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Training Shelter Dogs in Hopes of Increasing Their Chances of Finding Loving Homes

Oceanside CA— After adopting their dog, Bentley, a loveable terrier mix, from the Stafford SPCA, Kirsten and Jesse soon relocated to San Diego, where she was a logistics analyst for a supply company. Like Kirsten, Jesse too had a passion for dogs and wanted to learn more about canine obedience training. After much research, he discovered Animal Behavior College (ABC) and decided to enroll. However, his plans changed after securing a new position in the U.S. Marine Corps. at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. With extended work hours and more responsibilities, he decided not to enroll, but encouraged Kirsten to do so.

Thanks to the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MYCAA) program, Kirsten qualified for financial assistance, which provided even more incentive to turn her passion for animals into a portable and sustainable career. Kirsten immediately enrolled in ABC’s Dog Obedience Training Program (DOP) and soon embarked on a new journey in the pet services industry.

During her coursework with ABC, Kirsten participated in the school’s Students Saving Lives (SSL) program. SSL provides training to homeless canine companions before they are adopted. These volunteers enlist more than 10 hours of training to local shelters, humane societies, or rescue organizations for the purpose of addressing behavioral and socialization concerns, giving four-legged friends a better opportunity of finding a loving home.

“I decided to change careers so I could have a job that I enjoy and that allowed flexibility, giving me the opportunity to spend time with my two dogs daily,” she said. “I wanted to help pet owners develop a relationship similar to the relationship I have with my dogs. Animal Behavior College’s program goes way beyond learning how to teach basic obedience commands. It prepares students and helps them develop their career.”

Last June, Kirsten graduated from ABC and became a certified dog obedience trainer. She also completed the Shelter Dog Training Continuing Education Program (CEP) and is currently taking the Pet Nutrition CEP. She is currently a dog trainer at Petco in Oceanside, California.

Volunteering is still an important part of Kirsten’s life. She currently volunteers at the San Diego Humane Society & SPCA’s Oceanside campus where she serves as a canine companion. She most recently established Oceanside campus’s volunteer training program and spends much time interacting and working with dogs so they have a better chance of being adopted.

“It amazes me how many sweet dogs don’t have homes. I train them [dogs] to exhibit good and cute behaviors to make them more appealing and adoptable. I teach them to be calm, approachable and obedient, especially when a prospective pet parent or any other visitor is in the kennel. Onlookers are often impressed when they see how cute the dog is and how he comes to the gate and sits down or lies in his bed,” she said. “I also train them to loose leash walk and socialize them with people. These dogs just want love and direction. I honestly don’t think I do enough.”

In addition to spending time with Jesse, Dexter and Bentley, Kirsten enjoys reading and has a profound passion for learning. She spends time with family and friends and often reflects on her past and ponders her future while occasionally enjoying a tasty chocolate soufflé — her favorite indulgence.

“My prior jobs fulfilled my financial needs, and I enjoyed the critical thinking process that came with them,” she recalled. “I am now doing what I love and believe I will be successful. I feel as if I am tearing down barriers between man and dog. I love building that relationship and believe that dogs make everything better. We can learn so much from them.”

To date, ABC has enrolled nearly 4,200 military spouses and graduated more than 2,000. The school prepares students for professions as certified dog trainers, certified veterinary assistants and certified pet groomers. These vocations are viable, portable careers in the $58 billion pet industry. Please visit for more information.

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