Frequently Asked Questions

Can you help me without physically being with my pet?

Yes!  As an animal behavior consultant I work mostly with people and the environment.  The completed questionnaire gives me a good idea of where to start.  I base my responses and the next steps on your feedback.  I have found that clients can review my materials when it works for them (6AM, 10PM, over lunch, etc.) versus a set class time or trying to understand it all when I am there in person.  I break the materials down into small pieces as needed for that particular client.  As pieces, the materials are not so overwhelming.  Clients are asked to provide feedback on what I am telling them so I know they have read and understood the materials (client accountability).   They are encouraged to email me any questions, videos of the behavior or videos of working on modifying the behaviors, updates how things are going, etc.  As requested, we have phone or video conversations.  I think of it as having an animal behavior assistant there when you need one. 

How are you different from a dog trainer?
My focus is on an animal's behavior and decreasing problem behaviors while increasing more acceptable behaviors.  I do not just focus on training your dog a new skill, although that is sometimes part of the plan.  This gives you a place to turn when you’ve trained your pet but need a little more assistance with behavioral issues.  Wilson (as cited by Companion Parrot Behavior, n.d., Retrieved from explains that an animal trainer works with the animal (for example, teaching them to wave), while animal behavior consultants have an advanced degree in animal behavior and work more with the people and the environment than the animal themselves.


What kind of pets do you work with?
I have studied many species of companion animals - dogs, cats, birds, horses, iguanas, and rabbits. Typical problems  include feline inappropriate elimination, avian feather picking, horses cribbing, as well dog behavior issues (inappropriate elimination, separation anxiety, fear, thunderstorm phobia, and aggression, to name a few). Every case is unique.


The field of animal behavior is evolving.  At the present time there is no single way to gain knowledge or experience in this field.  I keep up with current methodologies and am always looking for ways to make assisting you easier.  To learn and keep up with current methods:

  • I have completed my Master of Science degree in Companion Animal Behavior Analysis and Counseling 

  • I have completed American Red Cross certification for Dog & Cat First Aid & CPR

  • I have completed Low Stress Handling Dogs & Cats Certified Silver certification while interning with Dr. Sophia Yin

  • I am a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)

  • I am a member of The International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)

  • I am proudly approved as a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) which is committed to results based, science based force-free training and pet care


Did you go to school to study animal behavior?  ​

Yes, I started as a full time student in July 2011 and completed my thesis and my degree with highest honors (summa cum laude) in June 2016 with a Master's Degree in Companion Animal Behavior Analysis and Counseling.

Wow – that was a lot of time.  What were you studying for so long?

My curriculum contained the following courses:

  • Exploration of Animal Behavior – I studied the principles behind causation, function, and evolution of animal behavior with domestic and captive wild animals and a great deal about behavioral needs and animal welfare (completed Summer 2011)

  • Animal Learning and Behavior Analysis I, II, and III – I studied animal behavior, including many studies involving human behavior.  Each course built on the prior course with the third course taking on a case locally (completed Fall 2011, Winter 2012, and Summer 2012, respectively)

  • Psychopharmacology for Animal Scientists – Only veterinarians can prescribe drugs but I needed to study them so that I am aware of what drugs are available to help behavior issues, side effects, drug interactions, etc. (completed Spring 2012)

  • Companion Animal Nutrition – This course started with the basics of nutrition, followed by the digestive tract of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and iguanas and what each species needs nutritionally.  I then studied how to read pet food labels and nutritionally dependent diseases of the dog, cat, horse, rabbit, bird, and iguana (completed Fall 2012)

  • ​Companion Animal Husbandry and Wellness - This course provided an overview of the health, biology, behavior and other issues impacting the care of companion animals, focusing on behavior issues specifically relating to birds, dogs, cats, iguanas, rabbits, and horses.  Also included husbandry requirements and potential behavioral issues due to husbandry issues.  (completed Winter 2013)

  • Feline Behavior and Intervention – This course was all about cat behavior!  Specifically, this course focused on the domestic cat including normal cat behavior, behavioral development, the mother/kitten relationship, individuality, social life, signaling, group-living, density, spatial organization and reproductive tactics, predatory behavior, domestication, and the human-cat relationship. In addition to normal feline behavior, aggression, elimination disorders, fears, anxiety, stereotypes, behavioral pharmacology, prevention, and treatment of behavior problems were covered.  Included were many case studies.  I created client assessment forms and had local cases where I took behavioral histories and used observations to formulate clear and concise diagnostic impressions of the problem.  I then created a behavior intervention plan for the family members.   (completed Winter 2013)

  • Avian Behavior and Intervention - I previously knew little about birds (a parrot was a bird, that's about it!).  I didn’t know there were 350 different species of them, that they could develop behavioral issues from being sleep deprived, or that they could be such a close member of the family.  This course built on the knowledge learned in previous courses in regards to applied behavior analysis and functional assessments.  I feel confident that I could identify, assess, and suggest interventions for common bird behavioral problems after taking this course.  The cases and the field projects were extremely helpful in building this confidence.  It was not easy finding someone with parrots but once the parrots were found, it wasn’t hard finding caregivers that were willing to discuss behavioral issues that they were having with their parrots!  The course included trade status and wild parrot behavior, normal behaviors, development and hand-rearing, parrot learning, prevention of problems, housing, and diagnosis and interventions for common problems.   (completed Spring 2013)

  • Canine Behavior and Intervention - This was a wonderful course where I utilized the knowledge that I had learned in my previous animal behavior courses, I continued to improve my interviewing and detective skills in regards to determing the function(s) of the problem behavior, and created intervention plans to test improving the problem behavior.  The course was specifically about dogs.  The topics included domestication, behavioral adaptations, canine senses and perception, communication signals, socialization, temperament testing, compulsive behaviors, thunderstorm phobia, noise phobia (gunshots & fireworks), separation anxiety, inappropriate elimination and marking, destructive behaviors (including chewing and digging), coprophagia, pica (eating inappropriate non-food items), the various forms of aggression, overactivity, and training tools.  (completed Summer 2013)

  • Qualitative and Quantitative Statistics  - This course has contributed greatly to my understanding of statistics. Now, when I read articles, I have a much better understanding of the statistical results without completely relying on the verbal conclusions. I also came to realize that prior to starting any studies, it should be thought out which statistical procedures will be used with the results of the study.  (completed Fall 2013)

  • Feline Behavior Residency Lab  - First and foremost, this residency gave me confidence in training cats and improving fearful cats. I was able to teach cats to sit or target to a pencil.  I also saw great improvement in just a few days with many very fearful cats in the shelter environment.  (completed Fall 2013 at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah)

  • Avian Behavior Residency Lab  - This residency gave me experience in handling parrots. Along with my partner, we observed and created environmental enrichment devices for parrots, including a blind parrot.  (completed Fall 2013 at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah)

  • Canine Behavior Residency Lab – This residency gave me more experience training and working with dogs with behavior issues in rescue situations.  Specific cases were taken on and Functional Behavior Assessments, Behavior Intervention Plans, and Caregiver Educaiton Plans were provided to the dog's caregivers.  (completed Winter 2014 in Crescent City, Florida) 

  • For my first externship, I focused on aggressive canines.  My externship was with Canine Case Squad in Florida, New York. I observed aggressive and fearful canines.  This externship was an excellent way to showcase that I could take the information learned and apply it to real-life situations.  I also learned a great deal about how Dan and Shari expanded their business and how they continue to learn about animal behavior  (completed Spring 2014 in Florida, New York)

  • My second externship was with Cold Nose Companions in Chardon, Ohio. For this externship, I worked very closely with Carol Peter, a certified professional dog trainer.  I assisted with individual and group class training and with behavioral consultations for complex behavioral problems.  I learned more about the balance between training and animal behavior and became more confident in each.  (completed Spring 2014 in Chardon, Ohio)

  • I completed a third, unrequired, externship with Dr. Sophia Yin in Davis, California because I had the opportunity to do so!  Dr. Yin was a well-known veterinary behaviorist that focused on positive, low stress handling methods with scientific backing.  With this externship I continued to sharpen my training skills and I also completed my Low Stress Handling Dog and Cats Certified Silver certification.  This was a great externship to put focus on training, low stress handling methods, and using scientific ways to show improvements in behavior.  (completed Summer 2014 in Davis, California)

  • Research Methods in Animal Science – This course was all about preparing me for the thesis.  I learned how to design and execute research protocols and found out that it is rather fun!  I worked through many possible thesis ideas and finally narrowed in on my thesis topic!  (completed Summer 2014)

  • Thesis - Noncontingent Reinforcement Method to Improve Animal Welfare of Shelter Dogs (2015 through Spring 2016)

Millions of dogs enter shelters each year in the United States, and millions are euthanized instead of being adopted.  While in the shelter, dogs are typically confined in small spaces, exposed to the frequent barking of other dogs, and have minimal human contact.  The human contact the dogs receive is during times of excitement, which leads to shelter dogs responding to humans in an aroused state.  Shelter dogs quickly learn undesirable behaviors like vocalizing and jumping on humans for attention.  This leads to dogs being adopted with undesirable behaviors which can then lead to relinquishment back to the shelter.  Shelters frequently have little time to train the dogs to an alternative behavior.  This study tested the efficacy of a noncontingent reinforcement technique designed to improve shelter dog behavior when kennel space was approached.  Specifically, the study measured baseline behavior of a group of adoptable shelter dogs that barked upon approach to the kennel.   This baseline behavior was compared to the dog’s behavior during the intervention condition where treats were tossed into the kennel regardless of the animal’s behavior (noncontingent reward).  This study found that barking decreased for all dogs during the intervention and generalization conditions when compared to the baseline condition.  This simple noncontingent reinforcement technique could easily be adapted to any shelter environment.

Was the course work easy?

No, but I really enjoyed doing it.  The course work was intense with several assignments due weekly.  I had video lectures, the professors had office hours, the exams were proctored, and every semester I presented a final report to my professor and the class via a video conference.  As part of the curriculum, I took local cases and traveling to several locations (Utah, Florida, New York, Ohio, and California) for my residencies and externship experiences.

2010 - present

2010 - present