After growing up in NJ with a keen love for animals (thank you, Mare), I attended Bates College in Maine. I took many courses in Biology, Animal Behavior, Psychology, and Education, and spent my junior year at Manchester College of Oxford University in England. I graduated in 1980 with a B.A.
During college I began my experience in working with dogs by taking a job as kennel attendant at Roxdane Kennels. I worked there whenever home from college, caring for an over 100-run boarding kennel. I still attribute much of my basic knowledge of dogs to the wealth of experience I gained there while caring for thousands of dogs. The manager of the kennel did some pet training on the side, and I asked if I could watch and learn. After some time she suggested that I should train a dog myself. The kennel also served as animal control for the area, and she pointed out that at the time there was a young mixed breed dog that had been picked up as a stray that I could work with while he was there. He was promptly named Buddy and I started to train him. It took little time for me to ask my parents if I could bring him home “for a weekend” – as you can probably guess, he came to be ours and lived with us for 16 years. Buddy was the start of what would become a lifelong career.
In 1981 I began working at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison NJ. My initial position at St. Hubert’s was as a kennel attendant and adoption counselor. I quickly saw that many more dogs would stay in their new homes if the owners had access to basic obedience training. The president at the time, Ed Sayres, gave me the go-ahead to begin offering training classes for adopted dogs and their new owners. I began with four dogs in the parking lot one Saturday, and what would become St. Hubert’s Dog Training School, now one of the largest and most renowned dog training schools in the country, was born.
I ran the program by myself for seven years as it steadily grew. I wrote and revised handbooks for the various courses I taught over the years, did private behavior counseling, read countless books and attended every seminar and workshop possible. By 1990 I was beginning to train other instructors to teach more classes, and by 1993 the school was moved to a much larger facility. By then we had five full time instructors and held fifty classes every week.
Personally, my interest and involvement in competitive obedience was growing. I had fallen in love with the Belgian Malinois. I began traveling regularly to Massachussetts to train under Terri Arnold, an internationally renowned obedience competitor and instructor whose methods emphasize attention, enthusiasm, commitment, and precision. With her expertise, I trained and competed with my own dogs to a national level. I also explored and competed in breed, agility, and herding. In 1991 I began teaching Terri’s competitive obedience program at St. Hubert ’s, and have now spent almost 30 years teaching this wonderful sport to both beginners and experienced handlers. I worked with Terri Arnold to write a set of three books detailing this remarkably successful training method – Steppin’ Up to Success with Terri Arnold. The books took 4 years to write. They were first published in 1995, with a second edition to follow several years later. They are still being sold and used nationwide and overseas.
I served as Director of St. Hubert’s Dog Training School for 23 years. In May of 2004 my business partner and I opened The K9 Campus Dog Training School in Randolph NJ, where I continued to teach competitive obedience for four more years until we decided to sell the school. In January of 2008 I opened Riverstone Dog Training, offering competitive obedience classes and private lessons at The K9 Jym in Colmar PA.
As a professional dog trainer, my own dogs speak loudly for me. Buddy was followed by eight Belgian Malinois and one Belgian Tervuren – Shanna, Kayla, Capri, Trip, River, Dune, Echo, Torrent, and Kya. All attained advanced obedience titles in AKC competition and competed on a national level. I have also trained and competed in breed, agility, and herding. Perhaps my greatest love is taking my dogs hiking and swimming, which we do every chance we get.
Why “Riverstone”? Well, my Malinois River was beyond special. His name, Kanduit’s Fleuve de la Vie, means “River of Life” in French. I also happen to love the beautiful rocks known as riverstones, and collect them in the rivers of Vermont. River’s nicknames quickly became Riverstone, Stone, and Stony. So – “Riverstone Dog Training” was only fitting!