I became fascinated by the unique relationships between dogs and people back in 1998. Dogs are life loving engagement junkies. They want to have fun with us, be quiet with us, do work with us and snuggle in our beds. Dogs might easily be our most perfect relationship.
My formal education lies in the fine arts (BFA, painting/sculpture). The critical thinking and problem solving I developed as an artist informs how I craft holistic, effective, and thoughtful training plans.
Eighteen years ago I got my first dog. Zuzu was a bat-eared wild thing of a pup and I loved everything about her. Honestly, I was so worried about changing her or breaking her spirit that I postponed any sort of formal training. As a favor to a friend with a new pup I agreed to take Zu to class too. I never looked back. I was so lucky to come into dog training at a major crossover period when force and punishment gave way to positive reinforcement based training. I never had to subject Zuzu to any type of training abuse AND it made our relationship even stronger. I was hooked.
To educate myself I became a dog walker, worked at a crazy busy dog daycare, and interned with three prominent Chicago dog training programs. In 2005, I joined the Anti-Cruelty Society behavior department. As part of the behavior team I designed training and enrichment plans for the dogs at a high risk for losing their minds, performed daily training/behavior modification and ultimately specialized in behavior assessments.
I have been teaching dog training classes and private lessons for the past twelve years. In 2007, I became a Certified Professional dog trainer – knowledge assessed (CPDT-KA). My knowledge of and practical experience with a large range of breeds has taught me how to work effectively with different of breed/types and individual personalities. My areas of special interest/expertise are terriers, puppies, fear/anxiety and arousal/reactivity.
I am the advising and certifying trainer for SitStayRead, a literacy organization in Chicago that brings human and dog volunteers into low-income CPS schools to increase at-risk students’ literacy skills!
I currently live with a Parson Russell terrier (Myra), a Jack Russell /poodle x (Marcel), a puppy mill toy poodle (Kid), a Jack Russell/Akita/Cattle dog x (Goblin) and a Chiguana.
I learn more about dogs and how they think every single day. My personal passion is for terriers. Training and living with intense, brilliant, sensitive, hilarious and fierce creatures is my continuing inspiration and education.
I earned my BS in Education from Western Michigan University in 1993. My emphasis was Art Education and I earned my certification to teach K-12 art classes in both Michigan and Illinois. During college I was also interested in music. I moved to Chicago in 1994 and became involved in the music scene.
I was exposed to the plight of shelter dogs early on as my family always adopted our dogs from the local humane society. Although I was born and raised with dogs, I did not understand them until I myself had to be in charge. In 1996 I found a stray dog who I named Hazel. Hazel was not house trained or crate trained, lacked impulse control, was leash reactive and aggressive towards humans and other dogs, wanted to kill my cat, and was positive for heartworm disease. Committing to Hazel required a lot from me and changed my life forever.
At the time what was largely available was antiquated dog training books and punishment based dog training classes. I was under the impression that dog training was somewhat of a battle and that we needed to “correct bad behavior” with force. Interestingly, I found that punishment didn’t help with Hazel’s barking and lunging at every living thing on the street. I then discovered positive reinforcement, reward based training and learning theory.
I owned and operated my own dog walking and pet care business from 1998 to 2003. I began training dogs professionally in 2000, earning my certification (CPDT) in 2009. I was approved by the Illinois Department of Agriculture as a Humane Investigator in 2014. I have taught group classes, performed behavior assessments, volunteered and fostered for various local rescues and shelters, including: the Anti-Cruelty Society, Chicago Canine Rescue, Chicagoland Shepherd Rescue, Simply Shepherds Rescue, Safe Humane Chicago and City of Chicago Animal Care and Control.
The foster dogs with whom I have shared my home cover the spectrum, from Pomeranian to Pit Bull. My specialty has been rowdy, mouthy, wild young dogs…the ones who tend to populate shelters most often.
I currently live with my four adopted dogs and a foster dog or two. I am a relatively new horse owner, adopting River, my handsome Quarter Horse gelding in 2010. In addition to attempting to learn some aspect of dressage while riding River, I am currently clicker training him. River and I have attended several clinics to learn from pioneer horse clicker training wizard Alexandra Kurland. I look forward to learning from and teaching all of my animals in the kindest and most effective way possible.
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