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My passion for dog training started out in the late 70’s when I purchased my first dog out of college. Like many other instructors, it was due to owning a very difficult and challenging dog that led me down this path. At the same time, I was working at a veterinary hospital and was fortunate that the owners supported my interest in training and behavior. This was the beginning of a career in dog training and behavior in the Buffalo, New York area.
I started teaching group classes in 1984. At that time the only classes available in the Buffalo area were competition style obedience with one handler only. Working in the veterinary clinic I realized the needs of the average “family companion” were not being met. I designed my programs to be both practical with plenty of lifestyle training and family inclusive. At this time I was fortunate to also have the support of the late Shirley Flood, founder of HABOC (Hamburg All Breed Obedience Club). Although our methods differed greatly, she never wavered in her encouragement.
Another pivotal moment occurred in 1991, when Dr. Craig Wiede sent me to a five day Ian Dunbar workshop on teaching puppy classes, also attended by fellow instructor Cindy Mead. In the Buffalo area, instructors typically accepted only dogs 6 months of age and older in classes. Instruction for younger puppies was a new concept, with our program being the first specially designed class for puppies in Western New York. I continue to be an Ian Dunbar "groupie" to this day.
Shortly after the development of our Puppy Pre-school Program, I had the oportunity to connect with Sally Cataldo of Eagle Ridge Kennel. We share a commitment to top notch pet friendly care. I was most fortunate when she allowed us to hold classes at her facility beginning in 1992. This strong professional relationship continues to this day, with Eagle Ridge being one of our most popular training locations.
Throughout the years our program has expanded greatly, including the addition of more trainers to our group. We now boast Western New York’s most credentialed team of dog trainers, each bringing their individual strengths and talents to “The Family Companion”.
Valerie’s classes are known for being innovative and fun. A loyal following of students, some continuing in her classes for years, confirm that the classes are enjoyable and worthwhile. Both Val’s obstacle and obedience classes contain “fun” in their titles, promising plenty of laughs and smiles for both humans and canines.
Paula One brings her deep passion for the human animal bond to her programs as evidenced by her unique pet therapy and senior companion programs. She continues her wonderful work in our community, as a Delta Pet Partners and R.E.A.D. volunteer with her dog, Marley.
Paula Too joined the team after the loss of our dear friend and amazing instructor, Nancy Stengel, of who she assisted in our North Buffalo location. She continues on in Nancy’s spirit, quick with a smile, hug and plenty of encouragement. During the summer, Paula Too can be seen leading her crew down Elmwood Avenue for her ever popular Citidog class.
Kim is a wonderful asset to our team. Her students appreciate her delightful attitude, specifically requesting her as an instructor. She coordinates our Canine Good Citizen programs at both the Eagle Ridge Kennel and Fisher’s Friends locations. Kim is also the owner of Sit and Stay Pet Sitting Services.
Cindy has been a personal friend of mine for many years. We were thrilled when she joined our team with her many talents and years of experience. Not only is she a proficient dog trainer and solver of behavior problems, but also an outstanding veterinary technician at Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center.
Sue is one of the newest additions to our team. After several years serving as Kim’s assistant and volunteering for the SPCA, she made the commitment to attend Karen Pryor’s prestigious Clicker Academy. She is now our resident clicker training expert and learning theory junkie. Sue is also teaching our Kitten Kompanion classes at Tabby Town, located in the McKinley Mall.
Debbie has been developing programs that will keep those dogs of our busy students mentally and physically stimulated after a sequence of basic classes is complete. She retired as business partner of Pet Stop of WNY in 2009, and became one of my valued assistants. Debbie has a special interest in equine behavior, an area that the Family Companion hopes to develop. Tank, her horse, loves clicker training!
Jill is TFC's newest trainer, she started with us in the spring of 2012 at the Snyder location after several years of assisting both Kim and Paula Too. She is an AKC Canine Good Citizen and STAR Puppy Evaluator.
Dr. Julia Albright is our Veterinary Behaviorist on counsel. All of our trainers recognize our limitations in assisting pet owners with dogs and cats exhibiting difficult and complex behavior problems. Julie is an essential expert on our team. Along with the client’s veterinarian, we put forth our individual talents and strengths to provide the best possible out come for pets with behavior problems.
With our understanding of animal behavior and the field of pet training always changing and improving, we are continuing to add to our knowledge and develop new programs. My own progression in this field has led me to be one of the first five veterinary technicians nationally to obtain my VTS-Behavior (Veterinary Technician Specialist - Certified in Behavior) in accordance with NAVTA (North American Veterinary Technician Association).
Oh, and did I mention that we have the most AWESOME team of assistants? The quality of our classes are truly enhanced by having these super helpers. Our assistants are knowledgeable, dedicated and so beneficial to our programs. A big thank you to Michelle, Debbie, Heather, Cindy, Shari, Katie, Tim and Rita. We greatly appreciate your hands on help and willingness to donate your time to the training experience with “The Family Companion”.
Warm Wags & Woofs,
Marcia