We often hear dog trainers say that it was their love of dogs that brought them to the profession, but for me it was actually my love of teaching. For the last decade I have spent my days teaching at-risk middle school students in the trenches of inner-city Los Angeles. While earning my Master’s Degree in Urban Education from UCLA, I spent two years conducting research on the impact that therapy dogs can have, not only on academic achievement, but also on the overall well-being and emotional health of a child. Through this research, I saw first-hand the positive impact canine companions can have on a child’s life and their education.
As part of my research, I created a literacy program intended to reach resistant readers by incorporating dogs as literacy mentors. The success of the pilot program inspired me to partner with the spcaLA to bring their Teaching Love and Compassion (TLC)™ program to my students. TLC™ pairs at-risk students with at-risk shelter dogs. The students learn how to train their assigned dogs using positive reinforcement techniques. At the end of each TLC™ session, the dogs are more adoptable and the students learn, and live, empathy and compassion. Additionally, rates of behavioral problems often decline while students’ academic achievements soar.
My initial encounter with dog training occurred after rescuing Lola, a stray who was found on my school's campus. After recognizing her potential, I decided to turn tragedy into triumph by training Lola to become a therapy dog. Lola had a knack for learning and was a natural with my students, but after a few months of training, I still needed a little help refining a few of her problem behaviors - mostly walking nicely on a leash. So, I decided to hire a dog trainer and that's when I was introduced to the world of positive reinforcement training. The experience of working with a trainer only fueled my burning desire to work with Lola, and we trained day and night! After a few sessions, the trainer made a remark that changed the direction of my life. He said to me, “You are not a client, you are a dog trainer!”
A lifelong learner, I dove into self-study, reading every book on dog training and dog behavior that I could find. Even though I learned and practiced a great deal, I still felt it wasn't enough! I wanted more - more knowledge and more experience working with dogs. I was awarded a scholarship to study the science, principles, and craft of dog training under mentor Jean Donaldson at The Academy for Dog Trainers, one of the most highly regarded dog training schools in the nation and “universally regarded as the most academically rigorous and technically challenging curriculum in the world for dog trainers.” After two and half years of intense study, I earned my CTC.
My partnership with the spcaLA continues, though my role has changed. I am now a dog trainer for both their TLC™ program and their Friends for Life Summer Camp™ program. To see more about the program and the kids in action, follow this link: spcala.com/programs-services/humane-education/tlc/
While working with kids and dogs has become my specialty, I also provide private training and coaching sessions and teach obedience and basic dog manners classes. My mission is threefold: to keep as many dogs as possible in loving homes, to continue teaching young people about humane and ethical treatment of animals, and to show people how to teach their dogs without fear, force, or pain. I train using only force-free, reward-based, positive, training methods.
Because I believe that every dog is worthy of a loving home and great training, Dog Worthy was founded in love, using methods that are grounded in science!!