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Our Trainers

 

AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior is an ever-growing team of highly educated, passionate dog behavior professionals dedicated to teaching you about your dog. Dog training is an evolution based on art and science and we strive to make your training practice both productive and enjoyable. With over 75 years of collective training experience, our staff provides the highest level of training services you as a dog owner crave and deserve.

 
 

Our trainers are proud to be members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. We regularly attend seminars and conferences to bring you the latest developments in the world of positive reinforcement training.

 

Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA, Director of Training

Nicole strongly believes that dog training is as much about the people as it is about the dogs. That’s not just because they are the ones paying the bill, but her experience has shown that people truly want to know how to understand and communicate with their dog effectively.

Her first introduction to training came after an inspiring meeting with Paul Owens, co-author of “The ‘Original’ Dog Whisperer“. Paul introduced her to his non-violent dog training approach and Nicole was hooked. She then studied for a year with him, got an apprenticeship, and finally taught for Paul over the course of three years in Los Angeles. Nicole furthered her education by attending various conferences throughout the country, which she continues to do today. Her love of family and the Midwest finally lured her back home in 2003.

It was then that Nicole started her own business on the North Shore of Chicago focusing on helping families and their furry members. Seven years later, in 2010, she joined AnimalSense Canine Training and Behavior, Inc. as the Director of Training, where she is honored to mentor young trainers just as Paul had done for her.

Her favorite place to be is at home with her fabulous – and patient – husband, her two kids, and her steady Clumber Spaniel, Finlay.

 

Nicolette Meyer, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer & Client Services Coordinator

Hailing from upstate New York, Nicolette has been a lifelong lover of dogs but was unable to have her own until she was out of college. After studying Fine Art in New York, she relocated to Chicago in 2005 to continue her studies in Interior Design. After working in the housing market for several years, she decided to switch gears and move into the Pet Care field which then sparked her interest in Canine behavior and communication. She got to meet dogs of all different sizes, breeds and backgrounds and was fascinated by the difference in all their personalities. This, mixed with the funny quirks of her own dog Otis, a French bulldog, was enough to make her want to hit the books again and attend CanineLink Academy (now FetchFind Academy).

After completing FetchFind’s program, Nicolette joined AnimalSense in 2012 and is now a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assesed. She wears several hats for AnimalSense as a Senior Trainer, instructing group classes and Private Lessons, serves as the company’s Client Services Coordinator, and is also the Lead In-Resort Trainer at both Paradise 4 Paws Chicago locations. Nicolette’s favorite part of being a trainer is seeing how dogs change and grow through Positive Reinforcement and believes that training is much like Yoga – a lifelong practice that can change your life for the better. She loves helping people forge a stronger and more harmonious bond with their dog and is delighted that she gets to do this for a living.

Jennifer Kec, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer, Community Manager

Jennifer grew up on the southwest side of Chicago and moved to the north side in her early 20s. She didn’t have the pleasure of growing up around dogs because she was a competitive figure skater, and that took up most of the time that would have been needed to take care of a dog. Jennifer finally realized she had a love of dogs because of a friend’s dog, Gabby. Gabby was the first dog that she really had the opportunity to spend quality time with, and it showed her how awesome the relationship between humans and dogs can be! Shortly after falling in love with Gabby, Jennifer got her first puppy, Sweetness, a cute-as-can-be puggle who instantly stole her heart.

Jennifer spent about ten years in the salon industry as an esthetician, massage therapist, and hair stylist, and worked on the side in bars and restaurants. It was fun and she enjoyed it, but she never really felt like it was what she was meant to do. After having Sweetness for about four years, she decided it was time to get her a partner in crime. That’s when Bellaboots, a lab mix rescue puppy, came into the picture. Sweetness and Bella took to each other right away, but Bella eventually presented with a variety of behavioral issues. It was new to Jennifer, because Sweetness had been such an easygoing pup. She had never encountered a dog with fear-based issues before.

After a period of soul searching, Jennifer decided to take the plunge and change career paths. She found CanineLink, and enrolled in their Behavioral Fundamentals class. Shortly after starting the program she realized that she was headed in the right direction and continued with their Essential and Advance Training Skills courses. It opened her eyes to so much in the dog world, and provided her with the knowledge and understanding to help Bella with some of her behavioral issues. The progress she saw inspired her to help others with their own dogs. She thinks that it is amazing to see the transformation in these dogs, and beautiful to see the bond between dogs and owners grow. Between her dog training education and her volunteer work with the Morris Service Dog Program, she finally feels like she is doing work that she enjoys.

Nate Herman, Senior Trainer

At a young age, Nate grew fascinated by the field of animal behavior. He had three cats growing up, two of which had issues with using the litter box. Later on, Nate learned that this was a common issue with cat owners, and, through this experience, realized that he wanted to pursue an education in animal behavior so he could, in turn, help other pet owners strengthen their bond with their companions. Nate recently graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s in Animal Science, specifically focusing on animal behavior. Throughout his undergraduate career, Nate gained invaluable experience in the field working at animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and zoos, and was even fortunate enough to travel abroad and study animal behavior in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Now, Nate proudly works as a Senior Trainer at AnimalSense and is striving to earn his dog training certifications with CPDT, IAABC and more. In a few years, Nate will continue his animal behavior education in graduate school, and will work toward his goal of becoming a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), helping pet owners learn more about handling and caring for their beloved companions.

Allison Kao, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer

Allison has been working in the animal training field using positive reinforcement since 2008. She has worked with and trained a variety of species at different institutions and organizations including Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Pueblo Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Canine Companions for Independence. Allison has a passion for all animals, but she really became interested in dog behavior and training after adopting her second dog, Delilah. Delilah was a stray in Colorado and had been returned to the Humane Society three times by the time Allison and her husband Ryan found her. Delilah suffers from separation anxiety, she’s highly reactive on walks and she always has tons of energy. Delilah has inspired Allison to learn more about dog behavior and training, and she has challenged Allison to become a better trainer.

Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer

Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA has been working with animals for over ten years but her love for animals and commitment to their welfare has been life-long. Lynda’s family has always included a variety of animals, giving her a unique perspective on multi-species coexistence.

Lynda is Chicago native and graduate of The Evergreen State College and FetchFind Academy. After working in environmental education, she began dedicating her time to dogs and completed a volunteer internship at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Through her work with her own Best Friends dogs, Surf and Ryan, Lynda has learned firsthand the challenges and rewards of loving dogs that aren’t “perfect,” and brings that compassion to her training and education career. Her approach is based on sound science, humane methods, and strengthening relationships. Lynda has experience in animal rescue, shelter work, grooming, daycare, walking, and retail management. She is the Director of Education at FetchFind and the Program Coordinator for FetchFind Academy. She is trained in Pet First Aid and CPR and lives with her partner, Mary. She also loves cats and has her own rescue kitty, Rikku.

 In her free time, Lynda enjoys making art, vegetarian cooking, reading, volunteering, gardening, photography, and microbrews.

 

Chris Long, Senior Trainer

Chris was raised in the Chicago suburb of Lemont where her family has owned a dog boarding kennel for the past 45 years. She grew up surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, farm birds and the occasional baby raccoon or fawn that needed to be raised. She has always been passionate about all animals, but dogs have always occupied a special place in her heart.

At the age of 19, Chris moved to Massachusetts for 4 years, where she learned how to groom dogs and also worked at a farm animal sanctuary, caring for a variety of animals including donkeys, horses, goats, mules, and of course, dogs.  After moving back to Illinois, Chris began a career as an animal handler, providing various animals for print and film projects. This career, combined with her passion for dogs led her to earn her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College in 2006. While continuing to work as an animal handler, Chris also earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Roosevelt University. Chris began working for AnimalSense in September of 2012. With its focus on positive motivation, the close knit cast of trainers, and the emphasis on continued learning, AnimalSense is a perfect fit for her.

Chris and her family live in Chicago with their two dogs, cat, parakeets and iguana. She loves spending her free time with her family and her dogs, whether it’s practicing tricks, going for walks or just hanging out.

Katie Moody, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer

Katie grew up outside Detroit in a house filled with pets including cats, guinea pigs, mice, hamsters and always at least one German Shorthair Pointer. However, her educational and professional path precluded her from dog ownership for several years. Katie has a BA in Economics from John Carroll University and an MBA from University of Chicago. She worked for Andersen Consulting and The Boston Consulting Group, travelling extensively to do technology and strategy consulting projects. She did manage to continue to pursue her interest in animal behavior and education during this time by volunteering as a docent at Lincoln Park Zoo for six years.

After marrying a lifelong Lab-owner and buying a house in Oak Park, she and her husband, Ned, unintentionally compromised by getting a German Shorthair Pointer / Lab mix puppy in 2001. Soon after, she found herself in puppy preschool at AnimalSense. She then made a significant lifestyle change by deciding to quit her consulting career to stay home with her daughters, born in 2002 and 2004. After adopting her current dog, Ruby, in 2008 and returning to AnimalSense for more classes, she decided to look into dog training as a potential second career. She enrolled in AnimalSense Academy (now CanineLink) in 2009 and is thrilled to be part of the AnimalSense staff as a Senior Trainer. Katie recently welcomed another Black Lab, Tucker, into the family.

 

Nancy Paolucci, Senior Trainer

Nancy graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa with a degree in Marketing and found herself in the world of promotional products where she met her husband of six years.  They adopted their first dog in 2007 and Nancy never looked back.  She delved into training and dog behavior research, realizing her dream of working with dogs.  In March of 2013, she completed a six month behavior and training program at CanineLink, and she enjoys agility classes with her lab.  Nancy also volunteers at the Marshall County Humane Society in Indiana and works closely with the director placing dogs in rescue groups.  She is currently the Executive Director of PPAChicago, a non-profit regional trade association for the promotional products industry.   When she is not working, Nancy enjoys reading for her book club, cooking, athletics and spending time in Indiana at her lake house.

Greg Raub, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer

Greg Raub credits his first West Highland White Terrier for turning him into a dog lover. He credits his second with sparking his interest in learning more about dog behavior and training.

Greg first came to AnimalSense as a client to address his then two-year-old dog’s reactivity issues. Fast forward a few years; throw in a desire for a career change; and Greg enrolled in the AnimalSense Academy (now FetchFind).

Greg’s career as a dog trainer follows a long-term career in marketing and communications. He holds a degree in Journalism/Advertising and has worked as a copywriter, creative director and corporate communication manager.

Originally from Lafayette, Indiana, Greg has lived in the Chicago area for more than 25 years. Outside of work, he is an avid Chicago Cubs fan, enjoys theater and traveling and is active in the community. He is a past member and chair of the Oak Park Area Gay & Lesbian Association board of directors. Greg and his husband Steve live in Oak Park, where they share their home with now 14-year old Ernie, the dog who got Greg into this business in the first place.

Ellie Hakimi, Senior Trainer, Team Lead: In-Resort Trainer

Elizabeth (Ellie) has lived in the Chicagoland area her whole life and always loved nothing more than animals. In college at DePaul University she studied psychology and communications in hopes of finding a way to combine both passions for social service and animal welfare. Before graduating, she started to intern at PAWS Chicago animal shelter as an adoption counselor and loved every second. Shortly after, she began working at Pooch Hotel in Lincoln Park and went through Petco’s trainer program, also attending Animal Behavior College for dog obedience.

Once the Pooch Hotel and Paradise 4 Paws families came together she was fortunate enough to join the team as the Lead In Resort Trainer for both Chicago Paradise 4 Paws locations. You might also catch her teaching and assisting group classes around the area. She especially enjoys working with puppies to develop their manners and relationships with their families.

Ellie has a little husky/pitbull mix named Cinder that she rescued in 2015. She also has a Maine coon kitty rescue named Benny. She intends to pursue a master’s degree related to dog behavior and dedicate her career to working with therapy and service dogs.

Paulette Solinski, CPDT-KA, Senior Trainer

Paulette was born and raised in Chicago. She is a lifelong animal lover who had to be satisfied with a canary until she successfully lobbied her parents for a puppy at the age of ten. Laddie, a black cocker spaniel, was her first dog, but has since been followed by many other wonderful canines.

For the last few decades Paulette has worked as a corporate attorney. In 2010, Paulette was encouraged to attend AnimalSense Academy (now CanineLink) by her daughter Sarah. They attended the six month program together and were both fortunate to join AnimalSense as part of its training staff. While she still continues to practice law for CanineLink and a new company called FetchFind, she is also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, a Licensed Instructor and Team evaluator for Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, and an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. She lives with her husband, Dick, and her two therapy dogs, Sitka and Sophie.

Elizabeth Bylenga, Senior Trainer

Born in Chicago and raised in southwest Michigan, Elizabeth was called “Dr. Doolittle” by her parents while she was growing up. After working with Jamie in 2005 to help her then-dog with severe anxiety and resource guarding, she began reading about dog behavior for fun. Her intense love of animals and curiosity about how things work drew her to Behavior Fundamentals, and she can’t wait to continue learning and see where this all takes her. She has three adopted dogs, from left to right: Spud (9yrs), Presley (2yrs), and Chiquita (5yrs).

Michelle Hoff, Senior Trainer

Michelle (Shelly) was born and raised in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Her first dogs were Cody, a German Shepherd/ Chow Chow mix and Trapper, a Doberman Pinscher. She knew ever since graduating from high school that she liked teaching, and interned at an elementary school in Rolling Meadows (and loved it). As an adult, she fell in love with a boxer named Leelu, who she ended up training on her own with a great deal of success. The fun she had training Leelu inspired her to consider dog training as a career. After doing research on becoming a dog trainer, she discovered CanineLink, where she learned not only about training techniques, but about dog behavior as well. She’s very excited to join the AnimalSense family and looks forward to becoming a skilled and accomplished trainer.

Sarah Martin, Senior Trainer

Sarah grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Ever since she was very little she was always a huge lover of all animals, and for the longest time she begged her parents to get a dog. It took many years of persuasive essays, power points, and shameless begging to finally convince them to adopt a young mutt from the Anti-Cruelty Society.

After high school she started looking into places where she could study dog training/behavior, that is when she came across CanineLink (now FetchFind Academy). In July of 2014 she graduated from her final course, and began as a Junior Trainer for AnimalSense. She has had an amazing time learning from all the trainers there, and looks forward to one day leading her own classes. She works during the week for Chicago Pet Sitters as a walker, so she is with dogs all the time!

Matt Downs, Senior Trainer

A graduate of Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Marine Biology, Matt Downs was first introduced to the wonderful world of positive reinforcement training while caring for an Alaskan Sea Otter at the Shedd Aquarium in 2005.  Matt has since worked as a Zookeeper at Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo from 2006-2010.

From 2006-2008, Matt began his dog training career mentoring under one of Chicago’s top rated dog trainers.  In June of 2011, Matt graduated from the AnimalSense Academy, where he furthered his education on all things canine.  Outside of working with dogs, Matt works as a middle school science teacher at a local suburban school.  Matt and his wife Laura have two beautiful children and enjoy the antics and companionship of their 17-year-old mixed-breed pooch, Snoopy.

Chelsea Ericson, Junior Trainer

Chelsea has had a passion for animals since visiting SeaWorld at the age of three. To her mother’s delight she occasionally brought home fish, hamsters, rats, frogs, cats, and dogs in need of good homes. After graduating from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, she has since turned that childhood passion into a career.

Chelsea moved to Chicago in 2014 where she was accepted into the Marine Mammal Training Internship at the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Later, she worked as a Seasonal Keeper at the Brookfield Zoo, spending most of her time in the Aquatics and Marine Mammal Departments. Chelsea was looking for a way to expand her training knowledge from marine mammals to other animals, that’s when she found AnimalSense. Now, as a Junior Trainer, she feels lucky to have a job where she can share her enthusiasm for training and help foster positive relationships between pet parents and their dogs.

Lynn Brezina, CPDT-KA, Behavior Consultant

For over 40 years, Lynn has had man’s best friend at her side, first in the show arena and now as a trainer. Although Lynn began her college career as a psychology student, she ended up earning a Bachelor of Science in Commerce from DePaul University. She also attended Northeastern Illinois University for an Early Child Education teaching certificate. Even though Lynn completed the necessary work for certification, when she got an offer to train dogs she took it.  It was then that Lynn discovered she loved working with people and their dogs much better than she liked competing with her own dogs.

In 2003 Lynn created her private practice CompanionAbility, LLC.  Lynn is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.   She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, as well as an American Kennel Club, Canine Good Citizenship evaluator. She is also an academic instructor for CanineLink, formerly known as AnimalSense Academy.

Lynn is delighted and very proud to be a behavior consultant for AnimalSense.

Betsy Lane, TTouch® Instructor

Betsy Lane is Chicagoland’s only Certified Tellington TTouch® Practitioner for Companion Animals.

In group workshops and individualized in-home sessions, Betsy uses novel, positive training experiences to address underlying issues and root causes affecting dogs’ behavior and performance. These issues range from being generally fearful to becoming overly excited by stimuli to having age-related concerns of any kind. As a no-force/no-fear training method, TTouch is especially effective at helping shy, cautious, or fearful dogs gain confidence, resilience, and trust in their environments, but the TTouch method brings out the best in all dogs, making them safer, happier, easier to train, and more pleasant to live with.

Betsy has been a student of animal behavior and training since childhood, when she spent an inordinate amount of time pondering what her many pets might be thinking and feeling. To this day, she is an avid reader of nonfiction about any species, but particularly about dogs. From 2004 to 2014, Betsy volunteered with and certified new dog-handler teams for SitStayRead, Chicago’s premier canine-assisted literacy program for students in some of the city’s lowest-performing public schools. She is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), and three of her articles have been published in the APDT Chronicle of the Dog. Betsy is an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and is also trained in pet first aid and canine CPR. In her free time, she enjoys snowshoeing, tracking, or simply puttering in the yard with her German Shepherd, Ms. Biscuit (CGC, TD, TDX).

You can find out more about Betsy’s business at www.petkido.com.

Jamie Damato Migdal, CPDT-KA, Consultant

Jamie Damato Migdal has been working with dogs and their people for more than 20 years. From pet sitting to shelters, veterinary assistant to a TV dog behavior expert, Jamie’s experience and passion with dogs has made her a leading expert in small business, canine behavior and coaching people to follow their passions. Her dog training techniques are based on real science, but can be easily understood by the layperson.

Jamie’s areas of dog behavior expertise include working with human-canine bond theories, canine aggression and behavior disorders. In 1996, Jamie founded Out-U-Go Pet Care Services, which is now serving pet communities all over the country. Five years later, she founded AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior, the fastest growing dog training company in the Chicago area. With all of her experience, Jamie decided to develop CanineLink Education and Consulting. Using her insights, talents and knowledge of small business, Jamie and her team help dog lovers become dog trainers and educate current animal professionals in canine behavior and entrepreneurship. Her fourth company, FetchFind, is a professional certification and career networking site for the pet industry.

Jamie lives in Chicago with her husband, daughter, cat Rami, and collies Whisper and Mimsy.


They truly care about you and your dog rather than some of the factory-like dog operations throughout the city.

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