None of the following Animal Behavior College reviews and testimonials were paid for or embellished in any way; however, ABC makes no claim that the experiences these students had will be the same as the ones you have.
Jaime Rovero is a California-based, Animal Behavior College (ABC) certified Dog Obedience Instructor Program alumni and a current ABC Service Dog Trainer student.
Jaime has used his training with ABC to create a wonderful career with animals. He is currently an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (AKC CGC) Test Evaluator and is a professional dog trainer. The Canine Good Citizen program is a training program designed to help you and your dog be the best that you can be together. The test is a 10-skill test that teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to the dog’s owners. Jaime has a company based out of Encino, San Fernando Valley, that provides private and group dog training. His company, Jaime Rovero, Dog Trainer, offers doggy daycare, dog separation anxiety, leash reactivity, crate training, bite inhibition, dog recall, socialization, controlled walking, first aid, and even swim lessons.
When asked about his experiences at ABC, Mr. Rovero said:
“My training at Animal Behavior College has been very valuable since day one with my first student, my dog Jane, whom I have been training since he was 8 weeks old. It is important for large-breed dogs to get training as soon as possible.”
“I believe positive training creates happy positive dogs to enjoy life to the fullest in their forever home.”
Jaime also owns a remarkable service dog, and a faithful companion named Dodger. Dodger helps Jaime with mobility challenges and offers his support and loyalty. He brings healing and comfort as a therapy dog. Having many talents that he has learned from his dog-training father, one of Dodger’s talents is as a skilled frisbee dog. He was a semifinalist in the 2022 American Rescue Dog Show, and he has also become the team mascot of the LA Dodgers.
Dodger became a star by catching a home run ball in a baseball game between the Dodgers and the Royals. This unbelievable feat was captured on TV and went viral. A star was born and a success story for both Jaime and Dodger. What a team! Jaime and Dodger got the ball signed by Michael Busch, the player that hit the home run.
Here is a video of the home run ball being caught by none other than this “pawsome” dog, Dodger!
Dodger is a semi-finalist contender for the Emerging Hero And Shelter Dog Award by The American-Humane Hero Dog Awards! You can vote for him here: https://www.herodogawards.org/dog/2022/emerging-hero-shelter/dodger#voting-module
“That’s the beautiful thing about baseball. You can be any size and be successful.”
Andrew Benintendi (Outfielder for the Chicago White Sox)
Animal Behavior College turned out to be the right choice for Jaime and Dodger!
We wish Jaime great success in his Service Dog Training Program studies and look forward to hearing more about his successful career working with animals!
Today, Bonnie Hess, ABCDT, 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 dog trainer course – 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 dog training business. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for that stage of the ABC curriculum,” Bonnie says.
Bonnie explained that ABC was the foundation she needed to get her where she is today. She loved the staff at Animal Behavior College; 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, “I have recommended ABC to people interested in working with animals and will continue to do so,” says Bonnie.
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 Dog Trainer 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.
Bonnie 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 it refreshed all she had learned and loved in college.
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 every day of the week!
Despite having a natural talent for dog training (she has been training her own dogs for years), Sandra “Sandy” Stokes, ABCDT, didn’t consider becoming a professional dog 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 the best 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 Animal Behavior College 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 dog trainer course was practicing with her beloved canines hands-on. She aptly put Animal Behavior College’s positive reinforcement dog training techniques into effect at home with her own dogs while also attending dog 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, VA.
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 dog 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.
Sandy was already deeply immersed in a pack of paws long before enrolling at Animal Behavior College. 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, WV.
Since graduating from ABC in July of 2007, she is still diligently practicing what she learned, and her prized Labradors are reaping the benefits. The time Sandy is spending working part-time as a certified dog 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 dog 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, 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.
My love affair with dogs began at a very young age, and I spent a lot of my free time as a child playing with the family dogs in our backyard. I realized I had a knack for working with dogs and when I was 11 years old I began offering dog walking services to the neighbors. I charged $0.10 per half hour because I didn’t know what to really charge and all I wanted to do was spend time with more dogs anyways! When I reached my senior year in high school I decided to do my required volunteer hours at the local shelter. It was there I saw the awful truth about pet over-population, and I became determined to try and help make a difference for the wonderful dogs that simply needed a second chance. I started volunteering at the adoption events on weekends, helping find new homes for several dogs.
I moved to San Diego to pursue a degree in Psychology, and after I got settled in I began searching for a dog of my own to adopt. After months of searching, I found a wonderful Pit Bull named Harley who stole my heart the moment I met her. I adopted her on the spot. Harley’s rough background caused her to have a lot of anxiety, and I realized it would be a good idea to work with a professional trainer to get her started on the right track. I was referred to Nan Arthur, a positive reinforcement clicker trainer with years of experience. Harley and I loved doing clicker training, and she made a complete turnaround.
Later that year, I began volunteering for Pit Bull Rescue San Diego, doing everything from fundraising to fostering. It was then that it dawned on me that I would be able to save the lives of more dogs by becoming a dog trainer because I would be helping to prevent the problems that landed them in the shelter in the first place. I contacted Nan Arthur and discussed my options. She recommended Animal Behavior College to get my certification.
I have four amazing dogs. One of them has crippling arthritis – a 15-year-old Pomeranian named Papa. I decided to get certified in Canine Massage for him, and when I opened my canine massage business, I was overwhelmed with my clients' constant need for training advice and help. I was lucky enough to get hired and accredited by PetSmart as a trainer, and I realized that helping dogs and their families was ALL I wanted to do. I also realized that I wanted to help the dogs who couldn't make it to PetSmart for whatever reason: aggression, anxiety, uncontrollability, non-obedience related issues, etc.
I started searching for training schools that would help me help dogs on a broader level.
I chose ABC after researching many programs. I resigned from PetSmart as I was nearing the end of my ABC Training, and I added training services to my massage business – Healing Paws-Abilities, LLC. Almost overnight I was training dogs full-time – an absolute dream come true! I became the resident trainer for a wonderful veterinary clinic (The North Cape Animal Clinic in Cape Coral, FL), and because of their support I will shortly be opening my own training studio! I am a proud member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork (IAAMB), and I am an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and Coach. I will always be furthering my education to better help my clients, and I am currently starting a 4-year diploma of Advanced Canine Behavior program with the Companion Animal Sciences Institute (CASI).
I am currently training full-time, teaching in-home private lessons, and I am the resident trainer for the North Cape Animal Clinic in Cape Coral, FL, where I teach group classes. And I am about to open my own training center! I plan to further my education always in order to be the best I can possibly be for my clients, and I am about to start another diploma course to be a canine behavior specialist.
I am committed to a lifelong career working with and helping dogs, and my ultimate goal is to enrich their relationships with understanding, positive reinforcement techniques, and harmony of life and health. I am truly the luckiest girl in the world.
I became a dog trainer because of my dog Whizzer. She was my inspiration for going into dog training due to the fact she was the worst-behaved dog I ever had. I was determined not to return her to the shelter; and after going through four separate dog trainers, spending over $2,000 without any success with dealing with her poor leash walking, aggression to other dogs and destructiveness, I finally find one trainer who was helpful and who provided training to me, some of which was similar to the philosophies of ABC. I was amazed how many training experts were not, how many used punishment and force, and how many really did not pay attention to what my needs were regarding Whizzer's behavioral issues. Subsequently, I decided to pursue dog training since my love for dogs and all things canine make me want to help others keep their dogs forever as so many turn dogs in to shelters and are subsequently euthanized.
I chose ABC because I liked the fact that the founder, Steve Appelbaum, was initially a dog trainer himself. I liked that he built his business up from the ground and that he helped evolve his concept into a complete program.
I’ve had a love for dogs ever since I can remember. When I was five years old, my best friend and I would pretend to be dogs – it was our favorite game and our parents were great about putting water bowls out for us to drink from and taking us for walks with makeshift leashes! My father was in the military, and we moved every couple of years, so it wasn’t until he got ready to retire that we got our first dog – a Weimaraner named Gray King. I’ve been involved with dog training on a personal level for 16 years. I currently have three adopted dogs – Merlin, Emma and Huckleberry. Merlin is my therapy dog, Huck is my agility and flyball dog, and Emma is my couch potato.
Five years ago, I started volunteering at the Humane Society Fairfax County (HSFC) and found what had been missing from my life. I love the interactions I have with the dogs there. It was also through the HSFC that I found a wonderful dog trainer who showed me that anything was possible with any dog. It’s wonderful to work with the HSFC dogs to increase their adoptability simply by changing their behavior and then knowing you’ve contributed to them finding a new home. I’ve also found that working with potential and current pet owners is very rewarding. I decided that working with dogs would be my second career once I am able to retire, which I hope will be in a few years.
After searching for certification programs, I decided that ABC was the right fit for me.
My path to becoming an ABC Certified Dog Trainer started when I had to put my Pit Bull, Duke, in a rehabilitation program. I had rescued him from fighting, and consequently, he had aggression issues toward other dogs when food was around. The prospect of being able to rehabilitate an animal from such a behavior absolutely amazed me. So, I started reading more about dog behavior. The amount of information out there is staggering. The more I read and learned, the more interested I became. As time went on, I came to a decision. I would become a dog trainer. So, I did my research, and everywhere I looked, I saw ABC’s logo. I put in an inquiry and got a call from Admissions the next day. I enrolled and, just weeks later, I received my books and materials in the mail.
I’ve always had a love for all animals, but really found my love of dogs in my first ones, Bear and Jade, who were my inspiration to take the step and make a career of training dogs. When I was growing up, my family always had cats, so I didn’t have a dog until I got married. Now, a dog will always be a part of my family and my life.
I have been working in the corporate world for over 15 years. Suddenly, my days became very boring and monotonous, and I thought to myself, “Life is too short not to enjoy what you do every day!” It was then I realized I wanted to follow my passion and start an entirely new career working with dogs. Once I made this decision, I immediately started researching options to become a trainer. With many different companies, courses and agendas to choose from, I chose ABC because of the flexibility to complete the coursework online and in my own time. This was very convenient since I work full-time.
I have always had a great love for animals. When I was 12 years old, I adopted my first dog, Autumn. Immediately I knew my path in life – to work with dogs. A year later, I adopted another German Shepherd mix, Sierra, which only strengthened my desire to follow my path. Without “my girls” I know that I would be way off track and probably lost in life. Knowing that I wanted to help animals, I started on the route to becoming a veterinarian. Being a veterinarian was the only way I thought I could fulfill my love of making a difference in animals’ lives. After becoming aware of the millions of homeless dogs and of the unfortunate reality of America’s shelter system, I knew that I wanted to make a difference for the dogs that truly need the most help. I wanted to focus on behavior and learn how to prevent dogs from being surrendered and help those already in shelters to get out and into loving homes.
I chose ABC because I know the importance of having certification and professional training.
My name is Antonin Bohac, ABCDT, and I have been training dogs since the age of 16. I worked as an apprentice under Barbara Canfield, master trainer and owner of Vom Amaris K-9, one of the nation’s most recognized Doberman kennels. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. I went to ask for work around the kennel and farm after school for some extra money; she didn’t have any openings, so I asked if I could meet the dogs and that’s when it all started. She brought out the love for dogs in me.
Obedience training is fun and the foundation for all, but I’m an adrenaline junkie and have crossed over into the Schutzhund and personal protection field as well. I have three German Shepherds, a rescue Rottweiler and, my inspiration, Guiness, my four-year-old Border Collie. She is a certified therapy dog who loves to catch Frisbees. I know it’s an insult to dogs in general, but Guiness is “almost human.” Although I had experience and quite a bit of dog training knowledge, I decided to go back to school for a more formalized education. I also wanted to get my certification. I’ve learned you can never have too many tools in your toolbox, so I contacted ABC and enrolled in their Dog Trainer Program.
Patrice Beach, ABCDT, enrolled with ABC in 2006. “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!”
When asked if she would recommend Animal Behavior College to anyone interested in pursuing a dog trainer career, 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.”
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, CO,” 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.
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 dog 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 dog 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.”
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.
A couple of years ago Megan Sanchez, ABCDT, 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 dog 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 Dog Trainer Program offered its 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.”
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.”
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 trainer course in 2011 and currently offers classes in basic dog 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 dog training 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 dog training 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 animal 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 Animal Behavior College to anyone looking to pursue a dog training career. “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’!”
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 dog 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.
She decided to follow her desire to better the lives of dogs everywhere and began browsing the internet for dog trainer 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, OR, to Casa Grande, AZ, to help her cousin open a dog grooming shop. She needed a dog training course 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 dog trainer course diligently. Her favorite aspect of the written curriculum were 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, AZ. “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.
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 animal shelters due to manageable behavior problems or aggression. “That’s my main motivation for doing this – to keep dogs out of the shelter.”
In an effort to solve the very issue that had her interested in training dogs 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 dog training career, and would like to learn more about dog 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.”