At the risk of sounding like a cliché, Liz always knew she wanted to work with animals. Her favorite movies growing up were The Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, and Fox & the Hound. She didn't play with dolls, she played with plastic animals. She read books about animals. Her Halloween costumes were animals. She surrounded herself with stuffed animals, each with their own name and backstory.
Are you noticing a pattern here? Hint: Liz really liked animals.
But when asked what she wanted to do when she grew up? Well, that part was a little less clear. She knew she wanted to work with animals. Liz just wasn't exactly sure what kind, or how, or in what capacity...
So she just started trying stuff out. If it involved an animal, she would give it a shot.
*For this next section, it is best to visualize it as one of those movie time-development montages. You know, the kind where the character grows and learns over a period of time to some sweet 90's music. Yeah, visualize that.*
Over the years she pursued a variety of different paths. In high school, she raised livestock in the FFA and took agriculture & veterinary technician classes. She volunteered at animal shelters during college. One summer, she participated in an internship in the Animal Behavior Research Department at the Dallas Zoo. At school, she studied classes in mammalogy, ethology, and the psychology of learning.
She became a student worker in the physiology department at Texas A&M Veterinary School of Medicine. Another summer, she interned in the Asian Elephant department at the Houston Zoo. She joined service dog training clubs and animal behavior clubs and volunteered on animal welfare studies. Outside of school, Liz expanded her knowledge by reading books, watching videos, and attending conferences on training and welfare.
She acquired more jobs as a pet sitter, dog walker and kennel technician. Spent yet another summer interning at the Houston Zoo, this time in the Natural Encounters Department. Studied even more classes in animal behavior, animal training, non profit management.
During one of the coldest winters of her life she became a seasonal zookeeper. Then she became a Zoo Educator and taught kids about animal adaptations . She learned how to present ambassador animals and inspire people to make lifestyle changes for conservation. She began training dogs. Then started training humans to train their dogs. Then trained other trainers on how to train humans to train their dogs.
* aannnnddd end scene. Wasn't it more fun as a montage? Didn't time just fly by? Anyway, you can read the next part as you would normally, background music is optional *
And when it was all said and done, what did she have to show for it?
Well for starters, two associate degrees from Blinn Junior College, one in Agriculture and one Liberal Arts.
Then, a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences – Animal Ecology with an emphasis in Animal Behavior and a Minor in Psychology from Texas A&M University.
And after that, a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Zoo and Aquarium Studies from Western Illinois University.
But more importantly, what did she learn from all of those classes, conferences, volunteer positions, internships, seasonal positions, and jobs? Did she even figure out what she wanted to do for a career? Was it all worth it?
Yes. Yes it was.
Throughout all of that, Liz figured out several key things about herself, her work ethic, what kind of work environment she wanted to have, and how she wanted to spend her time. There was a lot of soul-searching and self-discovery. It was hard, and exhausting, and beautiful.
However, if you are a random internet stranger that is looking for a dog trainer these are the ones that will be the most important to you:
Liz liked animal training. She liked it a lot. She discovered that it was like there was this 3rd language that any species could learn. It allowed for a relationship between human and animal based on communication, mutual understanding, and trust. She loved watching animals learn and grow.
She really enjoyed animal training that was geared towards cooperative care and husbandry behaviors. Remember those positions at those Zoos? Well, she witnessed some pretty neat training sets with some pretty cool animals. She observed a gorilla hold still during a heart ultrasound. She watched elephants voluntarily present their ears for weekly blood draws. She saw big cats hold open their mouths for daily teeth inspections. She saw animals who had better welfare because they could participate in their own care.
Much to her surprise, Liz also enjoyed teaching humans. Specifically, she enjoyed teaching humans how to teach their dogs. She delighted in helping pet parents develop clean mechanics. She loved teaching humans how to read their dogs' body language so that they could better understand each other. She celebrated too when it all seemed to "click" and both handler and canine got it right.
So if you've made it this far and you're wondering what the hell this all means for you, here it is:
Liz is a positive-reinforcement based trainer that loves teaching animals to participate in their own care. More so, she really loves helping pet parents develop training skills to help train their own dogs. She'll cheer along with you when they get it right, and help you problem solve when you need a little more guidance. Lastly, she is not going to stop learning. Even through all of those experiences Liz is not afraid to say that she doesn't know it all. She doesn't expect to know it all either, but she's going to keep reading, and studying, and expanding her knowledge so she can better help her clients. Liz is fortunate to have had a lot of different experiences centered around her life long love of animals. She is even more fortunate to have a job that she truly loves to do.