A Brief Biography
My quest for understanding why animals behave as they do started when I was very young. One of my very first words was "bow-wow." Clearly, trying to communicate with animals was just as important as learning to talk to other people! As a young child, I lived in the country and couldn't soak up enough information about the various species I interacted with daily. That is why when I earned my bachelor's degree I varied my studies so that I could receive a well-rounded behavioral education.
My undergraduate training includes studies in ecology, biology, anthropology and psychology. I studied advanced tropical ecology in field schools in Costa Rica, where I released three rehabilitated black-handed spider monkeys into the wild. My adventures took me to South Africa as well, where I observed Chacma baboons and dove with great white sharks!
In graduate school in New York, I earned a Master’s degree in Evolution, Ecology and Behavior. I focused on primate social behavior, studying the types of bonds that exist between group members and the various behaviors which help maintain them. I also had the opportunity to volunteer for two years as a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator for the SPCA of Western New York.
After graduating, I felt the need to continue my education even further—I wanted that hands-on experience and the know-how of those amazing dog trainers I had seen on television. I researched and decided that the Dog Trainer Program at Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) was the best. I enrolled, studied and applied Karen Pryor’s methods.
What I love is that Karen's program is in sync with everything I've learned throughout my formal education in terms of how animals learn best, what motivates animals, and more. The KPA force-free methods and positive reinforcement (R+) training resonate with my own ethical compass, and I enjoy the process of training an animal from beginning to end.
Please don't mistake R+ training for being permissive! We still have and maintain boundaries, rules, and use negative punishment (e.g. time outs, removal from desired object until desired behavior is offered) to supplement the positive active training. What we don't use are positive punishment methods--essentially force, physical punishment, fear or intimidation--as training tools because if you have a thorough understanding of behavior, you don't ever need to use these methods. I'm in this field because I love animals and want to see them thrive in their environments and bond closely with their family members, NOT to choke, hit, shock or instill fear in them. Can they learn that way? Sure! Breaking one's spirit is possible, but why would you ever choose a "teacher" who uses those methods for anyone you care about, including your fur babies?
Every training session gives me an opportunity to learn something new, which keeps me coming back for more. Using positive reinforcement techniques allows your pets to feel comfortable making mistakes, and still encourages them to learn and grow. I LOVE watching owners exhibit complete shock and exclaim, with jaws dropped, "I NEVER thought in a million years she could do that! She has to be the smartest dog in the world!"
My ultimate goal is to help keep pets in their "forever homes," and to ensure the lifelong bond between pet and owner is a stable, healthy one. Whether you need to teach basic manners or have more serious problems, I am here to support you and help make your relationship with your pet what you truly want it to be.