Dogs in the Park
Where Dogs and their People Build Better Relationships!

The Instructors in Training

 
 
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Katrina Merkies Dogs have been an important part of Katrina's childhood ever since her adopted stray mutt Gypsy won first prize for the longest tail at a local fair. Since then she has been lucky to have had a string of amazing dogs, and has competed in flyball and rally-o events. Her current dog, Kurt, brought Katrina to Dogs in the Park for puppy classes where she got hooked on dog training as a complement to her horse training skills. Katrina has made horses her professional career, first as a rider, trainer and coach, and now as a professor at the University of Guelph where she runs a research program on equine behaviour, welfare and management. Katrina is a Level II dressage coach and has trained and competed up to international levels in dressage, earning the title of Canadian Champion in 1999. Katrina enjoys the challenge of transferring training skills from the horse world to the dog world, and vice versa.

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Laura Harper BSc(Agr), MSc grew up in Vancouver, B.C., with animals of all kinds, including dogs, cats, rabbits and horses. She moved to Guelph to pursue an education in Animal Sciences, and went on to complete her Master’s degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. For her degree, Laura studied social interaction and social learning in laboratory mice.

After moving out to Guelph, Laura got a goofy Labrador named Mallow. Two years later, she adopted Gabbie, a seven month old Australian shepherd/Husky cross. When Gabbie started developing reactivity and anxiety issues, Laura went to Dogs in the Park for help. 

At Dogs in the Park, Laura learned strategies to help Gabbie with her anxiety, as well as how to better communicate with her dogs. Gabbie has since graduated into the Levels program, where she happily learns new skills. Mallow has recently joined Gabbie and Laura in Levels, and is also enjoying lots of new things. Laura hopes to use the skills and knowledge she gained in the Good Dog program to help dog owners better understand and communicate with their dogs. 

Laura doesn’t spend all her time with her dogs. She enjoys painting and drawing, particularly portraits of pets and wildlife. She also has an ongoing blog about the behaviour and biology of wild animals. Her non-animal related activities include playing squash, photography, reading (mostly about animals) and writing.

 

Sarah Hohner BA (SDS) joined Dogs in the Park’s team in June 2013 by assisting John, the Puppy Guy, first with Every Puppy’s Education and then also with Every Puppy Deserves Puppy Class.  Puppies are still her focus to this day.

She initially found DITP in January 2012 through an online post for the Dog Play lecture and Instant Recall workshop.  DITP’s ideals and training methods fit perfectly, so when her then 3.5 year old Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Fergus, began having issues, she enrolled in the Good Dog program in April 2013.  It took two months to graduate on to Levels where they still regularly attend classes.  Fergus is strictly a companion pet but with his terrier independence and persistence, they always have something to work on!  Fergus has had on-going health concerns, which has limited what they can do training-wise, but it’s afforded an opportunity to learn about working within limitations.

Sarah has a keen interest in continually learning about dog behaviour, learning theory, and puppy development, and takes advantage of the on-going education provided by DITP and their intern program.  When not dog training, Sarah enjoys gardening, camping, dog walks with Fergus-approved buddies, and renovating her old house.

 

Maureen Barry BSc, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM Hi I'm Maureen and together with my 3 year old Lab Chase, I have been training with Dogs in the Park for the last 2 1/2 years.  We first came to Dogs in the Park after my failed attempt to train my new puppy with methods I had originally learned 20 years ago.  The Levels method based on positive reinforcement and shaping of behaviours was a revelation and I was hooked. Together Chase and I have developed an enthusiasm for the sport of canine obedience with a strong interest in Rally Obedience.  

I am new to the team of interns so I am still learning my way around the other side of the training relationship.  I look forward to being able to expand my knowledge of canine behaviour and how to apply that knowledge to help owners achieve their training goals.  I believe this experience will make me a better trainer working with my own dog as I learn how to tailor training strategies to suit individual dogs in a variety of settings.

Outside of my interest in dog training I am a mom to 3 kids and a clinical instructor at the University of Guelph.  When time allows I also indulge my life long love of horses and dressage.

 

 

Simone Härri PhD I am a Swiss Environmental Scientist who came to Canada 9 years ago to further my academic career. The plan was to stay in Canada for two years and then go back home. But then life happened, I fell in love and knew that I would stay. Why is this important? Because this settling down finally allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream and to get my first own dog. I had lots of experience with dogs before that; we had family dogs since I was a teenager. I brought home a puppy when I was in high school and raised her to be a great dog that I left behind with my mum when I went to university. But now living in Canada it was time for my own dog. 

It happened faster than expected. I was on a dogsledding trip and fell in love with our lead dog Mini. I learned that Mini was already 10 years old and ready for retirement. After barely sleeping for two weeks, we drove all the way back to Algonquin to pick her up. Looking back, I wish I had the knowledge about dog behaviour that I have now. She was an amazing and very special dog. She stole the heart of everyone who met her, but she was really struggling in civilization and I did not realise how much she struggled and did not have the tools and the knowledge at the time to help her. I never really thought about how many, and often difficult, emotions dogs are actually experiencing! I know I tried my best, but I also know that I made life for her unnecessarily stressful.

After we lost Mini to cancer, I went to the humane society a few months later and there was Champ. A one-year old blue heeled x border collie cross who barked at me and I fell in love. Yes, I know, .... But we bonded very quickly and he had no issues with any family members. I used all my knowledge to teach him tricks and loose leash walking and down stays etc. We went to dog training schools and trained with advanced dogs and had a lot of fun. However, I could not understand why he got more and more reactive on leash towards people and dogs, and why he even attacked visitors in our home. I felt really lost because despite feeling I knew a lot about dog training, Champ’s reactivity got worse and worse. 

When I finally got to Dogs in the Park and met Sue for the very first time, I finally found someone who could explain to me in scientific words what is going on and why the approach I chose did not work, and in fact, made it even worse. I simply had no clue about the emotional aspects of dog training! Champ and I then started our journey through the Good dog program. There were many times I drove home in tears, as I just did not get it, but, all of a sudden it clicked and we started to make massive progress. Champ is now as happy as he will ever be, and I realized that my main task is to keep him safe and that he will never be as easy going as some other dogs.

This whole process sparked a massive interest in dog behaviour and I really like helping people to understand their “good dogs”. I know how it feels to have a “good dog” and I know that there are ways to help them and to help their humans. Therefore my main focus at Dogs in the Park always was the Good dog program. But, my love for trick training prevailed through all of this. 

Besides training dogs and studying dog behaviour, I teach environmental science courses at the University of Guelph. I also have a horse and cats and simply love everything outdoors and I am happiest out in nature. And of course being Swiss, I miss the mountains and long mountain hikes!

 

Ashley Miller, Ph.D. Ashley discovered Dogs in The Park at the recommendation of a classmate. Before Ashley and her partner decided to get a Doberman Pinscher together, they set out to learn about "animal training" so they could better prepare for having a dog in their lives. Some of it was useful, others not so much. However, a free dog training conference hosted by the University of Guelph was helpful for not only providing much-needed information but for connecting Ashley with the aforementioned classmate who very strongly recommended Dogs in the Park puppy class for their soon-to-be-purchase working breed pet. 

At eight-weeks-old, they brought Loki to Dogs in The Park and progressed through the puppy program. They learned a lot about their dog, his socialization and exercise needs and how to teach him behaviours. They continued into the Levels Program. They had fun. They excelled. 

Everything changed when puberty struck. Being a high drive working breed meant that Loki held a great many opinions during his teenage-hood. Which he voiced. Often. At great length. 

If Ashley had not worked with instructors who were familiar with working breeds and their ways, she does not know what they would have done. Loki is a lot of dog. But Ashley endured. She now lives with a well-balanced adult dog who has provided her with enough humorous anecdotes to last her a lifetime. Despite the struggles, it was an absolute pleasure to work with such supportive, skilled and dedicated staff. 

Ashley transitioned from student to intern in 2015 and now assists with the Good Dog Behaviour Program and off-leash walks, and teaches Levels Obedience classes. Even before she began interning, Ashley loved learning about the theory of dog training from Dogs in the Park instructors. The opportunity to deepen her understanding of behaviour through continuing education and sharing that knowledge with others, dovetails with her day job in science communication.  

Loki is who he is. Intense, fractious, obnoxious, drivey, determined, focused and with a work ethic so strong it makes Ashley's eyes water a little. She has learned to live with him and loves living with him as a confident and mature adult. But Ashley can honestly say that without Dogs in The Park that might not have been the case. 

 

Ramona Maynard BA - After falling in love with the breed 20 years ago, Ramona's dream came true in June 2017 when she and her family brought home a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy.  This was the family's fourth corgi but first puppy.  Understanding the importance of early socialization, she had already enrolled in the free Every Puppy Deserves an Education program and Bella attended Puppy Play Group the day after coming home.  

After completing Every Puppy's Education, Bella moved up to the Levels program.  After passing Level 2, Ramona and Bella became involved in Rally, Games class and Tunnels and Jumps.  Ramona enjoys both the mental and physical aspects of training for her and her dog and Bella's willingness to engage in these activities.  The family also participates in the weekly off-leash Rocking Horse Walk.
Upon completing Level 3, Ramona was asked if she would be interested in joining the intern program.  She thought that this would be a great way to improve her own dog handling skills and also loved the idea of helping others, so she quickly got involved.  Ramona enjoys the positive reinforcement training approach at Dogs In The Park as well as the overall sense of community.

Ramona grew up in Toronto and stayed there to complete her studies in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Toronto.  She moved to Burlington and enjoyed a 10 year career in law enforcement and forensic identification.  When not at Dogs In The Park, Ramona enjoys reading, baking and needlecrafts.  She makes her home in Guelph with her husband, 4 children, 2 cats and Bella.