You have the dream
We have the expertise
With over 30 years of combined experience with dog training and disability, our service dog specialists can help you realize your dreams of increased freedom, independence, and quality of life with your own service dog
Sharon Wachsler, CPDT-KA KPA-CTP
Owner and Head Trainer
Sharon launched At Your Service Dog training in 2014 to bring skilled, rewards-based service dog training to Western Massachusetts. Sharon holds deep knowledge about how to train a service dog while living with a disability. She worked for numerous disability service agencies before becoming severely disabled by chronic illness for 18 years. During that time, she trained three service dogs for herself. As a practitioner of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and TAGteach, Sharon’s clients enjoy kindness, empathy, and clarity in their training sessions. As a nationally respected science-based dog trainer, Sharon loves consulting with, mentoring, and teaching professional dog trainers, as well as her own clients, to achieve outstanding training results, transforming pets into canine assistants.
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA #2164210)
- Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner – Graduate with distinction from Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior (KPA-CTP #20414)
- International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) – Provider Member
- TAGteach International, Level 1 Certification
- Thrive! Dog*Biz coaching program – founding member
- Doggone Safe, “Be a Tree” Licensed Presenter
Learn more about Sharon and what it’s like to work with her.
A Beautiful Fit with Our Family
Dear Sharon, I just want you to know how incredibly grateful I am for your presence in our lives. Your kind and gentle demeanor feels such a beautiful fit with our family. The genuine, affirming way you recognize what the humans are doing well lands like a salve. I felt it deeply last week in my 1:1 with you, and I see our teen take your words in, relax, and then rise up to be and do even more. I get that all this stuff works with the pups, but the way you have with us people has me in grateful awe and appreciation every time I’m in your presence. “Thank you” doesn’t seem quite big enough, and yet it seems like a good place to start. – Sarah Kipp
Anya Kipp-McGowan and Aspen
Alex Wise, CPDT-KA
Alex Wise, CPDT-KA, has been training dogs in group classes and private lessons since 2015. Alex is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. They have taught classes on everything from basic and intermediate manners, outdoor etiquette, tricks, nosework, and puppy kindergarten, to reactive dog classes and service and therapy dog classes. Alex also has extensive personal and professional experience with deaf dogs and modifying dog reactivity, both in group classes and private lessons, and personal and professional experience with service dog owner-training.
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA ##2207006)
Learn more about Alex background and what it’s like to work with them
Superior Instruction & Real Care
“I was concerned that online wouldn’t work as well:) I was wrong! Alex is extraordinary in every way—deep knowledge and real patience. I feel much more confident regarding my training. Alex pays close attention to each student and pup. Superior instruction & real care.” – DB
Alex trains Hitch on deep pressure and chin targeting in an Advanced Public Access class.
Laurie DiDonato, Ph.D. (Biology)
Laurie DiDonato has a background in energy conservation, biology, and local government. She joined At Your Service in 2021, after many years of administrative experience, including working for the City of Greenfield, MA, in their Energy and Sustainability Department. Laurie is a lifelong dog-lover. She trained her Irish Water Spaniel, Bishop, with At Your Service, to mitigate Bishop’s reactive and anxiety-driven behaviors.
Laurie brings thoughtfulness, organization, thoroughness, and care to her interactions with clients. Her work “behind the scenes” allows us to provide helpful, efficient, and compassionate training services to all our dog-and-handler teams.
Laurie’s Fun Facts
- In addition to singing in a community chorus, Laurie enjoys singing with friends at karaoke bars.
- Laurie is the chair of the Wendell Selectboard, so when she is not managing the office for At Your Service, she is helping to manage a small town.
- Laurie’s Irish Water Spaniel, Bishop likes to sleep on clean laundry and on the back of the couch.
More about Sharon
What it’s like to work with her
When our clients talk about working with Sharon, they typically refer to her extensive knowledge about dog training and behavior, her empathy, honesty, and integrity, and her clear instruction. Sharon is passionate about empowering her clients and goes the extra mile to help them understand the “why” behind the “how.” She also wants every handler (and dog) to feel valued and understood. Sharon has a lively sense of humor and is not above getting on her hands and knees to do a “dog impression” to help a client understand their dog’s body language!
Sharon’s Fun Facts
Sharon was a pioneer in the field of service dog owner-training:
- She trained her first service dog, Jersey, a Bouvier des Flandres, in 1998, when few people had even heard of owner-training a service dog. Because of the Bouvier’s lumbering gate and ursine appearance, on occasion Sharon was asked if she had a bear on a leash!
- Because owner-training was so unknown the first few years that Sharon was training her own service dogs, even though Sharon was using a wheelchair and medical oxygen, strangers would ask her if it would be hard to give her dog back to the training program.
- Two years after Sharon adopted Jersey, she won the Delta Society’s (now Pet Partners) Service Dog Beyond Limits Award.
- Before the advent of cell phones, when Sharon lived in a rural environment with frequent power outages and with limited mobility, Sharon trained her second service dog, Gadget, to run a quarter mile to her landlord’s house in case of an emergency. This was how Sharon delivered her rent checks for several years.
Sharon’s background is in the disability nonprofit sector:
- She was an information and referral specialist for the Information Center for Individuals with Disabilities and New England INDEX (Information on Disabilities Exchange)
- She was a writer for Ability Maine and Partner’s Forum (the newsletter of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) and founding editor of the disability literary journal, Breath & Shadow
- Sharon currently offers her skills as a support group facilitator for the Asperger & Autism Network (AANE)
In her downtime, Sharon enjoys playing pickleball with other humans and doing agility with her standard poodle, Kismet.
Select Presentations & Media Appearances
- “How to succeed with training your service dog” What Dogs Really Want Masterclass Summit with Marilyn Mele and Dog Wisdom Workshops, July 2022
- “Setting your service dog in training puppy on a path for success” The Predictable Puppy Interview Series with Marilyn Mele and Dog Wisdom Workshops, October 2022
- “How is a service dog different from an emotional support animal?” WWLP, Channel 22 News, May 28, 2020
- Karen Pryor Academy — “Conditioned Cues: Setting Up a Novice Learner for Success,” June 9, 2019
- Pet Professional Guild, webinar — “Service Dog Owner-Training: Is This the Path for You?” December 3, 2018
- The Barbara Handelman Service Dog Trainer Course — “Working with Service Dog Owner-Trainers: It’s not about the dog: working with clients to train their own service dogs,” September 5, 2018
- “Dogs training in Western Mass. to be like Sully, Bush’s service dog” — WWLP, Channel 22 News, January 5, 2018
- Pet Professional Guild, webinar — “SD, SDiT, ESA, Alphabet Soup?! What you need to know about US service dog laws and terms” August 28, 2017
More about Alex
What it’s like to work with them
When our clients talk about working with Alex, they typically refer to their deep training knowledge, their patience and caring, and their clear instructions and demonstrations. Alex is passionate about making training feel as accessible as possible for their clients – including providing “tricks” and analogies to help humans set their dogs up for success.
Alex’s Fun Facts
Expert on deaf dog training: In 2015, Alex adopted Hitch, an adult Pitbull mix, to train as their service dog. Hitch turned out to be deaf and to have several significant behavior problems, which changed Alex’s plans. Alex nonetheless transformed Hitch into a well-behaved in-home only service dog that was fluent in dozens of visual cues. Since then, Alex has worked with dozens of deaf dogs. They are sought-after by trainers and owners for their unique expertise in training and behavior modification for deaf and deaf-blind dogs.
Their dog trainer “super power”: Alex is great at coming up with lower-cost DIY projects for behavioral management and helping people figure out how to put harnesses or other gear on their dog with less confusion over straps and buckles.
What they say about working for At Your Service Dog Training: “I love the emphasis we place on tailoring our services and training plans so carefully to each client’s individual goals and needs. I strongly believe in meeting both dogs and humans where they’re at, and setting them up for success. I’m proud to work with an organization that not only helps owners who already have a dog they are working with, but also provides such extensive support with choosing a dog that best fits their preferences, needs, and lifestyle. I also appreciate that Sharon and I both value thorough research and continuing education.”
In their free time, Alex enjoys woodworking and bird watching.