By Devon Hubbard Sorlie, Editor of Chronicle of the Dog
While Sara Miles’s dog training career started with her attending and graduating from Animal Behavior College, she’s taken that credential and furthered her career, earning her CPDT-KA and becoming a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT).
With more than 10 years’ experience, Sara said her professional membership at APDT offers her opportunities to earn continuing education units through webinars and attending APDT’s annual educational conferences. She’s now taken that professional membership another step by volunteering to serve on APDT’s education committee.
Sara’s interest in the animal-care and training industry began early by rescuing birds and stray puppies, helping them to find homes. In sixth grade, she interviewed a veterinarian, zookeeper and dog trainer for her “What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?” project. Years later, as Sara trained her own dogs, she decided to turn her passion into a profession. A quick internet search lead her to Animal Behavior College.
“I was very green, and ABC looked like a good way to get started,” Sara said. “I could see the curriculum was well-rounded and would get me on my way.”
Since a big part of Sara’s interests included working with rescues and shelters, she was set up with a mentor in the San Diego area, where she lived at the time.
“Jessica Wheatcraft (CPDT-KA), the owner of Synergy Dog Training, was very positive and skilled and open to a mentorship,” Sarah said. “Jessica was already paired up with some rescues. I didn’t have a dog, so I used a rescue dog for hands-on stuff. That easily plugged me into the rescue community and meeting people who were doing this for a living.”
Upon her graduation as an ABC-certified dog trainer, Sara was hired for a position with the Behavior and Training Department at the San Diego Humane Society. One of its requirements was membership in APDT.
“So, I joined; and getting that membership was important so I could get my hours in for the Certified Professional Dog Trainer certification,” Sarah said.
After receiving her CPDT-KA credentials, Sara uses APDT’s continuing education webinars, courses and sessions at the annual conferences; her first was in 2011 when it was conveniently held at San Diego.
“The San Diego Humane Society hosted an off-site event,” she recalled. “I was able to go to the conference and work our booth, and attend a couple of sessions. I got to meet all sorts of people from other parts of the country through that experience.”
Sara recently relocated to Phoenix, where she owns and operates her two businesses: Smiles Dog Training and PHX Animal Behavior Center. She has continued her interest in working with shelters and rescues, where she has worked at training and rehabilitating shy and fearful dogs and cats; dogs with impulse control issues; dogs with dog, barrier or leash reactivity; and cats with arousal or litterbox issues. She also has experience with resource guarding, separation anxiety and aggression.
As a member of the APDT Education Committee, Sara has attended the last two conferences, the 25th anniversary conference in 2018 at Memphis, Tennessee, and last year’s conference in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s a fantastic resource,” Sara said, referring to APDT’s conferences and webinars that are accessible for members. “It helps you stay on top of your certification, and I’ve used APDT’s membership discounts to get supplies. I’ve been able to connect to other people in the community and build those relationships with other trainers, which makes me a better trainer and professional.”