I, like many trainers, became a trainer because of my own dogs — Coqui & Sato.
In 2004 while on vacation in Vieques, a small island off of Puerto Rico, I found myself toodling around the island while my boyfriend had gone off for a half day fishing charter. Of course, I met a woman who volunteered at the tiny shelter there (Vieques Humane Society) and, of course, I had to go have a look. Amongst the many dogs crowded into the two kennels I spied tiny Coqui peering out at me from the kennel and fell in love. The next day I came back with my boyfriend to introduce him to her, but he saw Sato who had just arrived at the shelter that day after having been taken from the owner who was known to neglect his animals. We brought them out to the play-yard trying to decide on one when he said the fateful “let’s take both”.
And so the journey began….
While we both had grown up with dogs, we quickly realized that two young puppies definitely require the help of a trainer — as soon as possible. Luckily one of my colleagues at the time was friends with Tom who had learned his craft at the renowned Olde Towne School for Dogs in Alexandria, VA and I quickly signed us up for private lessons to better learn how to manage our super cute, but unruly Puerto Rican puppies.
My Life in Two Worlds
My friends would tell you that naturally I would have dogs from Puerto Rico as my life has always bridged two worlds. I am German-Chinese by heritage and although I was born in the US I grew up in Germany.
In my education and professional life before dog training I always embraced my natural affinity to all things of a dual nature and my ability to diplomatically balance two worlds, but in dog training I have found the perfect combination of my love of dogs, the bridging of the human and dog worlds through translation, helping people better communicate with their dogs — and now, in what I consider my pinnacle, my business background and my experiences as a dog trainer.
My Life as a Dog Trainer
...began about two years after Coqui and Sato came to DC. I had been working for a nonprofit/corporate hybrid dotcom in DC with the crazy work hours that came with the dotcom boom (but sadly without the exercised stock options) when I decided to leave, admittedly without much of a plan. While trying to figure out how to combine my love of dogs with my business background, I ended up mucking out stalls at the barn where I rode and walking dogs. Both, while cathartic, were not how I, nor my mother, imagined I would apply myself and my education. Just about that time, Tom, our dog trainer, called to let me know that the Olde Towne School for Dogs - considered the Ivy League of dog schools in the Washington metropolitan area - was looking for apprentices. Although I hadn’t really considered becoming a dog trainer before it actually made perfect sense as the part of my previous job I liked best was training people – in this case nonprofits on how to incorporate online auctions into their fundraising mix.
Once I went for the interview I was sold! Dog training appeals to me on many levels, but specifically the duality of it—bridging two worlds—dog and human. I love that you always have to find just the right balance of empathy and authority—whether in your approach to the dog or the owner. I also love that the feedback is immediate—there’s no endless discussions in a conference room—either the dog and/or owner is responding or not and I adjust and adapt accordingly. Most importantly though I enjoy and feel privileged to make a difference in people’s lives and their relationships with their dogs. Eight years and almost 1,000 dog/human pairs forward this defines my philosophy and my approach to training.
In addition to my apprenticeship and daily education at the Olde Towne School for Dogs, I have also continued my education and quest for better understanding of dogs and their owners by participating in workshops, seminars, conferences, webinars and online discourse with other trainers and thought leaders/experts in the field. I am also a proud professional level member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.
Additional education includes:
- Josh Moran - Tricks Training
- Chad Mackin & Jason Vasconi - Intro to Pack Socialization
- Bart Bellon - NePoPo Seminar
- Robin McFarlane -E-Collar Foundation Workshop
- Wendy Volhard - Healthy Dog Conference
- Heather Beck - Dealing with Difficult Dogs
- ASPCA Pro Webinar – Multi-Dog Households
- Stanley Coren – Canine Language and Communication
- Ian Dunbar– Social Behavior and the Treatment of Fearfulness, Reactivity & Aggression
- Brother Christopher – I and Dog, The New Skete Way
- Jeff Gellman and Sean O’Shea – T3: Train the Trainers
- Joyce Keaton Webinar – Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home
- Cheri Lucas – Behavior Modification through Pack Work
- Chad Mackin – Dogmanship Workshop
- Cesar Millan – Training Cesar’s Way
- Tyler Muto – Dogmanship through Feel
- Sarah Wilson – Women & Dogs - Your Primary Market