About Us >> Instructors
Sara Reusche, CPDT-KA, CVT, ANWI purchased Paws Abilities in 2010. She has turned her love of animals and teaching into a career and is dual certified as a veterinary technician and professional dog trainer. In addition to training, Sara has worked as a groomer, vet tech, dog daycare attendant, and animal shelter caretaker and trainer. She currently spends the majority of her time working with serious behavior cases and has a special fondness for reactive and anxious dogs.
Sara's weekly blog posts generate thousands of visitors from all over the world. She was recently invited to join the Dogster community as a training consultant and writer. She has contributed to the APDT Chronicle of the Dog and was the 2008 John Fisher Scholarship award winner for her article "Lessons from Layla." Her B.E.S.T. (Behavior, Enrichment, Safety, and Trust) training program for dogs in shelters and foster-based rescues has been replicated across the country
Sara lives with two adopted dogs, Layla and Mischief (also known as Trout). Layla is a Minnesota White-Toed Chipmunk Dog, and Mischief is a North American Yodelhound (AKA mutts). Layla competes in Rally Obedience and Lure Coursing, and Mischief is learning puppy obedience and agility. Sara frequently fosters dogs for rescue organizations as well. When she’s not working with dogs, Sara enjoys reading, dancing, and staying up too late.
Sarala Helmer, CPDT-KA grew up riding, training, and showing horses and spent many hours hiking and riding with her dogs. She has an undergraduate degree in biology and a masters degreee in psychology. She has worked in the fields of counseling, Ombudsman, social work, and land surveying.
Sarala is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She has one dog, Tess, and they enjoy hiking, agility, and training games of all kinds together. She recently lost gentle Dalton (pictured), who lived a happy life. Sarala is convinced that cooperation and communication, not coercion, are the keys to a sustainable future on the planet. She pursues learning from her students, peers, professionals in many fields -- and from her dogs -- on a daily basis.
Lindsay Decker CPDT-KA competes with her dogs in North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC), American Kennel Club (AKC), and Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA). She is also a member and judge for the TDAA and has a special interest in small dog agility. In 2008 Lindsay completed a three day seminar given by members of the agility world team. She has started training others in the hope to encourage more people to discover the joys of agility competition.
Lindsay started her agility training with their Yorkshire Terrier (Emma) in 2004 with Paws Abilities. Emma was slow to take to agility but once she did she took off. She has been nicknamed "Pocket Rocket" by several judges and her focus and drive have been compared to that of her much larger Border Collie counterparts, a great feat for a 5 pound dog! Emma has earned many agility titles and in 2009 & 2010 won 1st place at the TDAA National Competition. Lindsay's husband Rick has always been their coach from the sidelines but in 2007 Rick got his first agility dog. Oliver is a full sibling to Emma and seems to have inherited his sister's drive for agility. Lindsay and Rick recently brought home baby Cairo, a Brussels Griffon puppy, who also trains in agility.
Julia Breza CPDT-KA has always loved animals and became interested in dog training after taking classes through Paws Abilities. She has an undergraduate degree in special education and a masters degree in counselor education. She currently works as a teacher with the Rochester Public Schools. She is an avid reader of dog training books and tries to attend as many seminars as possible.
Julia is owned by three dogs and 2 cats. All of the animals are rescues and Julia is a strong advocate of animal rights. The three dogs, Greta, Gracie, and LeRoy enjoy a life of training classes (of which nose work is the new favorite)!
Shelly Wegman CPDT-KA has been crazy about dogs (and horses) as long as she can remember. Currently, her family has 3 dogs: Charlotte the Lab cross, Sage the working Border Collie (cattle), and Jordi, the latest addition, adopted from a shelter and another who-really-knows-what-breeds-are-in-there girl. All are very different from each other, and all have a lot to teach. There are two kids of the human variety as well, both boys. Evan works and plays with Charlotte and Jordi in the 4-H program, and is certified to do Therapy Dog work with Charlotte. Meanwhile Alden feels a special bond with Sage…and also his chickens. Really. He’s got a good recall on his chickens. They all live on a dairy farm, but the menagerie of animals also includes horses and the afore-mentioned chickens, as well as the few occasional porkers.
Currently, Shelly runs the 4-H Dog Program in Olmsted County. She is responsible for moving that program from choke chains to clicker training. In addition to working with the kids and dogs, a lifelong passion of hers is working with horses.
Shalise Keating, CPDT-KA grew up in Rochester riding and training horses. She has over 14 years of experience training dogs, and was Training Director for the Rochester Dog Obedience Club (RDOC) from 1999 through 2001. As Training Director, Shalise was responsible for moving that club from choke collar training to positive reinforcement-based clicker training. She is an avid attendee at conferences and seminars on clicker training. Shalise joined the Paws Abilities training staff in January of 2001 and took over as owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training in January of 2004 to December 2009.
Shalise currently has three dogs, Tori, Quint, and Dexter. Tori and Quint are German Shorthaired Pointers who enjoy agility, conformation, and other dog sports. Dexter is an English Mastiff who has retired and is enjoying a life of leisure.
Linda Blanchard CPDT-KA has a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and worked with developmentally disabled adults for 10 years. She is currently working for the US Postal Service as a letter carrier, is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and has been a member of the Rochester Dog Obedience Club since 1995. While a member of the Rochester Dog Obedience Club she served as an Instructor, Board member, Vice President, President, and was Training Director in 2004 and 2005. She joined the Paws Abilities training staff in 2007, has an extensive library of dog behavior, training, and health books, and attends seminars whenever possible.
Linda currently has two dogs. Flint is a German Shepherd who enjoys long walks and Frisbee games. Tank, a Wirehaired Carolina Schnauzer Mix (a mutt) competes in Rally Obedience and loves taking training classes of all kinds.
Crystal Thompson CPDT-KA loves dogs, but as a licensed social worker, she loves working with the human end of the leash, too. Her favorite part of teaching classes is helping the person develop the skills needed to communicate with his or her dog, and to learn to accept his or her dog as an individual.
Crystal has two Midwest Muppet Dogs. Seven-year-old Maisy was reactive and anxious when she was younger, but thanks to dedicated training and the use of anti-anxiety medications, she is now a happy, functioning member of society. Maisy has titles in obedience and rally, including a rally championship title and a national ranking in APDT (now WCRL) rally.
Pyg came to Crystal as a foster dog, and he never left. He is currently learning how to be a good pet as well as learning dog sport foundations. Crystal hopes to compete with him in rally and obedience, and whatever else he might find interesting.
Laura Johnson grew up with dogs and became interested in training after getting her first show dog when she was 10 years old. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and works as a clinical laboratory technologist. Laura also enjoys raising rabbits, fishing, and reading.
Laura currently has four dogs and a cat. Her basenji Ruler is an AKC champion show dog who also has many Rally obedience titles. Cruiser, her little rescued Chihuahua mix loves life, bananas, and playing with his extensive collection of dog toys. Her third dog, Lakota is an American Pit Bull Terrier and is a sports/performance dog in training. Lakota is currently training for and participating in disc dog events. That girl loves her Frisbee! Last, but not least, is Mikko the Brittany Spaniel who enjoys playing disc, swimming, and tennis balls.
Kristin Sicotte is a competitor and judge in the exciting sport of Canine Freestyle. She is a member of the Canine Freestyle Federation (CFF) and has been involved with the organization since 2002. She taught classes in Maryland and now resides and teaches in Minnesota. Besides being a judge and competitor, she also presents seminars for CFF and currently competes in Level IV. Kristin loves that CFF provides a creative outlet as well as the incredible opportunity to share her beautiful breed, the Azawakh.
Kristin has three Azawakh. Felaou trains and competes in Freestyle, and her other two are retired.
Laura McKinney CPDT-KA started her canine career in the rescue world in 1999 as a kennel manager and animal control officer. She currently volunteers with A Rotta Love Plus, where she is a foster parent, trainer, case manager, and all around superheroine. Her niche is canine behavior, and she has been teaching people about their dog's special needs since 2007. She served on the board of Twin Cities Obedience Training Club from 2010-2013, has attended seminars presented by some of the greatest names in canine behavior, and has titled each one of her six dogs in at least one sport.
To keep herself entertained when she's not working with dogs and people, Laura works as a registered nurse in neuroscience research. She lives with six dogs, four cats, two cockatiels, four fish, and an exceptionally tolerant husband.
Tara Post CPDT-KA, CVT, ABCDT became a certified vet tech in 2002 and has worked in the field ever since. She always had a passion for animal behavior but became motivated to do more after adopting a dog with some dog-aggression problems. Her goal is to prove that it's possible to have a great hunting dog without resorting to harsh training methods. Tara is a co-founder of a small rescue group and enjoys rehabilitating those dogs who need some extra help. She thinks that the best thing about training dogs is watching them figure out what works!
Tara's family includes 4 dogs (3 of whom go hunting) - Chance, Sawyer, Ziva, and Mac; a couple cats; her husband; and three children. One dog has earned her JH title and the other is working towards his hunting title. Tara enjoys spending time outdoors with her kids and dogs. She especially enjoys teaching her daughters how to work with the dogs, even though they're both quite young.
Carrie Iverson grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, where she spent a lot of time riding horses and hiking in the mountains. Carrie has degrees in Criminal Justice and Medical Administration. She currently works as a Health Unit Coordinator for the Mayo Clinic Health Systems. Carrie’s love of dogs started when she moved to Germany and got her first dog, Kasey, a yellow Lab. Kasey loved to travel the world with Carrie. When Carrie got her Aussie Willow, she became interested in dog training as she realized that Willow needed a job to do.
Carrie is owned by two dogs, two cats, and one kid. Kassidy is a senior black Lab who is enjoying her golden years lying around the house and playing ball in the yard. Willow is a young Australian Shepherd who competes in Rally and Agility. Tanner and Sadie are her kitty kids and the lover of her heart and soul is Nick, her very energetic son.
Katie Kelly CPDT-KA, ABCDT is a dual certified trainer. She is recognized through Animal Behavior College as well as the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. She currently has a Shih Tzu named Minnie, and a pit bull cross named Jasmine. Katie claims that each dog in her life has taught her valuable lessons, and that she continues to learn through the new challenges that she is presented. She fully embraces reward-based methods, not only in dog training, but in other social contexts as well. Her passion is working with dogs whom have behavior issues, but she is also becoming a dog sport addict. Katie has recently started competing with Jasmine in rally obedience, competition obedience, and agility. Jasmine has also been certified as a canine good citizen and therapy dog. In Katie’s spare time, she likes to take long hikes in the woods with her canine pals. She says that is where she is most at peace. She is also attending Winona State University where she is studying to become an English teacher.
Kera Wilhelmsen ABCDT graduated from Winona State University with a degree in writing and a minor in philosophy. Originally from Rosemount, MN, she did not grow up with pets but has always had a passion for animals and is pursuing further education in dog training and veterinary technology. Kera has worked at boarding facilities assisting with training, grooming, and receptionist work, and enjoys volunteering at her local shelter.
Kera and her husband Paul live in Winona with their 5 rescued pets. Winston the pug was Kera's first pet and official lap warmer. He never lets a lap stay empty for long! Tayla is an intelligent Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog cross who has been teaching Kera about the challenges and rewards of working with a reactive dog as well as the fun of agility training. Lily the Pomeranian is the newest addition. Lily had never been on a leash and had no concept of potty training when she joined Kera and Paul's family, but is now enjoying life and fitting in well. The felines Pentax and Pixel round out the gang and are great cuddlers as well as alarm clocks.
Megan Cogswell ABCDT grew up in Pine Island with dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, iguanas, turtles, and snakes. Growing up, Megan was referred to as the "dog encyclopedia" because she would check out all of the dog books from the library. She loves reading about canine history and behavior as well as sharing that knowledge with others.
Currently, Megan owns a Great Dane, Onix, and co-owns a Chinese Shar Pei, Hektur, and an Olde English Bulldog, Frank. She also has a 15-month-old daughter and fosters dogs for rescue.
Steve Otto Bio coming soon.
Tammie White has always loved and wanted to do something with animals, especially dogs. Not knowing which direction to go, Tammie ended up becoming a Corrections Officer for the state. While working for the state she learned that there are colleges that you can attend online that would help you become a dog trainer. She attended Animal Behavior College and is looking for the next big step.
Tammie currently has four dogs: Champ the Brittany Spaniel was purchased due to how he was living, Dozer and Bruno the Bloodhound mixes were adopted thru Safe Sanctuary, and Bandit the Coonhound/Heeler cross was saved from a bad situation. She loves working with each one to see what excites them. She also has taken a K-9 Decoy course for working dogs and looks to expand her knowledge with that type of dog as well. She is excited and looking forward in learning from Paws Abilities Dog Trainers.
Denise Koster Bio coming soon.
Note: In 2002, Shalise was among the first few trainers in the state of Minnesota and the first 250 in the nation to earn the title Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed. Sara received her CPDT-KA certification in December 2005, Sarala in December 2007, Lindsay and Tara in April 2011, Julia and Linda in November 2011, Shelly in November 2012, Crystal in October 2013, and Laura M. in April 2014. Tara earned her CVT (certified Veterinary Technician) in 2002 and Sara in June 2006. Sara became an ANWI (Associate Nose Work Instructor) in February 2013. Trainers are also members of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and actively involved in research and seminars to learn from the world's experts.