Primary Studies Surrounded by wonderful canines throughout her life, Mac’s pursuit of professional pet dog training became her sole focus and occupation in early 2009, when she graduated with honors from Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers (then in partnership with the San Francisco SPCA), and known globally as ‘the Harvard of dog training schools’.
Mac has a penchant for teaching, and seeing an unrivaled opportunity for learning, she returned to the SF SPCA almost immediately post graduation. As an intern, Mac contributed more than 300 volunteer hours coaching subsequent academy students, rehabilitating shelter dogs, teaching public classes and hosting socials, doing private consultations, conducting temperament assessments, dog-dog socialization sessions, and training SPCA volunteers.
Continuing Education Mac has a demonstrated, ongoing commitment to continuing education in her field, regularly attending seminars, workshops and conferences offered by leading organizations and professionals in animal learning and behavior. Currently, Mac is enrolled in two intensive online courses offered by Susan Garrett, a multi-occasion national and world agility champion. Previous extended courses have included hands on training with Bob Bailey and Parvene Farhoody, and Dr. Susan Friedman's professional course for veterinarian's and animal professionals, Living and Learning with Animals. Mac has also attended multi-day seminars by Kathy Sdao, Dr. Ian Dunbar, Dr. Ray Coppinger, Sue Sternberg, and John Rogerson, among many others.
Focused Experience Directed in part by the behavioral issues of her first Swiss Mountain Dog, Mac began her professional pet dog training career with a primary focus on fear & aggression. As Mac worked to minimize reactivity in dogs with existing issues, a burning desire to better promote preventative efforts emerged and is now her primary aim, expressed occasionally in the intensive training of her litters of puppies, and daily through her development of Outdoor Education SF.
I should have known when I was 10. I had concocted an entire agility run, taking up the full breadth of our sizeable backyard. Well, agility is what they call it NOW that it's actually a thing...it was unheard of in the early 80's of course, at least not where we were. I'd laid out jumps, hoisted a wood ladder set across sawhorses, fashioned a ramp on either side, and carefully instructed a loving Nana to hold hula-hoops at various levels. "What on earth is she doing?," my parents wondered as they watched through the window for the answer. What else would I be doing? I was running Finnegan, our oversized miniature poodle, through my course, desperately trying to keep up with him!
As it happened, it would take a music degree (trumpet performance, just to make it really useful), some odd admin jobs, and a 5 year stint in professional fundraising before I'd get a message from the universe louder than I could blow that horn. Velvet. Velvet was a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, age 3 when she came to me. Her first name had been Manon, but an intuitive 8 year old girl in her second home renamed her Velvet, perfect for her in every way. Velvet was the dog love of my life, and within her came my calling.
Velvet needed some help with fearfulness and learning to accept strangers without barking, among other things. I read extensively, went to Jean Donaldson's Academy for Dog Trainers (known as the "Harvard of dog schools"), put in a 300+ hour internship at the SF SPCA, and the rest (some 8+ years of it now), is history. Velvet was by my side the entire way, and with brilliant dog-dog skills she was working as hard as I was to help other dogs. Though gone in form for some years now, she is with me still, every step I take.
I've had the honor of sharing my life with many wonderful dogs, whether for their entire lives, or in part. Each has taught me much about what it means to raise a puppy, weather the storm of adolescence, care for aging and sick dogs, and everything in between. Spending my life studying the only species specifically adapted to living with humans keeps me laughing and learning on a daily basis. What more could I ask of this life!
When not in the field or teaching classes, Mac enjoys time with her wonderful wife Gaby, who is an orientation and mobility specialist/teacher specialist at the California School for the Blind, a licensed Veterinarian, and a long time breeder of Newfoundland dogs. Together they share their home with 1 Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, 2 Newfoundland Dogs, and any number of other canine guests. During the summer of 2016, we raised Koda's litter of 8 newf puppies, and we are hoping Mattie will be having her first litter of Swissys later this year.
Mattie, 3 years (pictured above), is our current swissy, and you'll often see us at Ocean beach or Chrissy Field with Koda (4 yrs), our Newfoundland girl, and her son Daley, our 10 mo old Newf boy.
Circa 2008, (L to R): Mac with Betty, Velvet & Satchmo