drawn to the hands on training that ABC’s program offered it’s students and was also attracted to the program because ABC honored the MYCAA program which she qualified for as a military spouse. It wasn’t long before Megan knew that she was meant to be an ABC Certified Dog Trainer. She now looks at her new career as a dog trainer as something that enriches the lives of dogs as well as their owners. “I am good at reasoning with people and putting things into perspective for them which are two traits I feel are super important for dog trainers to have. I realized being a successful dog trainer does not mean that you are “good with dogs” or “can get dogs to listen to you”. It means being a good coach and teaching the owner how to be a good dog handler. We all know I can teach a dog to sit, but what’s important is how good I am at teaching the owner how to teach that same dog to sit. I get so much satisfaction from helping change the lives of dogs and owners alike.”
Megan now lives in Altoona, PA where she is a stay at home mother to her two young daughters and is a part time dog trainer for Altoona and surrounding areas. Megan has been an ABC Certified Dog Trainer since completing ABC’s Dog Obedience Program in April of this year and currently offers classes in basic obedience, behavior modification, dog walking, pet sitting, potential dog owner consultations, “Before You Bring Baby Home” consultations, and “Include Your Pet In Your Wedding” services. She is also currently working on adding pet massage to her growing list of services. Since her graduation from ABC, Megan has really been building her business and gaining a reputation locally. She is already receiving referrals from past clients, vet offices, and local grooming shops. Megan has also parlayed her ABC certification into a way to give back to the Humane Society that she started out volunteering at by now offering training programs to staff and shelter volunteers to teach them how to be more effective shelter dog handlers. In addition to all of this, Megan also volunteers and fosters for North East Boston Terrier Rescue.
Megan has found great success since her graduation from ABC and recommends ABC to anyone looking to pursue a career in dog training. “The program has been nothing but amazing for me for so many reasons. From the ability to work at my own pace, the hands on externship in my area, the extensive easy to follow curriculum, the support from staff and my program manager, the continuing education courses offered, the continued support post graduation through staff and various alumni programs, and ultimately the pride in saying ‘I am an ABC Certified Dog Trainer’!”
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
With genuine compassion and heart-felt empathy, ABC Certified Dog Trainer Karen Anderson persistently connects with dog owners, animal-loving children, and dogs with special needs. A survivor of breast cancer, Karen has devoted her time and talents to a myriad of charitable causes and will now kindly share her skills with ABC apprentices.
After excelling in the home-building business for 12 years and coordinating the start-up of three companies in the Charleston, South Carolina area, Karen decided she needed a career make-over. “I was tired of working for someone else and asking for time off when I wanted it – life is way too short to work for someone else,” she says. An animal lover throughout her entire life, she naturally gravitated toward working with animals but wasn’t sure what she could do without obtaining a bachelor’s degree. She already had a solid foundation in positive reinforcement training after completing obedience classes with her dog at the local pet store, so when her husband suggested she become a dog trainer, “the light bulb went off,” she says. “I researched what it took to become a dog trainer, and decided to enroll with Animal Behavior College.”
Karen was originally attracted to ABC’s hands-on externship, and she wasn’t disappointed when it came time for her to work with Mentor Trainer Tommy Grammer at the Charleston School for Dogs. “The hands-on portion with my mentor was my favorite part,” she says. With her education rapidly progressing, Karen began to prepare for graduation. However, in February of 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to begin chemotherapy. Her dreams of becoming a dog trainer went uncompromised, though; she tackled the final exam with minimal delays and passed with flying colors. She graduated from the program and became an ABC Certified Dog Obedience Instructor in May of 2006.
Immediately taking advantage the advice given to her in ABC’s Business Building stage of the curriculum, Karen began planning and cleverly marketing her training business as soon as she graduated. She now works primarily as a dog trainer, training in excess of 20 hours per week. Focusing mainly on bettering the lives of dogs and their owners, her main goal is “to help dogs stay in their homes and to educate children and adults about dogs and dog safety,” she says. Reaching out to those who rescue dogs from shelters is her method of obtaining this ambition. “I offer one free ‘in your home’ training session for anyone that adopts from any rescue or shelter,” she says. “If I run into people who have saved dogs from a very bad situation but have no money for training, I spend time volunteering and giving them free private lessons in their home.”
Karen’s willingness to donate her training skills has also connected her with a Boy Scout troop made up of home-schooled children. “The boys have agreed that if each one of them came to the shelter once a week, the dogs would get trained because someone would be there working with the dogs daily,” she explains. They have begun a four-week-long drive at the shelter during which they will spend two weeks practice clicker training with both the shelter cats and dogs. “We will click non-barking and non-jumping dogs; then we will work with the cats by clicking, throwing a super yummy treat to the back of the cage and removing ourselves from the cage a second after the treat was thrown,” she says. “Eventually the cats will be in the front of their cages, taking treats from lots of different hands.” The second two-week period will be spent doing basic obedience training with the dogs in hopes of helping them charm potential adopters and find permanent homes. She hopes to not only educate the animal-loving children, but to simultaneously save the lives of the shelter animals.
When ABC contacted Karen in August of 2007 to offer her a position as an ABC Mentor Trainer, she happily accepted. She is looking forward to working with her first apprentices and will strive to be an influential, considerate mentor. “I want to help as much as possible, and some students may have more experience than me and I can learn something from them too,” she says. “It’s a win-win.” Since she has a history of prosperity in business and has built her own training company, she will also share business advice. “I plan on informing them as to the business end of being successful,” she explains.
Since her graduation from ABC, Karen has undergone additional surgeries to improve her health. “I am still going through procedures with my cancer, but since I first found out about it, I’ve met dogs that survived breast cancer too,” she says. “Some of them even have to go through chemo.” Interacting with these special-needs dogs and relating with them on a different level has deepened her connection with canines, and she will undoubtedly continue to donate her time to dogs in need. In addition, she plans on teaming up with another dog trainer in her area to visit local schools. “We want to put on a short seminar and demonstration of dog safety in the school auditoriums,” she says. “I would also like to educate children on how dogs think and behave as part of this demonstration.”
Driven by the desire to improve the lives of animals everywhere and the hope of involving children in this quest, Karen Anderson is an outstanding role model in the canine community.
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Sandra “Sandy” Stokes, ABCDT, was already deeply immersed in a pack of paws long before enrolling at ABC. A Labrador breeder by trade, Sandy’s dog-filled dreams have blossomed successfully due to her intricate research, intense study, and undeniable devotion to canines.
Sandy and her husband fell in love with the breed upon the purchase of their first AKC-registered Labrador. After purchasing their third registered Lab in 1998, they decided to breed. However, as responsible dog owners, they knew not to rush into the commitment. “We put a great deal of consideration into our decision to breed, and we spent many hours in study and research before we launched our breeding program,” says Sandy. The hard work and research paid off, and in 2001 they officially founded Red Barn Ranch and Labradors -- a small, family-owned kennel in Charles Town, West Virginia.
Despite having a natural talent for training (she has been training her own dogs for years), Sandy didn’t consider becoming a professional trainer until one of her clients inspired her. “My client and friend told me, ‘you really should do this professionally!’” Flattered and encouraged, she began browsing the internet for dog training schools. Aside from having litters of precious Lab puppies to care for, she was a stay-at-home mother and wife; she simply couldn’t leave home to attend classes at a facility. “I was attracted to the ABC program because of the ability to complete course studies at home. Attending a residency program would not have fit into my life,” she says. She was also consistently comforted by the ABC staff’s patience. “During the time between my initial contact with ABC and my enrollment I was never pressured. I was always treated with dignity and respect.”
Sandy was vivaciously eager to get started, and once she obtained her materials she dove head first into studying and gaining a better understanding of dogs and behavior. However, she admits that her favorite part of the program was practicing with her beloved canines hands-on. She aptly put ABC’s positive reinforcement training techniques into effect at home with her own dogs while also attending training sessions, apprenticing under her Mentor Trainer. Once Sandy had completed her exams online, she was set up by her Externship Coordinator to train with Mentor Trainer Sandy Kowalski of Dog Day Afternoon in Leesburg, Virginia.
Attending group classes to practice what she had diligently studied throughout ABC’s nine stages of curriculum was infinitely influential. Through three series of group classes, Sandy had the opportunity to observe, participate, and even instruct clients and dogs in obedience classes. “I had a very positive experience training with [Kowalski]. It was wonderful to observe professional trainers at work, to participate as a student with my Lab, Tully, and to get some time actually instructing an obedience class,” Sandy explains. Kowalski allowed her to attend extra classes, and she elatedly took advantage of each and every chance to hone her skills. “I was offered the opportunity to observe all classes, and this allowed me to watch several professional trainers instruct a variety of classes,” she says.
Seasoned dog training veteran Kowalski gave Sandy guidance that is valuable to any newcomer. “I think the most important advice Sandy [Kowalski] gave to me is that you have to explain the theory behind the instruction you are giving your students,” Sandy states. “When students understand the theory behind a training method, they are more likely to follow through with consistency in training at home.” Volunteering at the local Animal Welfare Society during ABC’s volunteer requirement further proved to her that behavior problems are one of the biggest causes of the relinquishment of family pets. She knew that the solution to these behavior problems starts in the home, and will now strive to convince her clients to maintain consistency with their dogs’ training in the home.
Since graduating from ABC in July of 2007, she is still diligently practicing what she learned, and her prized Labradors are reeping the benefits. The time Sandy is spending working part-time as a trainer, training her own dogs and volunteering for her local Animal Welfare Society is simply a stepping stone on the path to reaching her goals. “My ultimate goal now that I’m certified is to build a full-time training business,” she says. “We recently formed an LLC, and are in the process of building a successful training program.”
Because Sandy followed her instincts and enrolled with ABC, Red Barn Ranch and Labradors has now greatly expanded upon their previously small business. “My ABC education has enhanced our breeding program. In addition to breeding Labs, we now offer canine obedience training and problem solving,” Sandy explains. She is proud to offer obedience training to her clients in hopes of securing permanent, cohesive relationships between her Lab puppies and their new families. “The knowledge I gained as an ABC student allows me to offer better training and advice to the clients that purchase our puppies.” Because of animal lovers like Sandy who go the extra mile to educate dog owners, these her pride-and-joy puppies will surely have happy, permanent homes.
For more information about Sandy and Red Barn Ranch and Labradors, please visit www.RBRandL.com.
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Life-long animal lover Keri Eisal, ABCDT, dreamed of becoming a dog trainer from the time she was in grade school, and even focused her senior project on the dog training business. Even without prior training experience, her intuition told her that the best way to help dogs is to help their owners have a better understanding of their pets.
One experience in particular proved to Keri that there was a dire need for patient, devoted dog trainers. “When I was growing up, we had a Collie/Australian Shepherd mix, Cheddar. She was awesome, but not really a good ‘family dog.’ She nipped and didn’t get along with other dogs,” Keri explains. She knew that she would have to find a solution to Cheddar’s problems before they became too serious for her family to handle. “We took her to a basic obedience class, and she barked and was out of control. The trainer kicked us out of class! I was so angry! I went home and started teaching her everything I could, which wasn’t much at the time – sit, stay, down. I wanted to show this lady that it could be done, that every dog is trainable.” At a young age, Keri realized that without proper training, many dogs like Cheddar would be relinquished to shelters due to manageable behavior problems or aggression. “That’s my main motivation for doing this – to keep dogs out of the shelter.”
She decided to follow her desire to better the lives of dogs everywhere and began browsing the internet for training schools. ABC stood out above the rest. “ABC was really convenient, and I was excited about the hands-on!” Keri says. At the time, she was planning to move from her hometown of Gresham, Oregon to Casa Grande, Arizona to help her cousin open a dog grooming shop. She needed a program that would be flexible enough to allow her to cross state boarders while being enrolled, and ABC fit her needs perfectly. “I received my materials and started the program before I even moved,” she says.
With her hands-on externship rapidly approaching, Keri combed the ABC curriculum diligently. Her favorite aspect of the written curriculum was the diagrams; she could study them and practice with her own dog. “I loved practicing with my own dog with the information right in front of me and implementing things right away,” she says.
When it came time for her externship, Keri was set up with ABC Mentor Trainer Dianne Decker of Waggin’ Train, LLC in Phoenix, Arizona. “I remember my first class. I did something bad about puppy jumping. Dianne pointed it out, and I felt guilty,” she admits. However, she didn’t allow her mistake to discourage her. “I was so motivated to do it right. The next class, she said I did it perfectly. It was great motivation; even though I did terribly the first time, I did better the second time.”
Despite a rocky beginning, her perseverance and motivation didn’t go unnoticed. It seemed as if Dianne had her eye on Keri right from the start. “Dianne pushed me really hard to become a good trainer,” Keri explains. “I ended up doing a bunch of extra classes without even realizing it. It was awesome; she gave me insight.” After finishing her required amount of classes, Dianne revealed that she was interested in eventually hiring Keri as an obedience instructor. She offered for her to attend even more of her classes. “I looked at it as an opportunity to enhance my skills; she said something about hiring me one day,” Keri says. “I went to more classes, and she even had me teach some classes. I was really ready for it!”
Keri’s natural talent and incredible motivation for training dogs convinced Dianne that she would be an asset to the Waggin’ Train team. In January 2007, she became an official employee – before having graduated from ABC! She now teaches puppy classes and basic obedience classes through various veterinary hospitals throughout Scottsdale.
In an effort to solve the very issue that had her interested in training in the first place, Keri concentrates on patiently educating the owners of problem dogs before they have to resort to giving them up. “I go over extra things in class such as unruly behaviors, like puppy nipping and jumping. I don’t like to average more than three dogs in a class because I like the personal one-on-one. I like to get to know the clients and their specific situations,” she says. Maintaining a small class size ensures that she can give each client and dog the attention and training they need. This helps to prevent dog owners from getting frustrated. “Even if the client’s dog isn’t doing well, you have to encourage them to keep trying,” Keri explains. “What’s going to happen to the dog if the person gives up? You have to keep dog owners motivated to come back.”
Keri plans on continuing her education throughout her training career, and would like to learn more about agility. She looks back at her ABC education as being an incredibly valuable experience. “I think I went into the program kind of naïve,” she admits. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. ABC has shown me that training is tough; you need to know what you’re doing and at the same time be open to what other people are teaching you.”
ABC Honors Graduate
Formerly an elementary school teacher and counselor for troubled kids, Patrice Beach decided to pursue a light-hearted and enjoyable new hobby upon her early retirement. Little did she know, she would soon become a benevolent savior of dogs and a patient trainer of the humans who love them.
Patrice spent 25 years working with children, both teaching and counseling. After working with troubled kids for many years, it was time for a change of pace. “It was too much pressure. I wanted to work with dogs,” Patrice says. “The counseling is tough; I retired very early and wanted to do something happy. I especially wanted to work with shelter dogs, rehabilitating them to become more adoptable.”
“My mother- and father-in-law had done some dog training with a gal named Ragon Shaw at Mountain Dog U in Woodland Park, Colorado,” Patrice explains. “I took my little rescue dog to Ragon to train based on my mother-in-law’s recommendation. She was amazing! She was such a good trainer.” A graduate of Animal Behavior College (ABC) herself, Ragon told Patrice about the program and recommended that she enroll and pursue her dream. “She was my inspiration,” Patrice says.
Patrice enrolled with ABC soon after. “ABC was wonderful! Everyone was very professional. Azure, my Program Manager, was amazing. I have nothing but praises for her, she was so patient and helpful,” Patrice raves. “I was a control freak about graduating with Honors, and Azure really helped me along!”
Naturally, when it came time for her externship, Patrice requested to be set up with Ragon Shaw as her Mentor Trainer. “Ragon was the ultimate professional. She taught me a whole new way of dealing with clients and their critters,” Patrice explains. A high-energy person, Patrice truly benefited from apprenticing under a skilled but disciplined Mentor Trainer. “She slowed me down into the calm, assertive type. She taught me to be the leader of the pack.” After attending Ragon’s group classes, Patrice learned the importance of connecting with her human clients. “I watched her train, I watched her in group settings. I watched her never single anybody out. Most of this is about getting through to people; the doggies will learn. You have to get a relationship going with the people. That was the invaluable thing that she taught me.”
Since graduating with Honors from ABC, Patrice has stayed true in her quest to rehabilitate as many shelter dogs as she can manage. “Dog training isn’t about the money now; it’s about saving dogs. When I was going through ABC and I found out that 63% of animals euthanized in pounds were due to the dogs not receiving proper training and socialization, it really touched my heart. I decided it was something I really wanted to help change. I think there are a handful of really mean dogs, but there are multitudes of untrained owners,” she says. She plans on educating pet owners and helping them solve basic behavioral problems before they resolve to give up their pets.
Patrice recently moved from Colorado, where she volunteered for the Divide, Colorado shelter to Battle Ground, Washington, to be closer to her daughter. She now volunteers with the Vancouver animal shelter and trains at least two to three hours a day. Working with the Vancouver, Washington Parks and Recreation, Patrice has begun teaching group obedience classes. She teaches private, in-home sessions to clients as well. Also, after being asked to volunteer while studying as an ABC student, she has decided to continue volunteering on a regular basis. “I do an enormous amount of volunteer work with local shelters. I volunteer almost daily, and not only with the dogs – I even clean the cat cages!”
There will soon be a new addition to Patrice’s already large four-dog pack – a new Golden Retriever that she hopes to train as a therapy dog. “One of my goals is to train my new Golden to be a therapy dog and visit nursing homes,” she says. “I’d like to have a therapy dog someday.”
Patrice has a unique plan for marketing herself as a trainer. As one of the only dog trainers in her neighborhood, she plans on visiting different groomers and doggie daycares to offer free obedience classes to their employees. “Employees can all bring their dogs in and they can all train together,” Patrice says. “Hopefully I can establish a relationship that way.”
When asked if she would recommend ABC to anyone interested in pursuing a career in dog training, Patrice said: “I’ve already recommended ABC to seven or eight people! For the cost of the program, ABC delivers a career. I am very grateful for that. For the investment, ABC gives a career that helps animals, and it’s a great thing.”
With a heart of gold and undying persistence and devotion, philanthropist and ABC Honors graduate Patrice Beach has a bright career in dog training ahead of her, and she will no doubt help many dogs and people along the way.
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Bonnie Hess, ABCDT, has an innate passion for behavior in both humans and animals. Even at the early age of seven years old, Bonnie would eagerly volunteer to walk her neighbor’s dogs around the neighborhood. She knew at that age that she had a strong desire to work with animals, and that they would one day become an influential part of her life.
Bonnie, who has a degree in Human Psychology, works as both a social worker and a professional dog trainer. While in college, she became fascinated with animal behavior and she even took zoology classes to help her learn more about animals and their nature. “I have always had an absolute love for anything related to animals and nature; I love the communicative element of it and I relate to dogs more than anything else,” she says.
Enrolling at Animal Behavior College (ABC) in 2005 was a natural fit for Bonnie; it was the perfect match for her love of behavior and working with dogs. While going through the ABC program, Bonnie was intensely intrigued by all of the different dog training methods. She thought that all the information on behavior was impressive and refreshed all she had learned and loved in college.
The externship proved to be essential. Once she was finished with her in-home study, ABC set Bonnie up with an ABC Mentor Trainer who did hands-on training with her in real-life training situations. This is the part of the program where Bonnie was given the opportunity to apply all she had read about in the curriculum. She met with her trainer when it was convenient and was able to work around her busy schedule.
Today, Bonnie is the proud owner of her own dog training business, Faithful Companion Dog Training. Bonnie attributes the success of her business to Stage 9 of the ABC curriculum -- Business Building. Because of the valuable information included in this stage, she was able to easily obtain business insurance for her company. It also gave her the tools to successfully market her business. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for that stage of the ABC curriculum,” Bonnie says.
Now that she owns her own dog training business, Bonnie teaches two group training classes a week at her local Humane League and charitably donates 10% of her earnings back to the shelter. She also teaches private lessons almost everyday of the week!
Bonnie explained that ABC was the foundation she needed to get her where she is today. She loved the staff at ABC; her Program Manager Jori, who was assigned to guide her through the program, was friendly and always there to help her with anything she needed. Bonnie is glad she made decision to enroll at ABC, it has not only provided her with a great income, but has enhanced her professional career life.
“I have recommended ABC to people interested in working with animals and will continue to do so,” says Bonnie.
Peggy Vennebush and Diane Desrosiers
ABC Certified Dog Trainers
Peggy and Diane were two strangers with a common love for animals who both enrolled at Animal Behavior College to pursue a shared dream: a career in dog training. Little did they know that a year later they would end up being successful business partners and close friends.
Diane’s passion for training goes back to when she was a dedicated little girl who taught her dog to carry her sandals for her. She later began volunteering at her local animal shelter, where she realized that so many helpless dogs were being surrendered by their owners due to very correctable behavior problems. She knew that she wanted to help those dogs by showing their owners that they could keep their beloved pets and their favorite shoes intact. When Diane found ABC on the internet, she thought to herself, "This is what I want to do, this is my dream."
After enrolling at ABC in January 2005, Diane diligently began her in-home study portion of the ABC program. The curriculum provided her with a good background and "gave me the tools to be successful," she explained. Diane soon began her externship training, which is where she met her future partner and friend, Peggy.
Peggy had always had a true devotion to animals, just like Diane; in fact she spent her childhood surrounded by them. She knew that she was meant to work with them but wasn’t quite sure how to pursue her ambitions.
After enrolling in the ABC program in October 2004, Peggy truly began to understand canine behavior and training. "I always thought I knew how to train dogs until I went through the ABC program," said Peggy. When she finished her home-study portion of the program, Peggy was set up with Mentor Trainer Terri Mallett. While apprenticing with Terri in her basic obedience classes, she met her soon-to-be colleague and partner, Diane.
Peggy and Diane had an exhilarating experience working with Terri Mallett. With Terri’s vast dog training experience, she guided Peggy and Diane down the path to becoming knowledgeable and skilled dog trainers. Once Peggy and Diane started applying all they had learned by studying at home, everything began to fall into place. As they trained together throughout the weeks, their bond and mutual respect grew. Their great partnership began to take shape. From that point on, they agreed that it was time to follow their passion and establish the careers they had always dreamed of -- together.
Diane and Peggy’s natural love for dogs made them a great team. In spring of 2006, they decided to start their very own training business, "Down River Dogs". They were proud to be ABC certified and were excited to exhibit their knowledge of positive dog training methods to their clients.
Today, Peggy and Diane teach both group classes and private lessons with their clients while their business continues to grow. Their success is the result of a combination of an amazing partnership and a true understanding of dog training. Not only are they great friends, they both get pure satisfaction out of showing owners that their dogs are indeed trainable. Peggy and Diane strive to keep each and every dog in a loving, permanent home, just like Diane yearned to do as a child.
In their spare time, Peggy and Diane also volunteer their training skills at their local shelter. They even had an article written about them in their local "Heritage Newspaper". They know how important it is to make training fun; they keep their classes positive and upbeat, and try to educate not only the dogs, but their owners too. The strong foundation they received from ABC along with their great love for dogs makes them an unbeatable team. "We owe ABC our thanks; they gave us the tools to start our successful business," said Diane.
ABC Certified Dog Trainer
Janice Falconberry is clearly a woman who followed her dream. A dog lover her entire life, Janice considered turning her passion for animals into a career. Initially considering veterinary medicine, Janice decided not to pursue this course. Like many of our other students, Ms. Falconberry instead went into the corporate world where she worked for a number of years. She never forgot her original dream of working with animals, although was unclear how to turn such a dream into reality.
The opportunity revealed itself when Janice obtained a Pug for her son. At that time, Janice already had a dog, three exotic birds, a cat and two hamsters. In Janice’s words, “My son begged me to get him his own dog. I informed him that if we got another dog for him, he would have to take care of it and train it. He agreed and we welcomed Diego, a Pug, into our family. We signed up for an obedience class at our local dog training club, and that’s when I realized, at age 43, it was time for a career change. I watched Diego’s class teacher and told myself that this was something I could do and would love.” Janice did some research, which is how she found Animal Behavior College.
Over the next year while taking the program, Janice continued with her full time corporate job. After graduation, she wrestled with the same questions many ABC graduates address. Specifically, now what? Do I work as a dog trainer full time or do I start a part time business and gradually build up to a full time dog training career?
Once again, Janice tells it best. “Since graduating from ABC with honors, I’ve left the corporate world and started my own private in-home dog training company, The Doggy Train, LLC. I offer problem solving and obedience training in clients’ homes, which is where most clients want their dogs to practice good behavior. I also volunteer as an assistant trainer at my local club. It is so rewarding - no two dogs are alike, so each training session is new and exciting. I continue to read all the different dog behavior and training books I can get my hands on. I hope one day to become a dog behavior specialist and, thanks to ABC, I’m well on my way!”
Animal Behavior College salutes and acknowledges Ms. Janice Falconberry for her dedication as an ABC student, honor graduate, and now ABC Certified Dog Trainer and business owner. We are proud to name Janice Falconberry as our Graduate in the Spotlight. Thank you, Janice. Good luck and keep up the great work.
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