Ann Marie running agility with her dog, Wally                                               photo ©jim petack photography

Ann Marie running agility with her dog, Wally                                               photo ©jim petack photography

I have always had a strong passion for animals.  At the age of 4 I decided that working with and understanding these magnificent creatures would be my career and life's work.  I remember performing surgeries and fixing boo-boos on my stuffed animals, and training my 'dogs' to run agility courses.  Every year as the AKC agility trials began I parked in front of my television and imagined that one day, I would compete there too.  At the age of 14 I began volunteering with a cat rescue group in Chandler, Arizona - this is where my interest in animal behavior blossomed.  I discovered each cat was not just a cat, but his or her own person.  They each had different quirks and personalities.  This one liked his head rubbed, that one did not.  I studied the way each of them reacted to stimulus, and one in particular, was quite scary.  I still remember Burger, the tuxedo cat.  He lunged at every person who would walk by his cage.  We thought Burger would live in his foster home forever until a man came in and asked for our “most difficult” cat.  He took Burger home.  A few months later, he came back in with Burger, perched up on his shoulder on a leash.  Burger, the “evil” cat, was secretly Burger the mushball who just needed a loving home and a patient owner.  It was decided, right there in that moment, I wanted to be an animal behaviorist.   

From Cactus Cats Rescue I moved on to volunteer at a dog daycare.  My mother would not allow me to have my own dog, so the daycare allowed me to interact and play with other people’s dogs to learn about their behavior.  As with the cats at the rescue each dog was his or her own person and I could sit there and watch them play for hours.  Each dog had a best friend, and some even had dogs that they avoided.  Some slept the entire time and avoided interactions all together.  Others never stopped playing and didn't know when to quit.  Their personalities were so complex and each was unique.  One thing was for certain, I really, really wanted a dog.

One of the first things I did after I moved out of my mother's home and into an apartment (it was the day after I signed the lease) was drive down to the Phoenix Humane Society and adopt a dog.  She was a beagle mix, and her name was Cali.  And she destroyed that apartment.  I had no idea what I was doing as a dog owner.  I wanted to train her, but I didn't know how.  Television programs would tell me I should dominate her and show my alpha status but I could never bring myself to punish her, because she would just cower.  She peed in the hallway, constantly went through the garbage and the cabinets, wouldn’t walk on leash to save her life, and the only thing she could do when asked was sit – but I loved her still.  I began reading and studying dog behavior through any publication I could get my hands on for a better understanding of how to train a dog without needing to use force.

I continued my personal studies over the next few years and in 2010, when I moved to Connecticut, I started working in a veterinary hospital.  I learned so much about the physical health of an animal, but it wasn’t enough.  So, in 2012, I began working with a board certified veterinary behaviorist.  Finally, I was doing what I had always wanted, and for once, I couldn’t wait to go to work in the morning.  

I received my KPA CTP in August of 2014 through the Karen Pryor Academy’s Dog Trainer Professional Program and I continue to attend conferences and seminars to stay up to date on the latest discoveries and trends in the field.  In January of 2016, after the birth of my son and a move to Massachusetts, I decided to start my own business as a dog trainer.  With this new journey, I continue to follow my passion and ambitions.  I wish to share my experience and knowledge with each new client as we teach and allow their dog to thrive.