Member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers
American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen evaluator
Graduate of Canine Behavior Academy, Level 1, taught by Trish King, nationally known dog behavior expert
Graduate of Academy of Dog Behavior, Level 2, taught by Trish King
Certificate in Practical Dog Evaluation, Marin Humane Society
Assistant Trainer, A Better Way Dog Training school, owned by Bob Gutierrez
Volunteer Assistant Trainer, Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in San Mateo
Assistant Agility Trainer, ACE Dog Sports, working with Blancett Reynolds
When I was six, my sister and I made dog runs out of snow in my grandmother's yard in Finland, and pretended we had a dog kennel. My parents always
had sight hounds when I was growing up, and even though I enjoyed going to lure coursing events and hiking and skiing trips with them, sometimes the dogs would take off and chase moose or deer.
I decided at a young age that when I grew up, I would have dogs that would not run off and would want to stay with me.
Years later when I moved to California I got my own first dog, a Golden Retriever named Gala. I wanted to do competition obedience with her, so we enrolled at Arydith Obedience School in 1994. After watching me at the beginners’ class, the owner and head trainer asked me to become her assistant trainer. Gala and I went on to earn high points at AKC Obedience trials all over the Bay Area. She was a great dog, but would have worked for anyone who had treats. I wanted a smart dog that would really bond with me.
I met that dog through my volunteer work at the San Francisco SPCA’s Behavior and Training Department. I would spend my Saturdays there walking and working with shelter dogs who needed training and/or had behavior issues, assisting with and then leading puppy classes and helping with beginner and intermediate classes. One of the SPCA trainers, Ivan Balabanov, had an amazing Belgian Malinois. This breed had the energy and willingness to work and the devotion to their owner that I was looking for. After seeing me work with my dogs, Ivan agreed to sell me a puppy from his next litter.
The puppy, Cory, grew up to be my first “heart dog.” (This is a phrase that dog trainers and dog sports competitors use to describe those dogs that we form a close bond with: the ones that read us so well they seem to understand us better than do people.) A heart dog wants nothing more than to play or work together with his human teammate. Cory and I had a great connection and competed at many state and national Schutzhund trials together. To this day I am grateful for our wonderful time as a team.
I later added a second Malinois, Zora, to our family, and trained her in agility with Sandy Rogers of ACE Dog Sports. And I adopted a second rescue dog, a Border Collie named Tesla, and trained her in agility. Tesla taught me a lot about fearful and under-socialized dogs.
My most successful agility dog to date is Tuli, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who earned his AKC Master Agility Excellent and AKC Master Excellent Jumper titles. Tuli is the most wonderful family dog and the best assistant a dog trainer could ever ask for. He currently helps me teach dog-reactive dogs to be more comfortable around other dogs.
Our young dog Stream will hopefully grow up to be a trainer’s assistant and already helps by playing with boarding dogs. Stream has given me a reason to do one of my favorite things in the world: go to another trainer’s class and train my own dog!
I recently rescued another puppy, a Malinois mix I named Saga. She appreciates all the companionship and attention and love in her new home, and has become Stream's best friend. Saga is exuberant and loves playing with other dogs and therefore has the job of helping provide exercise and canine companionship to visiting dogs.
Over the two decades that I have enjoyed dog training, I have had the pleasure of attending many seminars, workshops and conferences on dog training and behavior. With a background in scientific research, I enjoy reading scientific literature while continuing my education as a dog trainer. The combination of knowledge and understanding of the principles of canine behavior and learning, together with my experience observing, evaluating and working with dogs with different breeds, temperaments and behavior issues enables me to design effective and personalized training plans for each family and their pet.
I am committed to communicating effectively with both people and dogs. I enjoy volunteering in my son’s classroom and have learned quite a bit about patience and clear instructions from teaching kindergartners to write. I was happy when my son’s teacher told me I was a natural at teaching. (I think my parents, who were both teachers, should get some of the credit for that!)
I get excited when a person and dog understand each other better because of my advice. As The Canine Coach, I'll teach you how to show your dog what you want him to do using practical, gentle and motivating methods. You will learn how to effectively establish the boundaries of acceptable pet behavior in your home without fear or intimidation. Consistency and practice will make your dog trust you and look up to you for direction. You will enjoy greater mutual affection as a result of fair, fun but firm training.
I look forward to meeting your dog and focusing my energy, attention to detail, and experience on designing and executing a personalized training plan for you and your pet. My goal is for your dog to become a better member of your family as a result of your great training and teamwork together.
–– Susanna Hemphill