Breed wise, I have a soft spot for Livestock Guardian Dogs – a type of dog bred to guard livestock but be incredibly placid with people. Anatolian Shepherds, Great Pyrenees; that sort of thing. My first love in training and rehabilitation were German Shepherds, but every German Shepherd I attempted to adopt turned out to be either a Husky mix or a Malamute Mix upon maturity. I never actually saw myself in Nordic breeds, but they’ve taught me patience, humility and a sense of humor.
The current Crew
My degree is a Bachelors of Sciences in Animal Sciences, with a focus on Sheep Production. As a result, I have a pretty solid base of genetics, nutrition and herd management. However, behavior classes are still limited at the undergraduate level and every certification for behaviorists requires practical experience.
Nyx & I at the PNW Wolfdog Meet ‘15
I’ve worked with wolfdogs in training, identification for rescue intake, and through local friends that own animals of different content levels. With what experience I do have, I firmly believe that many wolfdogs are underutilized by their owners and could benefit from more training that’s focused on having fun. I think a lot of owners, both experienced and inexperienced, see a lack of obedience in breeds that are more difficult to train and think this translates to the animal being untrainable. In reality, the animal may need a different motivator, shorter training sessions, to be rewarded at smaller increments, better timing on behalf of the handler, redirection when over-excited… There are so many tools to work with our animals, and many can be obtained from reading a book!
Most of what I’ve accomplished in animal behavior and training comes from forming a solid relationship with my pets, working within their abilities, identifying their strengths, and meeting their needs. Reading books and considering information from reputable sources (i.e. not Facebook experts) rounds it out. I’ve never stopped learning and I’m a huge advocate for others doing the same when it comes to living with our animal companions. If nothing else, I hope I can inspire more folks to want to learn from their animals every day.
Like most people passionate about canines, I grew up around dogs. I’ve primarily owned them as pets, and that’s where my training skills focus, but most of my ‘pets’ needed to be challenged physically and mentally as well to be good companions. While my primary focus right now is running sled dogs in a small team, I’ve also participated in Canine Good Citizen, Service Dog, Agility, Search and Rescue, Movie Training for a small film project and probably a handful of other things that aren’t of import.
I worked in dog rescue from 2007 on, volunteering at shelters, rehabilitating fosters, and adopting out dogs through different rescue organizations I’ve worked with. I’ve led training classes for puppies as well as adults, done paid privates for a few folks, and made money through college as a regular pet sitter for several clients.
My formal education involves about 4 years of pet sitting and work within a dog daycare with a capacity of between 25-40 dogs depending on the day. The most I’ve had in my house at one time was eight, plus the cat. Currently I own four unrelated dogs, a smattering of small livestock, a cat and a toddler.