Sara Reusche, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA, CVT, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/her) purchased Paws Abilities in 2010. She has turned her love of animals and teaching into a career and is dual certified as a veterinary technician and professional dog trainer. In addition to training, Sara has worked as a groomer, vet tech, dog daycare attendant, and animal shelter caretaker and trainer. She currently spends the majority of her time working with serious behavior cases and has a special fondness for reactive and anxious dogs.
Sara’s blog posts generate thousands of visitors from all over the world. She has contributed to the APDT Chronicle of the Dog and was the 2008 John Fisher Scholarship award winner for her article “Lessons from Layla.”
Sara lives with three mixed breed dogs, Pantalaimon, Iskierka, and Trout. Sara’s dogs have competed in agility, rally obedience, lure coursing, canine freestyle, and k9 nose work. Sara frequently fosters dogs for rescue organizations as well. When she’s not working with dogs, Sara enjoys reading, listening to audiobooks, building puzzles, and staying up too late.
Sara is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, APDT, CCPDT, IAABC, NACSW, SVBT.
See Sara’s client reviews here.
Linda Blanchard CPDT-KA, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/her) has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and worked with developmentally disabled adults for 10 years. She is currently working for the US Postal Service as a letter carrier, is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and has been a member of the Rochester Dog Obedience Club since 1995. While a member of the Rochester Dog Obedience Club she served as an Instructor, Board member, Vice President, President, and was Training Director in 2004 and 2005. She joined the Paws Abilities training staff in 2007, has an extensive library of dog behavior, training, and health books, and attends seminars whenever possible.
Linda currently has one dog. Tank, a Wirehaired Carolina Schnauzer Mix (a mutt) competes in Rally Obedience and loves taking training classes of all kinds.
Linda is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, APDT, CCPDT
See Linda’s client reviews here.
Julia Breza CPDT-KA, CNWI, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/her) has always loved animals. She became interested in dog training after taking classes through Paws Abilities. She has an undergraduate degree in special education and a masters degree in counselor education. She currently works as a teacher with the Rochester Public Schools. Julia has a special interest in K9 Nose Work. Julia also does field training with service dogs through Can Do Canines.
Julia currently has two dogs. Penny is a fun loving boxer who enjoys camping, doggie daycare, Nose Work, Barn Hunt, and tricks classes. Nugget is a devoted German Shorthaired Pointer who enjoys exploring in the field, Nose Work, daycare, and relaxing in his chair after a long day.
Julia is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, APDT, CCPDT, NACSW
See Julia’s client reviews here.
Megan Cogswell, ABCDT (she/her) has always loved dogs. Ever since she could read, she would have dog books with her – anything from the dog encyclopedia to more specific breed books. Megan has owned, fostered, and rescued many dogs from Basset Hounds to Great Danes and everything in between. She started school to become a veterinary technician, but never finished due to life changes. When it was time to go back to school, she followed her passion for training dogs and graduated from Animal Behavior College. During her time with ABC, Megan did her internship with Paws Abilities, and we loved her so much that we kept her on as a professional trainer!
When she’s not training, Megan’s daughter Faith keeps her on her toes. She also lives with her Great Dane Onix, Boxer Taner, and significant other. They enjoy hiking at Whitewater State Park and being outdoors as much as possible as a family.
See Megan’s client reviews here.
Michelle Daiss (she/her) lives in Rochester, MN with Maggie Mae (a Boston Terrier/Pug mix), Shirley and Axel (both Miniature Pinschers), and Kashmir (a brave and bodacious cat girl). While volunteering and providing foster care for dog rescue organizations, Michelle was introduced to Paws Abilities Dog Training. She became a student for life and realized her desire to help others discover the power of positive, reward-based training and build enjoyable relationships with their canine companions. Michelle delights in learning from students (both species) and the wonderful team of Paws Abilities instructors, loves puppies (who doesn’t?!), and adores senior and differently-abled dogs. At home, Michelle encourages anxious Maggie Mae to chill; manages Axel’s reactivity to other dogs and anything with wheels; provides enrichment to blind, senior Shirley; and ensures Kashmir feels most adored in all her kingdom. Michelle’s other interests include music, reading, cooking, and nature. She has degrees in medical technology and business management, and is employed full-time in the oversight of human research for a large healthcare organization.
Michelle is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT, IAABC, NASCW
See Michelle’s client reviews here.
Carrie Davis CPDT-KA, Family Dog Mediator™ (she/her) grew up in Mankato and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She was amazed at the human-animal bond she gained from her relationship with her first dog, Cannon. Not long after bringing home Cannon, she adopted Diesel from Aussie Rescue. Cannon gave her the joy and motivation to learn more, but it was Diesel’s behavior problems that brought her to dog training after years as an Interior Designer and working as a Veterinary Assistant. Carrie spends her time learning from the experts in canine behavior by attending local and national seminars, reading books, watching dvds and webinars, and taking classes with her own dogs. Carrie is a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Her passion is education. She loves empowering people to live safe, fulfilling lives with their dogs by teaching manners or helping with more intense issues like fear, anxiety, and reactivity. To see a happy dog and owner working together is the most rewarding feeling.
Her days are spent enjoying her current dogs, Australian Shepherds, Diesel and Ryder,and a senior cat, Trixie. Carrie and her husband Patrick love to hike in the woods, camp, and spend time with nature whenever possible.
Carrie is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT, CCPDT, IAABC
See Carrie’s client reviews here.
Elise Denham Probasco CPDT-KA (she/they)’s passion for animal behavior and training is rooted in a love of working with and helping people. After a first career in youth development and community organizing, Elise returned to a childhood dream of working with animals. Elise started in a hybrid role of community organizing with an animal shelter, with the focus of helping pets stay in their homes by equipping their families with free and low cost resources. After a brief stint in shelter medicine as a veterinary assistant, Elise returned to working with pets and their humans via training and behavior consulting.
Functioning as a relationship coach between humans and their pets, Elise brings a trauma-informed and harm reduction approach to the work. Elise focuses on enhancing the human-animal bond through education about communication and learning styles, and through behavior modification for everyone in the home (including the humans).
Elise primarily sees dog clients for issues of aggression, fear, anxiety, reactivity on leash, shyness, hyperactivity/overarousal, and the behavioral effects of health issues. Elise has personal experience with the unique difficulties of sharing a home with pets with these issues. Because of this experience, Elise helps clients with realistic goal setting and creates plans for the individual context they live in, rather than ideal scenarios.
Elise also works with cat clients to help problem-solve litterbox issues, scratching, aggression, excessive nighttime activity, and conflict with other pets. Walks, field trips, enrichment visits, and day training are also options for cat or dog clients when working with Elise.
Elise is currently looking for the next dog who will be the right fit for the home. Professor Pufftaling is Elise’s very dog-like adolescent ginger cat. He likes to go on leashed walks in the neighborhood to hunt bugs, and once was featured on a billboard. Elise has previously had a Keeshond, Captain Smokey, a Husky-Border Collie cross, Digger Roo, and an Australian Shepherd mix, Osa Callisto. When not working or playing with the Professor, Elise loves to hike, camp, and play tabletop RPGs.
Elise is a member for the following professional organizations: APDT, CCPDT, IAABC.
Sarala Helmer, CPDT-KSA, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator grew up riding, training, and showing horses and spent many hours hiking and riding with her dogs. She has an undergraduate degree in biology and a masters degreee in psychology. She has worked in the fields of counseling, Ombudsman, social work, and land surveying.
Sarala is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She has one dog, Ned, and they enjoy hiking, agility, and training games of all kinds together. Sarala is convinced that cooperation and communication, not coercion, are the keys to a sustainable future on the planet. She pursues learning from her students, peers, professionals in many fields — and from her dogs — on a daily basis.
Sarala is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, CCPDT.
See Sarala’s client reviews here.
Laura Johnson, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/her) grew up with dogs and became interested in training after getting her first show dog when she was 10 years old. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and works as a clinical laboratory technologist. Laura also enjoys raising chickens and training her miniature horses.
Laura currently has five dogs and a cat. Her basenji Ruler is an AKC champion show dog who also has many Rally obedience titles. Cruiser, her little rescued Chihuahua mix loves life, bananas, and playing with his extensive collection of dog toys. Her third dog, Lakota is an American Pit Bull Terrier and is a sports/performance dog in training. Lakota is currently training for and participating in disc dog events. That girl loves her Frisbee! Mikko the Brittany Spaniel enjoys playing disc, swimming, and tennis balls. Last but not least, Inara the English Setter puppy is looking forward to many adventures with Laura!
Laura is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC
See Laura’s client reviews here.
Shalise Keating, CPDT-KA (she/her) grew up in Rochester riding and training horses. She has over 14 years of experience training dogs, and was Training Director for the Rochester Dog Obedience Club (RDOC) from 1999 through 2001. As Training Director, Shalise was responsible for moving that club from choke collar training to positive reinforcement-based clicker training. She is an avid attendee at conferences and seminars on clicker training. Shalise joined the Paws Abilities training staff in January of 2001 and took over as owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training in January of 2004 to December 2009.
Shalise currently has two dogs, Tori and Lewis. They’re both German Shorthaired Pointers who enjoy agility, conformation, and other dog sports. When she’s not training with Paws Abilities, Shalise runs a fabulous boarding kennel, A Dog Spot, in rural Lanesboro, MN.
Shalise is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT, CCPDT.
See Shalise’s client reviews here.
Katie Kelly CPDT-KA, ABCDT (she/her) is a dual certified trainer. She is recognized through Animal Behavior College as well as the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. She currently has a Shih Tzu named Minnie, and a pit bull cross named Jasmine. Katie claims that each dog in her life has taught her valuable lessons, and that she continues to learn through the new challenges that she is presented. She fully embraces reward-based methods, not only in dog training, but in other social contexts as well. Her passion is working with dogs whom have behavior issues, but she is also becoming a dog sport addict. Katie has recently started competing with Jasmine in rally obedience, competition obedience, and agility. Jasmine has also been certified as a canine good citizen and therapy dog. In Katie’s spare time, she likes to take long hikes in the woods with her canine pals. She says that is where she is most at peace. She is a graduate of Winona State University where she studied to become an English teacher.
Katie is a member of the following professional organizations: CCPDT, IAABC.
See Katie’s client reviews here.
Terry Kennedy-Lares – Terry has been involved in the sport of canine disc for 9 years and since 2013 has qualified for the USDDN world championships 5 times and the Skyhoundz championships once. He served on the board of the Minnesota Disc Dog Club from 2012 to 2014, and in 2015 he and two friends formed the Far-Out K9 Flying Disc Experience, a canine disc demo team that performs shows throughout Minnesota. From 2012 to 2017 he fostered dogs with Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Minnesota. Since his retirement from Clinical Nursing in May of 2017 he has decided to focus more time on dog training and has taken on a position as a training assistant with Paws Abilities.
Terry is a member of the following professional organizations: Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Minnesota Disc Dog Club.
See Terry’s client reviews here.
Lindsay Kinney CPDT-KA, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/her) became engulfed in the world of dog training when she got her first dog; a beautiful one-year-old Australian Shepherd named Rosie. Lindsay wasted no time in signing Rosie up for training classes. Learning about clicker training opened up a whole new world, and Rosie was thriving in reward based classes. When Rosie earned her Canine Good Citizen title, Lindsay’s passion for training led her instructor/evaluator to encourage Lindsay to pursue dog training as a profession. She volunteered as a training assistant at the Animal Humane Society and attended the Karen Pryor Academy for professional dog trainers. She also worked as a Pet Trainer at Petsmart, where she got to work hands-on with hundreds of dogs. In September 2016, Lindsay became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed.
In her classes, Lindsay works to strengthen human-animal relationships to help people enjoy their dogs. She can often be heard telling clients “Train the dog you want to live with”; focus on what matters to you and don’t sweat the small stuff. The majority of her classes focus on reactivity. Her own dog Rosie is reactive, so she personally understands the frustration, embarrassment, and shame that comes with the territory. Lindsay is a bit of a Jane of all trades when it comes to teaching classes; covering a wide variety of topics and always eager to explore the various facets of the dog world. Tricks, Husbandry, Rally, Scentwork, and Outdoor Adventures are some of her favorite classes to teach.
Lindsay lives with her heart dog, Rosie; two wonderful cats, Eevee and Obi-wan Catnobie; and Mr. Nibbles, the formerly bitey hamster (now passed). Lindsay likes to spend her free time on the dance floor Lindy Hopping.
Lindsay is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, CCPDT
See Lindsay’s client reviews here.
Denise Koster AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/her) has always had a love for animals and pets, but her interest in dog training began after she adopted her first dog in 2002, Buddy, an Australian Shepherd mix. After taking him through Level 1 and 2 Obedience, and earning his CGC title, she began training him in agility. She was bitten by the agility bug and it remains her favorite dog sport. She took her later dogs through a similar series of classes, starting with obedience and moving to agility, rally obedience and later to Canine Flying Disc aka Disc Dog.
Denise’s current pets are three dogs, Jade (Australian Shepherd), Gunner (Border Collie), and Ozzie (Border Collie mix), as well as 2 cats, Cash and Cosmo. Denise and her dogs have earned several titles in
Agility and Rally Obedience, and she has competed for several years in Disc Dog with Jade and more recently Gunner. She finds the fun and excitement in dog sports to be the learning and the incredible feeling of teamwork. It can be challenging to find what motivates different dogs in different activities but definitely worth it when the end result is a happy dog.
Denise has volunteered for several years at Paws and Claws Humane Society, as well as other area rescues and previously drove dogs on rescue transports for several years. She finds working with rescue dogs to be very rewarding and is very passionate about it. She adopted all of her dogs and cats through various rescue groups. She is happy to be a part of the Paws Abilities team and looks forward to helping you with your pet.
Denise is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, APDT.
Denise is a member of the following clubs: MAC, MMBC, MNDDC.
See Denise’s client reviews here.
Stevie Mathre, CPDT-KSA, Low Stress Handling® Certified, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator, 4H Judge for Obedience, Rally, Showmanship, and Agility – bio coming soon!
Stevie is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, CCPDT, IAABC.
She is also the current Training Director at the Red River North Dog Obedience Club.
See Stevie’s client reviews here.
Laura McKinney CPDT-KA (she/her) started her canine career in the rescue world in 1999 as a kennel manager and animal control officer. She currently volunteers with A Rotta Love Plus, where she is a foster parent, trainer, case manager, and all around superheroine. Her niche is canine behavior, and she has been teaching people about their dog’s special needs since 2007. She served on the board of Twin Cities Obedience Training Club from 2010-2013, has attended seminars presented by some of the greatest names in canine behavior, and has titled each one of her six dogs in at least one sport.
To keep herself entertained when she’s not working with dogs and people, Laura works as a registered nurse in neuroscience research. She lives with eight dogs, four cats, two cockatiels, four fish, two hamsters, three parakeets, and an exceptionally tolerant husband.
Laura is a member of the following professional organizations: CCPDT.
See Laura’s client reviews here.
Tara Post CPDT-KA, CVT, ABCDT (she/her) became a certified vet tech in 2002 and has worked in the field ever since. She always had a passion for animal behavior but became motivated to do more after adopting a dog with some dog-aggression problems. Her goal is to prove that it’s possible to have a great hunting dog without resorting to harsh training methods. Tara is a co-founder of a small rescue group and enjoys rehabilitating those dogs who need some extra help. She thinks that the best thing about training dogs is watching them figure out what works!
Tara’s family includes 4 dogs (3 of whom go hunting) – Chance, Sawyer, Ziva, and Mac; a couple cats; her husband; and three children. One dog has earned her JH title and the other is working towards his hunting title. Tara enjoys spending time outdoors with her kids and dogs. She especially enjoys teaching her daughters how to work with the dogs, even though they’re both quite young.
Tara is a member of the following professional organizations: CCPDT.
See Tara’s client reviews here.
Susan Smith CPDT-KA (she/her) is a Rochester, MN native. At one time she had 19 pets that included no dogs, cats, or fish, but it wasn’t until she got Pink Prada, a 120lbs Greater Swiss Mountain dog with multiple health issues, that she realized two things. One- you can’t force a Swissy to do anything, and two- using aversive training techniques hurt her more than it motivated Pink.
Fast forward a half a decade, and positive reinforcement has become the sledge hammer in her toolbox breaking training barriers she could never pass before. She now uses it to train everything from alerting hypoglycemic episodes to not lunging at other dogs.
Having owned dogs with epilepsy, OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans), hip dysplasia, lick fits, IBS, Lyme’s Disease, Ectopic Ureters, cataracts, food intolerances, torn ACL’s, and more, along with having her own variety of physical ailments, her focus is helping people get the most out of their relationship with their dogs even when neither of them is the picture of health.
She says, “It’s when you love someone so much, and you know what is wrong, but you feel utterly helpless like there’s nothing you can do, those, those are my peeps. I want to enable them and I believe at Paws Abilities we can.”
Sue is a member of the following professional organization: CCPDT.
See Sue’s client reviews here.
Christie Vereide, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator, CNWI (she/her) has always had a love of animals from an early age, growing up on a farm in Southeastern Minnesota where dogs, cats, cattle, chickens, geese, ducks, goats, and turkeys were raised. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biology.
Christie is a foster caregiver for retired racing Greyhounds through Greyhound Pets of America — MN, a volunteer and member of Croix Valley Tracking Club (an AKC tracking club) and a member of AKC. She loves working with Greyhounds and other sighthounds. Her training philosophy is to always work with your dog’s strengths and what the dog likes to do, regardless of what the breed was bred to do. For example — if your Bassett Hound loves lure coursing and your Greyhound loves to herd, then do it! It’s all about owners and dogs doing activities together that they both enjoy.
Christie currently has two retired racing Greyhounds; Topper and Adam. Topper and Adam have taken basic obedience classes and are in beginning K9 Nose Work.
Christie is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, NACSW.
See Christie’s client reviews here.
Shelly Wegman CPDT-KSA, Registered Therapy Dog Handler, Approved NADAC Trainer has been crazy about dogs (and horses) as long as she can remember. Currently, her family has 4 dogs: Charlotte the Lab cross, Sage the working Border Collie (cattle), Jordi who was adopted from a shelter and another who-really-knows-what-breeds-are-in-there girl, and Raena the Border Collie, the newest family member who provided an interesting training opportunity in working through her resource guarding and reactivity issues. While she still requires some management, Raena & Shelly are able to participate in competition dog sports together and are having a wonderful time doing so. Charlotte, Jordi, and Raena each have titles in Obedience, Rally Obedience, and Agility. Shelly is also interested in getting her dogs involved in the sports of Barn Hunt and Nose Work. Shelly says each of her dogs are very different from each other, and each has a lot to teach. There are two kids of the human variety as well, both boys. Evan worked and played with Charlotte and Jordi in the 4-H program for 10 years, and is registered to do Therapy Dog work with Charlotte. Meanwhile Alden feels a special bond with Sage and enjoys restoring antique farming equipment. They all live on a dairy farm, but the menagerie of animals also includes horses and chickens, as well as the few occasional porkers and Bronze turkeys.
Previously, Shelly ran the 4-H Dog Project program in Olmsted County for six years, and is still involved with running the 4-H agility division. She is responsible for moving that program from choke chains to clicker training. While working with Paws Abilities Dog Training, Shelly has taught a wide variety of classes, including Obedience, Rally, Therapy Dog Prep, Focus & Control, Reactive Rehab, Tricks, and Agility! She also enjoys working one-on-one in private instruction with clients and their dogs to help them solve more complex behavior problems or to prepare for competition.
Favorite sayings: *”A good dog training session is like a pleasant, engaging conversation.” And – “Learn from your learner…(including the dog!)”
Shelly is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT, CCPDT.
Shelly is a member of the following clubs: MMBC
Shelly is also the Olmsted County 4H Agility Program Leader.
See Shelly’s client reviews here.
Dog Training Apprentices
Gina Beers (she/her) is a transplant from Missouri who came to Minnesota for college and stayed for the winters. By day she is a roadway engineer, by night she is an assistant with Paws Abilities in Twin Cities classes. Gina has always had an interest in working with animals, but it wasn’t until she added two dogs, Echo (Aussie mix) and Radar (Cattle Dog mix) to her household that she found a true passion for learning and working with dogs. You can find Gina assisting in a wide variety of classes, but she has a special interest is working with reactive dogs due to her first hand experience with her own two dogs.
In her free time Gina enjoys dabbling in various dog sports with her two boys, going on outdoor adventures and reading books.
Amanda Bjornberg – bio coming soon!
Brittany Ceroni – AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator has worked with dogs since June of 2014 in boarding and daycare settings. She has been a training Apprentice for Paws Abilities since October of 2018. In 2017 she decided to start looking into training as a career path and found a love for Service Dogs and their handlers. She hopes to make resources easier to reach for potential and current Service Dog Handlers and also hopes to educate the public about Service Dogs. She’s been working towards getting her hours logged for the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers Exam, is a Supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and a Professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
Brittany and her fiance have two dogs. Nanook is an approximately 8-year-old Husky mix that they added to their family in July of 2016. Nanook’s favorite activities include making sassy remarks and cuddling. Buster is a 2 year old Golden Retriever whose favorite activities include carrying his stuffed animal bat around and playing fetch with a deflated ball. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, marine life rescue, and going to dog events.
Brittany is a member of the following organizations: IAABC & APDT
See Brittany’s client reviews here.
Dana Daniels – bio coming soon!
Jill Lebrun – bio coming soon! Jill is our feline behavior expert and teaches Kitten Kindergarten classes.
Jill is a member of the following professional organizations: IAABC
Lynn Seurer (she/her) is an occupational therapist. She loves animals, and discovered Paws Abilities because she would someday like to combine her therapy with dog training and have a therapy dog that she can work with. Since joining the team, Lynn has been expanding her interests in the dog world to include a variety of sports.
Lynn’s first dog was a Keeshond, followed by an American Eskimo. She and her husband became involved with Keeshond rescue and they have adopted several rescues over the years. Lynn is working towards becoming a certified dog trainer and is assisting with classes and Camp.
Lynn currently lives with three dogs: Lab/Blue Heeler mix Ranger, and two Keeshonden, Sapphire and Liam. Ranger and Liam enjoy rally obedience and agility, and Sapphire does nose work. Ranger recently earned his Novice Tricks title, and Lynn is looking forward to earning other titles with him and Liam!
Jenna Squires CCDT, CVT (she/her) has always loved animals of all kinds, and earned her title as a Certified Veterinary Technician in 2015. She has been working in emergency veterinary medicine ever since, and is passionate about her job caring for our furry companions in their time of need.
Jenna has always been interested in dog behavior and training, especially after she got her first puppy in 2007, but didn’t pursue training more seriously until she rescued her Standard Schnauzer, Willow. She began talking to trainers, reading books, and listening to seminars on dog training, soaking up as much information as she could. In 2019, Jenna took the plunge to get a more formal education, and earned her certificate through CATCH Canine Trainers Academy as a CATCH Certified Dog Trainer (CCDT). Since that time, she has been volunteering as a shelter dog trainer at a local animal shelter, working closely with experienced trainers, and continuing to gain experience and learn as much as possible about how to help our canine friends and their humans! Jenna is currently working towards her certification through the CCPDT.
Jenna lives with a Lab mix named Gus, a Standard Schnauzer named Willow, a Miniature Schnauzer named Penny, a cat, and a snake! She enjoys doing K9 Nose Work with Gus and Penny, and agility with Willow.
Jenna is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT and NACSW.
Our Support Staff
Matt Helgemoe (he/him) – lives in Burnsville with his wife, Sara, and their three dogs Biz, Pan, and Trout.
Matt helps out with bookkeeping and business planning, as well as keeping all of the a/v equipment running smoothly at seminars!
Laura Johnson (she/her) – learn more about Laura under our Professional Dog Trainers section! Laura is responsible for our Social Media.
Kapp Kapter (he/him) – retired Nose Work instructor and IT professional. Kapp enjoys volunteering tech support with Paws Abilities and rescue support with Heart of a Border Collie Rescue.
Denise Koster (she/her) – learn more about Denise under our Professional Dog Trainers section! Denise manages the Paws Abilities Dog Training email account.
Heather Peterson (she/her) has been around dogs and cats her whole life – at home and in the workplace. She got her first dog, a Chocolate Lab named Kodi (who was nicknamed “Heather’s boy”), just a few months after being born. She had other dogs as she grew up, and her curiosity about the way dogs think as well as her love for animals only grew from there.
Heather has worked as a dog walker and kennel attendant at a local boarding facility and managed a pet store, gaining exposure to exotic pets and becoming well-versed in various types of animal care and behavior. She now works as an admin assistant, dog walker, and pet-sitter for Paws Abilities Dog Training, and is a transport volunteer and foster for MN Pocket Pet Rescue.
Since starting at Paws Abilities, Heather’s passion for learning has only grown! She has read several books about animal behavior, attended seminars, and has assisted trainers with their classes. She recently became an IAABC Supporting Member, giving her access to more resources and continuing education. Her curiosity has branched out to not just the way dogs think, but all animals: particularly prey animals such as rabbits and hamsters.
Heather lives in Maple Grove and currently has a dog, Odin; a rabbit, Floki; and fish, as well as a foster mouse.
Heather assists with vital administrative work.
Heather is a member of the following professional organizations: IAABC.
Jan Reusche (she/her) – bio coming soon! Jan manages our voicemail and all phone calls.
Sue Smith (she/her) – learn more about Sue under our Professional Dog Trainers section! Sue manages our Family Dog Mediation scheduling.
Our Class Assistants
Hannah Hall – bio coming soon!
Reiichi Hanson (he/him) AKA Rei began his study of animal behavior in 2017 with parrots, and fell in love with training. He enrolled at CATCH Canine Trainers Academy in 2018, and started assisting at Paws Abilities officially in Spring 2020.
He has a Senegal Parrot named Booker (who is clicker trained!) and an outgoing Australian Shepherd named Betelgeuse. He spends as much time as possible reading and learning from animal professionals, but in his free time, he loves to hike, volunteer, and watch horror movies.
Brianna Kozemzak – bio coming soon!
Paxton Marta – bio coming soon!
Ciara Metzger (she/her) joined Paws Abilities as an assistant in August 2020.
She began her training journey while working with her own reactive, anxious dog, Eddie. Together, she and Eddie have taken a variety of classes ranging from Puppy Socialization to Advanced Reactive Rehab. She is particularly interested in reactivity and cooperative care, but would also love to get into sports and/or nose work. She strives to be an advocate for reactive dogs and their owners as they are often misunderstood.
Erin Shaffer – bio coming soon!
Erin is a member of the following professional organizations: IAABC
Demian Smith – bio coming soon!
Hailey Sobania (she/her) – bio coming soon!
Andrew Sticha has always enjoyed being around dogs, and decided to pursue his training degree to help people understand their fur babies as much as possible. He is currently enrolled with CATCH Trainer’s Academy. He assists with classes at Paws Abilities and works at Paws Unleashed, a doggy daycare and boarding facility.
Andrew is interested in going into behavior modification to help dogs and owners be as happy and comfortable with each other and in their environment as they can be.
Maggi Stow – bio coming soon!
Maggi is a member of the following clubs: TCVESSA.
Kerry Todd (she/her) – bio coming soon!
More Information About Our Professional Certifications and Affiliations
In 2002, Shalise was among the first few trainers in the state of Minnesota and the first 250 in the nation to earn the title Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed. Sara received her CPDT-KA certification in December 2005, Sarala in December 2007, Tara in April 2011, Julia and Linda in November 2011, Shelly in November 2012, Laura M. in April 2014, Lindsay and Carrie D. in October 2016, and Sue in April 2020.
Sara, Shelly, and Sarala earned their CPDT-KSA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge and Skills Assessed) in March of 2015.
Sara earned her CBCC-KA (Certified Behavior Consultant for Canines – Knowledge Assessed) in November of 2016.
Tara earned her CVT (certified Veterinary Technician) in 2002, Sara in June 2006, and Jenna in 2015.
Julia and Kapp became CNWI (Certified Nose Work Instructors) in December 2016, and Christie earned her CNWI in April of 2020.
Trainers are also members of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and are actively involved in research and seminars to learn from the world’s experts.