Our Professional Dog Trainers

Sara with Iskierka

Sara Reusche, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator, UKC SPOT 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, breeder, and animal shelter caretaker and trainer.

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 four mixed breed dogs, Pantalaimon, Iskierka, the Morrigan, and Iroh. Sara’s dogs have competed in agility, rally obedience, competition obedience, disc, lure coursing, canine freestyle, barn hunt, and k9 nose work. Pan also works as a model for many companies, including Target and Publisher’s Clearinghouse. 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.

Gina with Radar and Echo

Gina Beers CPDT-KA (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.

Gina’s a member of the following organizations: CCPDT

See Gina’s client reviews here.

Jaceil with Cowboy

Jaceil Carraux CPDT-KA (she/her) has always had a love and passion for animals, and working professionally in animal behavior and training is her second career. Her love of animals, especially dogs, led her to becoming a volunteer dog walker for a shelter when she completed school and was without a dog herself. A few years later, Jaceil found a volunteer position in a dog training school and that is where she realized her desire for learning more about animal behavior as well as how much she enjoyed working with pet dogs and their owners. Around that time Jaceil adopted her first puppy, a 5 month old Pit Bull mix who was rescued off the streets with his mother. This white puppy with big black spots, dearly named Cowboy, helped to give Jaceil more hands-on experience at home. Jaceil and Cowboy enjoyed a variety of classes together from basic manners, to scent detection, to tricks, to the Canine Good Citizen test. Jaceil was soon able to learn from experienced professionals in the field through mentor opportunities and grew to teaching group classes on her own. Since then, Jaceil has progressed to ending her first career and going full time working with animals and their humans.

Jaceil lives with two elderly kitties, named Simon and Lucy, who were her first pets she trained little tricks with when they were younger. She shares her home with her lovely dog Cowboy, who enjoys the comfort of the couch a bit more than he used to these days. He enjoys sniffy walks, using his nose to find treats, playing puzzle games set up by his tiny humans, and play dates with other canine companions. Jaceil is also the mother to two young children who make sure to keep her busy.

Jaceil has a passion for continued education about animal behavior through books, webinars/seminars and other professionals. She brings that knowledge and experience to the modern day pet home.

Jaceil is a member of the following professional organizations: CCPDT.

See Jaceil’s client reviews here.

Michelle with Maggie Mae

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 and Diesel: Celebration of Life photos April 2020

Carrie Davis LDFM, CBCC-KA, Family Dog Mediator™ (she/her) has been in the dog industry since 2008. She started off in Veterinary Technician school and worked at vet clinics. She quickly turned to the study of canine behavior, and the relationship and connection between people and dogs.

Experience obtained in those early years also included: intake supervisor for lost and stray dogs inside her county, working at a small boarding facility, and being a dog bather! Attending conferences, webinars, seminars, reading books, and one on one work with experts in the field keep Carrie up-to-date and dedicated to learning about dogs and people.

She has 10 years of experience teaching obedience, reactive rehab, focus and control, sports foundations, tricks, and so many puppy classes. The last number of years have been all 1 on 1 sessions to give each family and dog(s) the personal attention they deserve.

Carrie was the first Family Dog Mediator in the midwest and the first Licensed FDM in Minnesota. She also heads the Training Division for Licensed Family Dog Mediators around the world.

Carrie lives/lived with Australian Shepherds, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, cats, goats, rats, chickens, birds, bunnies, and a frog!

Carrie is a member of the following professional organizations:  CCPDT, IAABC

See Carrie’s client reviews here.

Jamie, a smiling woman with dark hair and glasses, poses next to a smiling tan dog with upright ears

Jamie with former foster dog, Prison Mike

Jamie Elvert (she/her) – was born obsessed with dogs. She spent the first decade of her life asking for a dog for every birthday, while reading every dog-related book she could get her hands on. With hindsight, she’s grateful that her parents made her wait until she was old enough to care for the dog herself, because it meant that 11-year-old Jamie was fully prepared to launch herself into the world of dog training when she got her first puppy, Nala. After taking basic obedience classes and then becoming obsessed with agility, Jamie found she had a passion for dog training. This in turn morphed into a passion for teaching humans!

Now, Jamie has many years of experience training dogs and teaching humans. No matter what species of learner is in front of her, Jamie’s favorite moments are those little collisions of joy and understanding – lightbulb moments. Her goal as a dog trainer is to help her human students prioritize the training and management solutions that work best for them and their dogs; life isn’t “one size fits all.” By studying dog behavior down to the physiological level, Jamie strives to help humans understand their dogs enough to find kind ways to mold their behavior.

Jamie shares her life with mixed breed dogs Kobi and Maze, Field Spaniel Kinni, several rats, and usually one or two foster dogs. When she isn’t at her day job in healthcare or training dogs, she can be found hiking, listening to audiobooks, making art, writing, weeding her native plant garden, planning her next Renaissance Faire costume, or finding a new hobby to add to the already extensive list.

Jamie is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT

Rei with Juice.

Reiichi Hanson IAABC-ADT, CCDT
(he/him) AKA Rei began his study of animal behavior in 2017 with parrots, and fell in love with it. He graduated with Distinction from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy in 2021, and earned the title of Accredited Dog Trainer from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants in 2022. He has also attended courses on dog first aid & CPR, aggression, applied ethology, assistance dog training, urban herding, and obedience.

He has a Senegal Parrot named Tootsie (she is clicker trained!), and an Australian Shepherd named Betelgeuse who is his working service dog. 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.

See Reiichi’s client reviews here.

Sarala with Ned

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 degree in psychology. She has worked in the fields of counseling, Ombudsman, social work, and land surveying.

She has two Labrador retrievers and they enjoy hiking, camping, agility, obedience, and training games of all kinds. Sarala is convinced that cooperation and communication, not coercion, are the keys to a sustainable future on the planet. She enjoys learning from her students, training peers, and from professionals in many fields — and from her dogs — on a daily basis. She is an avid reader of books in any form.

Sarala is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, CCPDT, IAABC.

See Sarala’s client reviews here.


Shalise with Tori and Dexter

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 one dog, Lewis, a German Shorthaired Pointer. 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 with Minnie and Jasmine

Katie Kelly-Pederson CBCC-KA, 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.

Lindsay with Rosie

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 puppy, Mooch, and two wonderful cats, Eevee and Obi-wan Catnobie. 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 with Jade, Gunner. and Ozzie

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.

Patrisha Kroshus poses with a ribbon next to her small black-and-white dog, Squeak.

Trisha with Squeak

Patrisha Kroshus (Trisha/Trish, she/hers) – has two bachelors of science degrees in education and a minor in psychology. Learning and behavior has been a special interest dear to her heart for many years. She currently trains and competes in flyball, agility, and conformation, while dabbling in other sports with aspirations to do so much more once she can find more days in a week!

Trisha started training professionally in 2010 and has a long history working in the pet industry. She started as a pet store retail employee, which sparked the flame and led to her becoming a dog trainer for PetSmart. She has since worked for a humane society in Minnesota as the Canine Department Coordinator and Dog Trainer, and then for a vet clinic in North Dakota where she taught puppy classes and private lessons in addition to being a veterinary assistant. She then moved to South Dakota, and worked for Petco for 5 years as a shift manager and Mentor Trainer. She also taught some classes for the local kennel club and assisted in teaching agility classes in South Dakota. She raised and trained a service dog puppy for a small service dog organization in Wisconsin, and has completed her tour of the Midwest by moving back to Minnesota with her family.

Trisha has a love for dog sports and the foundation skills that make for a great sport dog. She also loves working with families and children, and has a special place in her heart for those with disabilities. She is an early childhood special education teacher/parent coach by day, which lends to her empathetic approach and realistic solutions for busy families looking to enjoy their canine companions.

Trisha shares her home in Owatonna with her husband and their two young children (6 and 1), who share her obsession with everything dog (future dog trainers in the making??). Her family currently has a cat, Gulliver, who enjoys clicker training and leash walks almost as much as the dogs, and their two dogs – Squeak, a Border Collie/Papillon sport mix, and Whisper, their newest Whippet puppy. Trisha is so excited to be back in Minnesota as part of the Paws Abilities family!

See Trisha’s client reviews here

Stevie with Quinn

Stevie Mathre, CPDT-KSA, Low Stress Handling® Silver Certified, Fear Free Certified, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator, AKC Fit Dog Instructor – Stevie grew up with a rough-coated collie, and got her first very own collie after graduate school. She volunteered through a shelter program, where she quickly became a trainer. By the time that first collie, Joella, was 18 months old, she started competing in obedience, and soon added agility and herding.

Stevie has been training dogs professionally since 1997 and was the first in the Fargo-Moorhead area to earn her Certified Professional Dog Trainer certification in 2006. She competes with her dogs and with clients’ dogs in obedience, rally, conformation, agility, and herding, and has earned numerous additional titles in tricks, Canine Good Citizenship, cooperative care, fitness, and backpacking. She also has experience training service dogs and therapy dogs.

While competing is challenging, and she’s proud of the titles she’s earned, the greatest positive reinforcement comes from the day-to-day training and simply sharing life with her dogs. The titles are merely a way to break down their goals into achievable steps and motivate her to keep training daily. There’s always something more to learn, and new activities to try. Current interests are cooperative care, tricks, and scent work.

Currently, Stevie lives with two collies (Quinn and Tor), a blind-deaf aussie (Pippin) and a macaw. Working with Pippin has fostered a deeper understanding of interspecies communication. He’s earned a couple of trick titles so far and is training in scent work.

Stevie works with clients virtually and was the first trainer with Paws Abilities to work exclusively using that modality. Her specialty is working with dogs with behaviors problems, including separation anxiety. Working virtually has been beneficial in keeping the dogs calmer and ready to learn, and owners are empowered to handle their dogs through the process. “Owners are better equipped to handle situations that arise when they’ve been hands-on from the beginning. They amass the same skills and experience and can help their dogs get through the tough times,” she says.  Stevie also takes in occasional board and train dogs.

Stevie is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, CCPDT, and IAABC.

Outside interests include photography/videography, cooking, gardening, quilting, figure skating, and Norwegian language and arts. Oh, and ask her anything about the music of Queen!

See Stevie’s client reviews here

Ashlee with Adam

Ashlee Meyer CPDT-KA, VSPDT (she/her) is an engineer turned dog trainer. After adopting a reactive dog, she dove into dog behavior and training, learning as much as she could in her free time. After 4 years of being immersed in the dog training world, she realized her true passion lay in helping people learn more about their dog’s behavior and once again finding joy in their relationship with their dogs. She transitioned to being a full-time dog trainer in 2020 and continues to love helping families and their dogs.

She has a special interest in the integration of dogs and kids, and has experience dealing with reactivity and fear-based behaviors.

Ashlee’s family grew by one with the addition of her daughter in April 2021, so most of her time is spent caring for her daughter, but she also enjoys hiking, knitting, board games, and drinking coffee.

See Ashlee’s client reviews here.

Heather playing with their Professional Dog Walking client, Marge

Heather Peterson CPDT-KA, AKC CGC and Trick Evaluator (she/them) has been around dogs and cats their whole life – at home and in the workplace. They got their first dog, a Chocolate Lab named Kodi (who was nicknamed “Heather’s boy”), just a few months after being born. They had other dogs as they grew up, and their curiosity about the way dogs think as well as their 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. They now work as an admin assistant, dog walker, and pet-sitter for Paws Abilities Dog Training, and are a transport volunteer and foster for MN Pocket Pet Rescue.

Since starting at Paws Abilities, Heather’s passion for learning has only grown! They have read several books about animal behavior, attended seminars, and has assisted trainers with their classes. They recently became an IAABC Supporting Member, giving them access to more resources and continuing education. Their 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 is a member of the following professional organizations: AKC, CCPDT, IAABC.

See Heather’s client reviews here

Lisa with Chi-Chi

Lisa Skelton CPDT-KSA Family Dog Mediator (she/her/hers): With a background in the pet care industry; dog walking, daycare, and boarding Lisa has found her place in the field of training and behavior.

Inspired by people who work in the shelter dog system she has fostered local dogs, as well as volunteered at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control as part of her learning to become a dog trainer.

Lisa has been teaching basic life skills for dogs through community education for since 2017 and enjoys learning from each dog and person that comes through her classes.

Working one on one with people and families, Lisa has found Family Dog Mediation to be an excellent process, creating understanding and connection between people and their canine companions.

Fascinated by the intimate bonds and often complex relationships between people and pets, Lisa’s goal is to bring knowledge and joy to these relationships whenever possible.

Lisa lives with a down-to-earth mixed breed rescue dog named Roscoe and a delightful, soulful, spirited Chihuahua named Chi-Chi, and is happily owned by an inscrutable buff tabby cat named Josie.

Two of Lisa’s favorite books are “Scent of the Missing” by Susannah Charleson and “How to Behave so your Dog Behaves” by Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

Lisa is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT and CCPDT.

See Lisa’s client reviews here.

Julia with Penny and Nugget

Julia Springsted 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.

Jenna is pictured with a Chocolate Lab cross, Gus.

Jenna with Gus.

Jenna Squires CCDT, CPDT-KA, 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 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.

See Jenna’s client reviews here.

Andrew, a smiling white man in a black hoodie, sits facing the camera with his sable and white dog Duke.

Andrew with Duke

Andrew Sticha CPDT-KA, CCDT (he/him) 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 recently graduated from CATCH University.

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.

Andrew is a member of the following professional organizations: CCPDT.

See Andrew’s client reviews here.

Bailey and Cooper

Bailey Stickney CPDT-KA, Fear Free Certified, KPA-CTP (she/her): To her parents’ horror, when Bailey was a toddler, she often wandered out into the world for good old-fashioned walk-abouts. One day she popped out of the woods abutting the family home with a little tag-a-long, a little white dog, following closely. This was the start of Bailey’s lifelong love of animals, and dogs in particular.

A self-described dog-enthusiast, Bailey is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer committed to helping dogs and their people. She has spent the better part of her lifetime working with people and their pets, and is currently most passionate about the work she is doing with dogs and cats that need help accepting grooming and veterinary care.

Bailey holds a certification with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Fear Free, Control Unleashed and Karen Pryor Academy. Bailey fosters dogs for local rescue groups, and often transports dogs from area impounds to their rescue partners. She lives with a cat named Francis and two dogs- Mason and Juniper. Bailey likes to spend time kayaking in the summer and drinking cocoa under a blanket in the winter.

Bailey is a member of the following professional organizations: CCPDT, IAABC, Fear Free, APDT.

See Bailey’s client reviews here.

Christie with Topper (on loveseat), Adam (right) and foster dog Mike (in front).

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.

Dog Training Apprentices

Whitney with Feena

Whitney Romine, KPA-CTP, C-AAIS, Pet Partners Therapy Animal Team Evaluator (she/her) comes from a diverse background in hospital volunteer coordination, animal-assisted services program administration, and therapy animal handler team evaluation and training.  She presently works at Mayo Clinic as the Animal-Assisted Services Coordinator.  Whitney received a Master’s Degree in Public Health, focusing on the relationship between the health of humans, animals, and the environment—a concept known as One Health.  She is certified as an Animal-Assisted Intervention Specialist and a Licensed Therapy Animal Handler Team Evaluator for Pet Partners.  She is currently enrolled as a student in the Karen Pryor Academy for professional dog trainers with anticipated graduation in early 2024.

Whitney first experienced the power of the human-animal bond through her relationships with childhood dogs Peco, the other half of her soul, and Roxie, her first therapy dog partner.  She developed a deeper understanding of canine learning and emotions with her first rescue and current dog, Feena, who is guessed to be a 9- or 10-year-old mini Schnauzer-Poodle mix.  Feena came to Whitney after being picked up by animal control off the side of the highway and rehabilitated in a foster-based rescue.  Several weeks after placement, it became clear that Feena struggled to feel safe with humans and other dogs.  After taking her through several carefully selected group and private training courses and reading everything she could about reactivity, Whitney was profoundly moved by the transformation in Feena’s confidence and joy through positive reinforcement training.

In her professional and volunteer roles, Whitney has worked with hundreds of dogs (and a few mini horses) and their humans to help them match with the settings and activities where they thrive.  She partners with pet parents to help them read their dog’s body language, set up environments that promote teamwork empowerment, troubleshoot areas of concern, deepen relationships and promote positive animal welfare during human-animal interactions.  Whitney took a professor’s words to heart when he said “there can be no therapeutic benefit when relationships are not mutually beneficial.”

Whitney is a member of the following professional organizations: Pet Partners, the Association of Animal-Assisted Interventions Professionals (AAAIP), and the American Psychological Association Human-Animal Interaction Division (APA-HAI).

Hailey with Jin

Hailey Sobania (she/her) has an array of experience with animals and has found that her true passion lies in helping dogs and their people. She has spent most of her free time attending classes with her own dogs to learn more about how to help them live their best lives. Together her dogs have competed in disc events and agility trials.

Hailey shares her life with three dogs: Simon, a mixed breed who really loves food and napping; Able, a border collie who enjoys running fast and playing disc; and Jinevra, a mixed breed that appreciates socializing with people. When she’s not training or spending time with dogs, Hailey can be found taking photos, reading, or playing video games. She looks forward to helping dogs and their families lead more enriched lives.

Kerry with Teddy and Willow

Kerry Todd (she/her) has loved animals all her life.  She even recalls her first science fair project being on dolphin communication.  She grew up with rabbits, dogs, and horses and only recently decided to more formally pursue her passion for learning as much as she can about dog welfare, behavior, and training.  She believes that a key element in improving the lives of dogs is helping people better understand themselves as well as understanding dog behavior and learning principles.  She loves the Paws Abilities mission of “Helping people enjoy their dogs” – it’s a great fit for her.

Kerry enjoys playing with her two dogs. They mostly explore the woods and rivers near their home but also take classes and practice other skills.  Kerry and her German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix, Willow, have dabbled in basic obedience, agility, tricks, and disc dog classes and with Teddy, her Labrador Retriever, Kerry continues to be thrilled when they successfully walk on a loose leash or when he doesn’t bark at passing dogs!  Teddy and his excitement reactivity is one of the reasons Kerry wanted to learn as much as possible about all things dogs.

Kerry considers herself a lifelong learner and is studying, learning from peers and dog parents, and working as an apprentice with the goal of becoming a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA).  She also works at a healthcare institution and is a certified yoga instructor teaching at local studios.  Kerry lives with her husband, 4 adult children (kids are home due to COVID), her cat Muriel, and shares a horse with her dad.

See Kerry’s client reviews here.

Ellen with Patrick

Ellen West – Ellen’s interest in dog training started when she adopted her first dog, Patrick. As a novice dog owner, she set out to learn more about dog training and behavior to better understand her reactive dog. She loved the supporting environment that Paws Abilities provided for her to learn and to help build her bond with Patrick. Ellen’s journey with Patrick inspired her to pursue dog training to help other build their bond with their pets.

Ellen also shares her home with her husband, Marcus, and two cats, Ellie and Archie.

Our Support Staff

Sarah Doss (she/her) – bio coming soon! Sarah helps out with a variety of writing projects.

Reiichi Hanson (he/him) – learn more about Rei under our Professional Dog Trainers section! Rei manages scheduling and administrative work for our Puppy Camp.

Matt with Pan

Matt Helgemoe (he/him) – lives in Burnsville with his wife, Sara, and their three dogs Biz, Pan, and Trout.

Matt helps out with business planning, as well as keeping all of the a/v equipment running smoothly at seminars!

In his spare time, Matt geeks out about cars and video games.

Tanner Houston (he/him) – bio coming soon!

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.

Dan Reusche (he/him) – bio coming soon! Dan helps with IT support and inventory when he’s not busy enjoying the retired life.

Jan Reusche (she/her) – bio coming soon!  Jan manages our voicemail and all phone calls.

Kenna with Andrew and Duke

Kenna Wendt (she/her) – graduated from the University of Wisconsin- River Falls in the spring of 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. Kenna has had a passion for animals her whole life and has been working in veterinary medicine since she was 16.

Outside of work she enjoys spending time outside, with her friends, and her boyfriend (Andrew Sticha, Trainer), boxer mix (Duke) and two kitties (Ollie and JJ).

Our Training Assistants

Lisa Andersonbio coming soon!

Ruthie Johnsonbio coming soon!

Kate Selbitschkabio coming soon!

Erin Shafferbio coming soon!

Erin is a member of the following professional organizations: IAABC

Kaitlin Welch (they/them) – bio coming soon!

Retired from teaching

Linda with Tank

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

Terry with his dogs.

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.


Susan Smith CPDT-KA, PNWI (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.

Looking for previous trainers? We’re happy to refer you to them!

  • Hannah Anagnostou now works at MetroDogs Daycare
  • Patti Anderson now teaches out of Agile Canines Training School
  • Cheryl Bicknese owns and operates Cheryl’s Critter Care
  • Brittany Ceroni is not currently training but works as an office assistant at the Canine Coach
  • Lauren Engle (now Lauren Sorenson!) owns and operates Healthy Mind Canine
  • Megan Janning now works at Fusion Pet Retreat
  • Margit Lovoll now works as the store trainer at the Burnsville Petco
  • Shelly Wegman now teaches on her own
  • Kera Wilhelmsen now owns and operates Creature Comforts Pet Services

Many people try training for a few years and then move on. We wish these former trainers the best of luck in their new endeavors and hope to see them back in the field someday!

  • Megan Cogswell
  • Rick and Lindsay Decker
  • Elise Denham Probasco
  • Sarah Griffin
  • Carrie Iverson
  • Laura Johnson
  • Jenna Kalizsewski
  • Paxton Marta
  • Laura McKinney
  • Tara Post
  • Kristin Sicotte
  • Crystal Thompson
  • Sarah Thoreen

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, Lindsay and Carrie D. in October 2016, Lisa in 2019, Sue in April of 2020, Ashlee in 2021, Jenna in 2022, Gina in April of 2023, and Andrew and Heather in October of 2024.

Sara 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, and Katie earned hers in May of 2021.

Rei earned his IAABC-ADT (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants – Accredited Dog Trainer) in 2022.

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.

Paws Abilities Dog Training mentors students for the Animal Behavior College (ABC), CATCH Trainer’s Academy, and Victoria Stilwell Academy (VSA).

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.