Sara is one of only six professionals certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants in the state of Illinois. Her knowledge, extensive experience, and capabilities when resolving serious behavioral concerns have been rigorously evaluated by an organization of fellow experts; to ensure that her assessment and advice meets the current standards of humane, evidence-based and effective methodology.
"When I was 16 years old I adopted my first fearfully reactive dog; a 120 lb. mix who could transform into Cujo at the drop of a hat when a stranger appeared. Behind this frightening display was the most loving and intelligent dog I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and who changed the trajectory of my career toward helping others to better understand, manage and modify their beloved animal's behavior."
She has worked professionally with numerous species ranging from domestic, agricultural and exotic spanning her career since 2007, and has hands on experience with thousands of dogs. Her love of animals blossomed when she became an avid equestrian at 5 years old, and drew her to those that were presenting behaviors that others considered a problem. Combining her love for science and animals, she dove head first into the world of behavioral science. She has adopted and raised dogs with human-directed and dog-directed aggression, separation anxiety, compulsive disorders, horses with fear-based behaviors, and other conditions. Sara knows the toll it can take on the humans to live with and love an animal displaying concerning behaviors, and strives to make the experience a positive one for both ends of the lead. She has dedicated her career to education, developing creative and effective solutions that are backed by sound science and do not rely pain or fear to modify the behaviors of animals.
The methods and strategies Sara uses are evidence-based with an emphasis on positive reinforcement making every effort to reduce stress experienced by the animal during the learning process. She does not suggest the use of aversive training equipment such as prong collars, e-collars, etc. As an IAABC certified professional, she is bound to a strict code of ethics and policies ensuring that humane training methods are used. For more information on the guiding principles of methodology used by Sara, please see the "Position Statement on Humane Dog Training" from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.
What is the difference between a behavior consultant and a trainer?
“Trainers teach key skills to animals, their focus is on giving pets and their guardians the tools they need to live happily, and perform well in sports, in service or assistance roles, or as family companions. This goes a long way to immunize against behavior problems further down the line, but when problems do develop, responsible animal guardians need extra help.
Animal Behavior Consultants are called in—either by contacting them directly or by referral from their veterinarian —when an animal’s guardian has noticed a problem with how they’re behaving. The job of an animal behavior consultant, in a nutshell, is to help identify what is causing the problem, to develop an intervention plan to change the problem behavior, and to help the owners learn how to execute that plan.
To be successful, an animal behavior consultant needs a thorough education in the science of animal behavior. They need to know about how animals learn and what kinds of tools will be effective in changing their behavior. They need to be able to gather data and use it to measure whether their plans are effective, and to know when to refer to veterinarians or veterinary behaviorists for extra help. This education doesn’t have to be a college degree, but it does have to be comprehensive enough to allow the consultant to deal with complex, multifactorial cases that may not respond to the most obvious strategies.”
- Miller, J. (2016, August 26). “Animal Behavior Consulting 101 Part 1: What is an Animal Behavior Consultant?”
What does it take to achieve the CDBC accreditation?
Professional references from a veterinarian, colleague and client.
Minimum 4 years of behavior consulting experience.
Minimum 400 hours of educational coursework such as classes, lectures & workshops.
Essay-based examination on topics such as; ethology, learning theory, species specific knowledge, species development, psychopharmacology, and hypothetical scenarios regarding behavioral cases and their management and modification.
3 case studies, reviewed by a board of experts (topics such as dog-dog aggression, are assigned by IAABC, applicants are not able to topics of their choosing to verify a well-rounded professional with experience across behavior as a whole). Case studies must all be brought to successful resolution.
Continuing education is required to maintain this accreditation.
Sara is bound to a professional code of ethics which can be found here.