We use effective, positive methods to train service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs
Sharon Wachsler, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP is the owner and head trainer of At Your Service Dog Training, LLC.
Sharon is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP). She graduated with distinction from Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior and is a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). She was the founder of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival and a content editor for IAADP’s Partner’s Forum, the newsletter of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) in which her service dog training articles received special recognition.
At Your Service Dog Training, LLC, offers service dog training to people in Western Mass., and around the country. We offer online training to people anywhere in the country. Private in-home and on-site owner lessons and day school are available for those in Pioneer Valley towns within 30 minutes of Hadley or Northampton, including Amherst, Deerfield, Easthampton, Florence, Granby, Hadley, Holyoke, Leeds, Leverett, Northampton, South Hadley, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, Sunderland, Williamsburg, etc.
For those training a service dog outside that area, we offer private service dog training and consulting online or at our office in Hadley.
We also offer offer specialty service dog and therapy dog group classes in Whately.
We are also proud to provide service dog consulting to pet dog trainers, and area organizations and businesses. For those who would like to learn how to become a dog trainer, we have an internship program that encompasses both theory and practice.
Wondering if At Your Service travels to your town or if we offer services for your particular training needs? See our FAQ for answers to frequently asked questions.
Sharon trained her first assistance dog in 1998, a Bouvier des Flandres named Jersey who went on to win a Delta Society “Service Dog Without Limits” award. Between 2000 and 2013, Sharon trained two more mobility service dogs and wrote award-winning articles on positive reinforcement training and service dog training for publications such as IAADP’s Partner’s Forum and for her popular service dog blog, After Gadget.
After recovering her health in 2013, Sharon went on to work with some of the regions best trainers, assisting with group classes and apprenticing in private training and behavior consulting. In 2014, she graduated from Karen Pryor Academy’s “Dog Trainer Professional Course” with an average test score (knowledge, teaching, and training) of 99 percent, then passed the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers’s exam to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).
Human Communication & Instruction
Before becoming a dog trainer, Sharon was an information and referral specialist for people with disabilities (specializing in housing, education, employment, and personal care), and a writer and editor of a journal of disability literature and culture. She has deep ties and love for the disability community.
Because “dog training” is mostly about teaching people how to train their animal companions, Sharon is dedicated to an honest, respectful, supportive relationship with clients. As a long-time student of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and a more recent student of TAGteach, Sharon is able to bring a positive, clear, “clickerly” approach to how she works with owners, as well as dogs.
Sharon continues to advance her education and expertise in working with people and animals by learning from experts in the field at workshops, conferences, and by collaborating with other pet dog trainers, service dog trainers, and animal behavior consultants. Sharon lives with her Bouvier des Flandres, Barnum (career-changed from service dog to demo dog) and her Standard Poodle, Kismet.
Learn more about Sharon’s education, media appearances, speaking engagements, and more below.
Alex Wise, CPDT-KA, Trainer
Alex is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer who has been doing private training and group classes for At Your Service since January 2019. They have also been a staff trainer at Animal Alliances since 2015 — teaching classes in everything from basic and intermediate manners, outdoor etiquette, tricks, nosework, and puppy kindergarten. Alex’s special training interests include building strong foundational obedience skills for service dogs in training and working with deaf dogs. Alex lives in Northampton, with their deaf American Pit Bull Terrier mix, Hitch, who has been extensively trained in a variety of fancy skills but sees himself primarily as a professional lap dog and nap-taker. Learn more about Alex’s training experience and passions.
Justine Vieu, Intern
Justine has worked in the healthcare field since 2008. Over the last few years, she began pursuing her passion of working with dogs and graduated from Animal Behavior College as a certified dog trainer. Currently, she continues working full-time in the healthcare field and works with a handful of dogs on weeknights and weekends. Dogs have been Justine’s passion for as long as she can remember. She was surprised and overjoyed when she came home to her first puppy on her 5th birthday. Since, she has raised another puppy and adopted two other dogs in need of a loving home. At the present time, she has Copper and Gracelyn in her life (in the photo). She finds the connection and bond created between dogs and their humans simply amazing. Helping humans and their dogs develop a relationship, connect and communicate on new levels, live happy and fulfilling lives together is the best satisfaction she can imagine. She is endlessly looking to expand her education and increase her knowledge base on all things canine related.
Molly Buckley, Intern
Molly is a psychology student at Southern New Hampshire University who has had a passion for service dogs since experiencing the independence and confidence boost that her first service dog provided her as she navigated her struggles with chronic illness. She currently is working with her Lab Sam (pictured) as a new prospect for a multipurpose service dog. Training became more of a passion as she struggled with reactivity in her German shepherd, and as they bonded through working past behavioral issues together. She is excited to be building a foundation to starting a career in service dog training so that she can help others gain such a powerful connection.
Dasha Morrison, Intern
Dasha is a canine behavior enthusiast and passionate dog-person from Brooklyn, who honors the reality of canine-human connections, and deeply seeks to serve as an advocate for dogs in those partnerships, by learning the ins and outs of dog behavior, cognition, and training. She believes in fostering greater relationships of trust, freedom, and structure between humans and their canines. Ten years into life with her very own fear-ful reactive dog, in 2018 Dasha moved towards her calling to gain more experience with additional dogs of various breeds and temperaments; through 4 years of dog walking, sitting, and doggy daycare leadership positions. These experiences with dogs have further informed her passion towards understanding more about aiding dogs and people through training. Dogs have held up her spirit as a person while dealing with mental health issues, and while training her own dog the basics of doggy obedience and tricks garnered plenty of ups and downs, she now seeks to delve deeper into the available science and method behind dog training.
Tam Porter, Intern
Tam Porter is an animal lover from Chicago with a particularly soft spot for dogs. They have such a deep appreciation for a dog’s soul and how they can enrich our souls and rejuvenate our spirits in return. They started working with dogs professionally in the summer of 2018; walking, sitting and some training. They became more curious about training and realized after a long road of dipping their toes into different career pools that training service dogs could be the perfect mix of helping people and being part of the reason someone’s life is just a little less stressful and spending their days with the creatures they adore the most.
Abby Wahlig, Intern
Abby is an Animal Science student at Iowa State University who is also minoring in Human Nutrition. She has previous experience working and volunteering in veterinary clinics and will be taking part in a service dog training program for her senior year at ISU that has partnered with Retrieving Freedom, an organization that trains service animals for children with autism and veterans with PTSD. Abby is excited to learn about the process of training a service dog and practicing her skills on her family’s three Labrador Retrievers.
Sharon Wachsler’s CV
- Karen Pryor Academy, webinar — 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
- “Service Dog Owner-Training: Is it right for you?” Presented at numerous venues from 2016 to present including Dakin Humane Society (Springfield, MA), Animal Alliances (Northampton, MA), Greenfield Public Library (Greenfield, MA)
- E-training for dogs, webinar — “Working with Service Dog Owner-Trainers: It’s not about the dog” — working with clients to train their own service dogs, September 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
- Dakin Humane Society, Springfield, MA — “Service Dog Training: What you need to know,” June 18, 2016
- Greenfield Savings Bank, South Deerfield, MA — “Service Dogs: The what, why, and how,” March 5, 2016
- How is a service dog different from an emotional support animal? WWLP, Channel 22 News, May 28, 2020
- Getting your dog to give you space while you work from home — WWLP, Channel 22 News, May 6, 2020
- Dogs in Service by Fran Ryan. Featured article, Many Hands, Summer 2019
- Dogs training in Western Mass. to be like Sully, Bush’s service dog — WWLP, Channel 22 News, January 5, 2018
- Service dog training event held in Northampton — WWLP, Channel 22 News, April 13, 2017
- Wendell dog trainer brings personal experience to group classes — Greenfield Recorder, September 12, 2016
- ‘At Your Service’ dog trainer recovers health, brings positive methods to obedience class — Athol Daily News, August 26, 2016
- Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP)
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA)
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), Professional Member
- International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), member since 1999
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), supporting member, Working Animal Division
- Doggone Safe, “Be a Tree” Licensed Presenter, 2015-2016
- TAGteach International, Primary Certification, 2015-2016
- Assistant Trainer, Pet Behavior Consulting, Shutesbury, MA, December 2014 – December 2015
- Assistant Trainer, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society classes, Hadley and Leverett, MA, February 2014 – June 2015
- Intern, Pet Behavior Consulting, Shutesbury, MA, May 2014 – September 2015
- Information Specialist, New England INDEX (Information on Disabilities Exchange), Shriver Center, Waltham, MA, 1994 – 1995
- Information Specialist, Information Center for Individuals with Disabilities, Boston, MA, 1992 – 1995
- Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional, studying under Emma Parsons, January – July 2015
- BA in Sociology and Women’s studies, cum laude, 1992, Tufts University, Medford, MA
Dog Training Seminars, Workshops, Conferences
- Remote Consultations for Aggression Cases presented by Michael Shikashio, March 25, 2020
- CARAT (Clothier Animal Response Assessment Tool) Introduction webinar with Suzanne Clothier, March 12, 2020
- The Great Big Dog Aggression Workshop with Dr. Chris Pachel, DVM, DACVB, CABC and Michael Shikashio CDBC – December 7 & 8, 2019
- Identifying Stress in Service Dogs: When to Say When with Jeanne Hampl RN and Barbara Handelman, M.Ed., LCMHC, CDBC – August 2018
- Click to Calm & Control Unleashed for Canine Confidence (two-day seminar by Emma Parsons on canine reactivity and improved performance around distractions) – July 2018
- Selecting and Training Service Dogs for Mental Health Disabilities with Cissy Stamm and Barbara Handelman, M.Ed., LCMHC, CDBC – Part 1 – June 2018, Part 2 – July 2018
- Selecting and Training Diabetes Alert Dogs with Jennifer Cattet PhD – May 2018
- Selecting and Training Guide Dogs for the Blind with Michele Pouliot – April 2018
- Selecting and Training Service Dogs for Children with Patty Dobbs Gross and Daniel Gross – February 2018
- Canine Intelligent Disobedience and Canine Cognition: Canine Cognition, Intentionality, and Theories of Mind with Barbara Handelman M.Ed., CDBC and Ken McCort – November 2017
- ClickerExpo, Stamford, CT – March, 2017
- Successful Cat and Dog Introductions – Step by Step with Jacqueline Munera CCBC, PCBC, CAP2 – June 2015
- ClickerExpo, Reno, NV – January 2016
- Brenda Aloff Two-Day Seminar, Dog Reactivity and Competition Obedience – October 2015
- Reactive Dog Workshop with Elise Gouge and Tibby Chase – July 2015
- “Sociability vs. Aggression Thresholds in Dogs” with Sue Sternberg – May 2015
- “Canine Social and Psychological Development” course with Gail Fisher – October 2014
- “Living and Learning with Animals: The Science Behind Training – Application for Best Outcomes” course with Susan Friedman, PhD — October 2014
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Annual Conference – October 2014
- TagTeach Primary Certification Workshop and Seminar with Theresa McKeon – October 2014
- ClickerExpo, Norfolk, VA – March 2013
About the Pictures on Our Website
- Photos of Sharon and Barnum by Sarah Bossert.
- Photos of future Leader Dogs for the Blind (Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers) provided by Patti Brehler.
- Thanks to friends and clients who provided pictures of their pups: Jen (Lucy the Basset Hound), Nicole (Pete the Rat Terrier), Karyn (Thane the Border Collie and Chimette the Border Collie/Doberman mix), and Sam (TJ the terrier mix).