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Shelters/Rescues/ Breeders

Animal Lovers

CCPDT Board Members

Brad Phifer, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA
Brad Phifer is the Director of Pet Behavior Services for the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic & Wellness Center and the Headmaster for Bark Tutor School for Dogs in Indianapolis, IN. Prior to joining the veterinary hospital, Brad was the Director of Animal Behavior Programs for the Humane Society of Indianapolis, an open admissions shelter receiving approximately 10,000 animals per year.

Brad joined the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic in an effort to build the interdisciplinary relationship between dog trainers and veterinarians. Shortly after his arrival in July 2007, plans were underway to open Bark Tutor School for Dogs, a unique training school focused on promoting the clinic's idea of professional training and socialization for their clients' dogs.

Brad has a passion for learning and regularly attends and hosts continuing education seminars for pet care professionals. In 2003, he successfully completed the Purdue University DOGS! Course. A professional dog trainer for more than seven years, Brad is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed, Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the Basenji Club of America. He is active in AKC Conformation shows and professionally handles many breeds including Basenjis, Poodles and Afghan Hounds. He shares his home with 5 dogs and a pot bellied pig.

Shawn Smith, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA
Vice president
Shawn Smith, owner of Custom Pet Services, LLC, in Whitewater, WI, specializes in assisting people and their companion animals with behavioral problems in a practical and effective manner. Shawn feels she is extremely fortunate to be able to combine the two things she is most passionate about – animals and behavior science – into one career.

Shawn became interested in canine behavior after adopting a dog from a shelter and receiving dangerous behavior modification instruction from the shelter staff – unfortunately, she became one of many adopters forced to shamefully return a cherished family member back to a shelter due to safety concerns for her young children. She knew there had to be a better way – but over a decade would pass before canine behavior knowledge began to progress beyond punishment and provide the effective methods she searched for back then. Shawn has since dedicated her life to continuing education and helping dogs, as well as cats and parrots.

Shawn served as a rescue volunteer for over ten years. During that time, she received a crash course in living with and successfully modifying the behavior of dogs with different personalities and training issues. Shawn also previously served as the Rescue Chair for the Basenji Club of America and the Basenji Club of Southeastern Wisconsin.

Shawn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from UW-Whitewater, where she focused her studies on behavioral research. Shawn has the distinction of designing, conducting and publishing one of the few peer-reviewed, experimental research studies done in the field of dog training.

Shawn currently shares her life with Julius and Nia (Basenjis), Taeya (Australian Shepherd), and Brutus (bossy cat).

Lisa McCluskey, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA

Lisa has been working intensively with companion animals professionally for over 16 years. Originally from Chicagoland, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with a strong focus on Companion Animals and Canine Behavior from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1997. She has raised a broad variety of pets, been involved in horses for over 20 years, and even many more types of animals since birth.
Growing up and as an adult, her own companions consisted of horses, dogs, cats, chinchillas, parakeets, rabbits, turtles, and fish. Lisa also possesses significant personal experience with her Wisconsin relatives’ dairy cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, and geese.
She can honestly say that she has been working with a variety of species personally and professionally every day since a very young age and this is what drives her advocacy as a human educator in training and behavior practices.

Lisa was the first Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) in the state of Illinois, has become one of the first in the USA to earn the Certified Behavior Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) credentials, is one of only a few (in the
U.S.) Accredited Dog Training/Pet Behaviour Specialists of the Pet Behaviour Institute of the United Kingdom and she strives to enrich her education in canine behavior through hosting and attending continuing education seminars every year.

Lisa assisted world renowned canine behaviourist John Rogerson on the first 21 day international dog training/behavior course at Canines Can Care Dog Training Centre, Kusur, Pune District, India; is a Professional Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator, an exam committee member for the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), chair of the Public Education Committee (PEC) of the Akita Club of America (ACA), a co-founder of Midwest Akita Rescue Society (MARS), and was a Certified Delta Society Pet Partner with her rescue Akita "Tess"
(an animal-assisted activity and animal-assisted therapy dog), & qualified for the silver level at the first ever USA Rally Working Trials (RWT) competition with her SiberCaan Dog "June".

While living in Massachusetts, Lisa created, taught, and implemented a behavior training class curriculum for the canine residents at Worcester Animal Rescue League (WARL) and all animals adopted from WARL. These bi-weekly classes are still offered by the animal rescue league to the community at no charge. Lisa continues to teach others about humane training and behavior practices in the complete care and needs of pet dogs of Worcester County by returning every 4-6 weeks to conduct AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluations and weekend long seminars for volunteers, staff, and local dog trainers. Breed Specific Legislation
(BSL) had created unique canine challenges for WARL that Lisa hopes to remedy with quality, thorough obedience training, and behavior education.

Lisa also presented her research, "Utilizing the Companion Sniffer Dog Training Method to Develop Aptitude in Locating Target Scents" (poster
session) at the 2010 APDT Annual Educational Conference in Atlanta, GA.
Additionally, she shared her award winning work, "An Evidence-Based Canine Companion Training Curriculum Assessment Methodology" in the "Meet the Experts" scientific track at the 2011 APDT Conference in San Diego, CA. In October 2012, Lisa will explain promising WARL based data in her oral and poster presentation, "Using a Canine Companion Training Curriculum to Reduce Return Rates in a No-Kill Animal Shelter Environment," again at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Educational Conference. Regularly seeing in-home and off-site behavior clients near Washington, DC and Annapolis, MD throughout the week, while managing her own business, Moongazer Canine Companion Training, Lisa is currently enjoying her recent relocation to the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States.

Starr Ladehoff, CPDT-KA
Starr Ladehoff, CPDT-KA is owner of Arizona Pet Professionals, LLC – dog training and behavioral consulting in Sedona, the Verde Valley, Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona. She grew up with a Saint Bernard named Aladdin who started her on her journey to work with animals as she found she preferred to be with dogs and other animals more than anything else. After getting a Golden Retriever named Comanche as a teen, she decided to take an obedience course and was hooked on training. She competed in obedience competition. Her Rottweiler, Roman, became a great therapy dog for nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. She has 25 years of experience evaluating and training dogs, specializing in puppy training, good manners training and behavior modification for mild to severe behavioral issues. She teaches group classes and private lessons and gives seminars to animal professionals and the general public including low stress and safe handling, body language, problem behavior and aggression throughout Arizona. She evaluates and consults for shelters, rescue groups and wildlife sanctuaries, particularly for enrichment and training. She has earned a BS in Zoology with her emphasis in animal behavior and a BS in Psychology. Starr is an Evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program and contributes articles to dog related publications and blogs. For several years, she was a guest lecturer on canine training at Northern Arizona University for a biology course in animal behavior. Starr was voted “Best Pet Trainer” in Sedona, Arizona for 2010 by Reader’s Choice and receives referrals for training and behavior from many veterinarians, rescue groups, shelters and clients throughout central Arizona.

Prior to learning how to train dogs in the early eighties, Starr was a vaulter (gymnastics on the back of a moving horse) and performed in the 1984 Olympics as part of a demonstration team for entertainment. She worked as a marine mammal trainer with sea lions, walruses and river otters in addition to birds of prey and parrots – performing in shows and educating the public in the early nineties at an amusement park. She volunteered for the Icarus Facility, a bird of prey rehabilitation center for fourteen years. She triaged injured birds of prey and helped to rehabilitate them in the hopes of releasing them back into the wild. She gave education presentations with the non-releasable birds of prey including a Turkey Vulture, Screech Owl, Red Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl and Golden Eagle. Her passion for horses, dogs, birds and basically anything animal has lasted a lifetime.

Starr is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She and her Welsh Corgi, Lady, are registered Delta Society Pet Partners for animal assisted therapy. She currently volunteers her time assisting with the special needs program for the Prescott School District doing animal assisted therapy with students at several schools. She is currently preparing her miniature horses and alpacas to assist her with animal assisted therapy activities. She resides in Prescott Valley with her family and is currently owned by thirteen animals including three dogs, two cats, one retired show parrot, one cockatiel, three horses and three alpacas. Starr is so thankful she gets to work at what she loves – helping animals and people and creating trusting relationships that last.

James Akenhead, CPDT-KA.

Was youngest school superintendent in state of Ohio

Served over two decades as local, city, & county school superintendent

Authored 6 Books; five on Organizations, one on dog training

Listed in a dozen Who’s Who anthologies on leadership

Distinguished Graduate of Bowling Green State University, Ohio

Earned five University Degrees; including counseling & research

Holds four independent certifications as professional dog trainer

Recognized: Local Business Professional of the year award

Director, Trainer, Consultant, Ohio Training & Assistance for Schools & Communities

Two terms BOD: International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

Founding member of two local therapy dog organizations

Listed in National Journal of Educational Innovators

Presenter at national curriculum and Instruction conferences

Former member IAACP testing committee

Adjunct professor at five universities

Presenter at Kutztown University Dog Training program

Founder Youngstown State University Canine Behavior program

Frequent speaker on ameliorating Aggression

Owner of Signature K-9 Behavior & Training LLC since 1995

Member K-9 Doctorial Dissertation Committee, Virginia

Julie Buesser, CPDT-KA

Julie has always enjoyed having dogs as a part of her life and admired the relationship people with disabilities have had with their Assistance Dogs. When she was 16 years old she
began volunteering as a puppy raiser for an Assistance Dog organization and attributes so much of who she is today to what she has learned through her experiences and relationships with dogs, dog trainers, and people with disabilities. Volunteering in animal therapy with one of her released puppies helped guide her to a career in nursing where she has excelled and is now the Nurse Manager and Director of Associated Urological Specialists Procedure Center and Office Manager of Urology Consultants. She uses the extensive nursing experience she has gained as a critical care float and emergency department nurse as well as the empathy she attributes to her experiences working with Assistance and Therapy dogs to optimize patient care experiences in the office and surgical setting. She has gone on to continue her education and is now working towards completing a masters degree in nursing where she will serve as an Advanced Practice Nurse to her patients as well.

Her role as a volunteer in the Assistance Dog industry has blossomed from a puppy raiser to serving as NYC Chapter President for Canine Companions for Independence and led her to her current role as the Chicago Area Field Representative for Paws With A Cause. As Field Representative she works directly with the clients applying for an Assistance Dog, coaches each client through the challenges of placement and certification of their Assistance Dog, provides ongoing training support which often requires creative solutions to incredible practical challenges, and reports back and discusses training strategies with staff trainers at Paws headquarters. She also oversees the Foster Puppies being raised in her area providing classes and training support to volunteers preparing their puppies for Assistance Dog work.

Julie’s training approach and philosophies of handling dogs has also benefited from the five years she spent at the ASPCA working as a volunteer dog captain and fostering numerous dogs; the three years she spent working with members of PA and MD FEMA training Search and Rescue Dogs; the countless training seminars and expos she enjoys attending; and most importantly the dogs and clients she has worked with who have given her the chance to learn from their relationships and challenges allowing her to have a positive impact in their lives as a professional dog trainer.

Most recently, Julie has worked as a curriculum writer drawing upon her personal experience as a trainer as well as the myriad of different continuing education courses and readings she has accomplished. Most influential being the continuing education courses she has taken at the Shed Aquarium with Ken Ramirez understanding the challenges of working with marine animals and the power of primary as well as secondary reinforcers.

As a manager, a nurse and a professional dog trainer Julie consistently finds herself in the role of a teacher; always trying to find the area of most needed change and teaching positive practical methods to solve these challenges.

Nicole Larocco, CPDT-KA

Nicole's professional animal training career began in college, teaching equestrian and horseback riding lessons. After graduating with a double major in marketing and advertising, she worked at a boarding kennel as head trainer and obedience instructor.

Nicole decided to move into the world of animal sheltering by taking a job at Animal Friends, a no-kill animal rescue and resource center in Pittsburgh in 2005.  In 2008, the Pennsylvania SPCA recruited Nicole for the position of Director of Animal Behavior and Training.  Nicole's specialty in the role was creating an evaluation and enrichment program for all of the shelter animals, and working with vulnerable populations of animals including dogs brought in from cruelty and neglect and animal fighting cases. Nicole's efforts have been documented on television shows including Animal Cops: Philadelphia; Animal Planet's: Dogfighting Exposed; and on local television and radio programming. Nicole has co-instructed classes for and spoken at numerous universities. Nicole regularly audits behavior programs for other animal shelters and rescues.

In 2011, Nicole left the Pennsylvania SPCA to both found her own dog training company, Philly Unleashed (, and to work as the Director of Training and Animal Programming for New Leash on Life-USA (; a new generation prison program that rescues dogs from high-volume shelters and places them with prison inmates for training.

Nicole resides in the Philadelphia area with her fiance and two rescued dogs; an Australian Cattle Dog mix named Uluru and a border collie mix named Porterhouse; both of whom actively compete in the sports of obedience and agility.

Ruth LaRocque, CPDT-KA

Ruth LaRocque co-owns Seattle Pet Pals LLC and provides training in the Puget Sound area of the Pacific Northwest. She conducts private, in-home behavior consulting and training services for dogs, cats and other family pets and specializes in addressing fear and aggression. Through the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a scientifically sound teaching technology and ethical standard of care, Ruth helps pet owners learn the tools they need to create behavior-change programs that resolve problem behaviors and empower and enrich the lives of the animals in their care.

Ruth is also a presenter for the internationally recognized Dogs and Storks program for new and expecting families with dogs, as well as the Dog and Baby Connection program which works to increase the safety of children and the success of dogs in homes with children. In addition to building relationships between pet dogs and their human families, she enjoys training and competing in agility with two of her own dogs.

Ruth completed a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an emphasis in pre-vet studies. Before she had a chance to attend vet school, she got a job in the State Capitol and spent the next several years working in government and politics at the local, state and federal level. She was finally able to combine her skills in working with people and her passion for training animals when Seattle Pet Pals was created in 2003.

In addition to being a CPDT-KA and a CBCC-KA, Ruth is a graduate of Jean Donaldson’s highly regarded Dog Trainer Academy and a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She and her partner Tim currently share their home with a husky mix named Sugar, a Maltese named Daisy, and a Border Collie named Seven.

Lou Mande, CPDT-KA


Lou Mande is the owner of Ain’t Misbehavin’ Gentle Dog Training, LLC, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. AMGDT provides private training in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Lou is a CPDT-KA, a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy and an evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program. In this capacity, he has been participating in the New Leash On Life program in the Philadelphia Prison system. New Leash On Life pairs inmates with rescue dogs as a step in reintegrating the inmates back into the community. The dogs are trained to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test and are then adopted by families in the Philadelphia area. In addition, Lou and his two therapy dogs Barkley and Bridget participate in a variety of volunteer activities including Bark Pals and Nor’wester Readers.

Lou has a BA and JD from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Before embarking on his current career, Lou worked for many years as a state prosecutor in New Mexico and Minnesota, primarily in the areas of violent crimes, juvenile justice and gangs. Lou also taught trial practice as an adjunct professor at the William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota and at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Since retiring from active law practice, Lou has been able to combine his love of teaching with his life-long interest in animal behavior and love of dogs.

One of the most rewarding parts of his new career is to assist people in adopting rescue dogs and successfully bringing them into their families. He has also enjoyed working with volunteer adolescents teaching them to work with therapy dogs in medical and rehab settings. Lou lives with his wife Debbie, Barkley, a great Great Pyrenees, Bridget, a totally excellent Beaglish dog and a well-trained guinea pig named Cutty.

Jamie Bozzi-Surmont, CBCC-KA,CPDT-KSA,CPDT-KA

Jamie Bozzi-Surmont of Smrtdog, has been a certified professional dog trainer and certified canine behavior consultant for almost 15 years.  She holds all three of the CCPDT credentials – CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA and CPDT-KA.

Jamie was elected to the CCPDT Board of Directions in April this year and attended her first Board of Directors meeting in May.  She is very excited to be more actively involved in this dynamic group of professionals and participate in decisions that will help move the organization forward.  Jamie currently serves on multiple subcommittees for the CCPDT.  She believes in creating and maintaining industry standards, educating the public on teaching and training using current scientific training techniques, and furthering the dog training and behavior consulting profession.

Jamie has always been an animal lover and owned many different types of domestic pets over the years.  She began riding horses at the age of 5 and had a long lasting love affair – about 30 years in the equine world.  She was involved in a variety of  equestrian disciplines – barrel racing, racking horses, polo ponies, endurance riding, eventing, stadium jumping and dressage.

In 2000, Jamie made a decision to pursue a dog training career professionally instead of continue her work with equines.  While taking training classes to prepare her dogs to become therapy dogs, Jamie realized her true passion – helping foster a better relationship with people and dogs through positive reinforcement training.  She continued to volunteer at a psychiatric hospital doing therapy dog work, gaining valuable experience interacting with a diverse group of people – staff and patients.

After 15 years of being the sole trainer and teaching at multiple locations, Jamie now teaches group classes on a limited basis and instead focuses on training trainers.  Along with mentoring dog trainers, she manages several smrtdog studios (5) throughout San Diego county.  Jamie continues to do private consultations and provides video consulting, as well as, teach specialty dog sport classes.  She avidly pursues continuing education and professional development by attending and presenting at seminars and conferences each year.  Jamie has written over a dozen articles for SD Pets Magazine, San Diego Pets, the San Diego Gazette and most recently the APDT’s The Chronicle of the Dog.

Smrtdog is continually adding new innovative classes and most recently, provides  specialized training, consulting and technology solutions for canines and canine related businesses.  Smrtdog is committed to finding new market opportunites, setting high industry standards and helping maintain current success for pet professionals.

Jamie and her husband, Smrtdog General Manager, John Surmont, collaborate together on a variety of projects.  Of late, both John and Jamie have become involved in the canine scent detection community.  John is a former Navy SEAL (15 years), and is a trusted advisor for Naval Special Warfare and USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command).

Jamie and John have formed a lasting partnership both personally and professionally to help improve the lives of humans and canines through technology and education.  Smrtdog is committed to helping dogs and their owners (pet owners) and handlers (professional handlers) improve their relationship, performance and attain their training goals.


Amanda Kowalski, CPDT-KA

Amanda was elected to the Board of Directors in April of 2015 and is very excited to be working with a diverse group of Directors to help continue to move the organization and profession in a positive direction. She is currently completing her Masters of Science in Animals and Public Policy at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.  While a student in this program, Amanda has had the opportunity to explore the ethical, legal, social, scientific, and policy dimensions of human-animal relationships.  In addition to finishing her degree, she also works for the Cummings School as a Research Coordinator.  She is engaged in two projects that have the potential to vastly improve feline welfare and potential save animal lives.

Outside of her work with the Cummings School, Amanda volunteers with the Worcester Animal Rescue League’s B-Mod Squad and the MSPCA’s Animal Action Team.  She is also the owner of the newly established dog training business, The Scholarly Canine.

Prior to moving to Massachusetts in the fall of 2013, Amanda has a long history in animal sheltering and behavior and training.  She first began volunteering as a Junior Volunteer in 2000 in Chicago, IL with The Anti-Cruelty Society (ACS).  Since then she has worked for both ACS and the Champaign County Humane Society in a variety of capacities. While an animal science undergraduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Amanda studied abroad with Roger Abrantes learning about canine behavior and advanced animal training.  Her professional behavior and training career took off in 2008 when she began working as an Animal Behavior Specialist and School of Dog Training Instructor at The Anti-Cruelty Society.  While in this role, she developed and implemented a volunteer enrichment and training program for dogs, titled Finishing School.  In 2010, in addition to receiving her CPDT-KA certification, Amanda was awarded the APDT Premier Shelter Award for her work at ACS.

Amanda moved to California in the summer of 2011 to work for the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA (SDHS) as the Manager of Behavior and Training.  Amanda worked with a team of trainers and a board certified veterinary behaviorist to develop and implement community based programming, a shelter animal training program, a volunteer behavior program, and behavior center.  Her time with SDHS also allowed her to gain many professional skills in project development, implementation, and management, leadership, fiscal responsibility, community engagement, and animal advocacy.  On a couple of occasions Amanda has addressed the San Diego County Board of Supervisors regarding animal welfare issues.


Amanda strives to positively impact the animal welfare and dog training field through community engagement and collaboration as well as through her professional and academic endeavors.

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