Meet Our Trainer
Head Dog Trainer/Playcare Program Manager
"I first started at Butler Creek in the summer of 2014 as a Client Care Specialist while going to school full time at Berry College. If you would have asked me then, I never would have guessed that I’d eventually become Butler Creek’s Head Trainer and managing a rapidly growing playcare pack. Sometimes, I still have trouble wrapping my head around it all.
Back then, playcare and the position of Head Trainer didn’t even exist. Even so, when I applied with the company my main focus was completing my Bachelor’s in Political Science and looking into law schools and graduate schools. Because I’ve had a bit of an obsession with animals from birth, I always thought I’d end up in the veterinary field. However, a few microbiology classes made me realize becoming a veterinarian just wasn’t in the cards. Because of my natural ability to turn anything into an argument and the fact that law schools don’t require any microbiology classes, I decided political science might fit me a little better. Like a lot of young adults, I was struggling with what to do with my future. On top of that, I was having difficulty managing my
anxiety which led to a general but impactful lack of confidence in myself. I had experience working in animal hospitals so my original intention when applying was to find a job that I enjoyed and was comfortable in but would still allow me to center my attention on finishing my degree so I could begin a career. Little did I know, that first day at Butler Creek was the start of a career with which I would fall head over heels in love. I was starting a journey that was better than anything I could have planned.
As much as I loved interacting with the clients in reception, I was quickly cross-trained in treatment and in the kennel. I absolutely couldn’t get enough. I graduated from Berry College in 2015 and, instead of applying to law schools like I planned, I put every bit of my energy into Butler Creek. Originally, I had convinced myself I was just postponing actually using my (very expensive) degree, but I think I knew all along that I was already on the path to doing what I was meant to do.
I eventually settled into working in treatment and I absolutely loved getting to work hands-on with the patients. I was so intrigued by the medicine and so grateful to be working with doctors that enjoyed teaching. While working in treatment, I started to realize that I gravitated toward the dogs that didn’t necessarily love coming to the vet. I related to their anxiety and their instability and understood their motivation to feel guarded in a situation they didn’t understand. I didn’t react to them with fear or frustration or even excessive affection to try to make up for it. Instead of sympathizing with them, I empathized with them. Because of my struggle with controlling my own fear, I was able to see past their behavior and understand what was going on in their minds. Because of my approach to them, they reacted to me differently.
As soon as I noticed the impact I could have on these types of dogs, I moved over to our sister clinic to work in their newly established playcare. By working in playcare I could spend more time focusing on the health of the dog’s mind rather than their physical health. From that first day in the playcare pack, I knew I found what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life. I went from struggling to find the motivation to sometimes get out of bed and go to class to being more than happy working long shifts seven days a week between both hospitals. I came in early and I stayed late. I immersed myself in dog psychology and I couldn’t learn enough. I spent a little over three years working at Cedarcrest and eventually became the Assistant Trainer there before being offered the position of Head Trainer back at Butler Creek. I now work only six days a week instead of seven but when you love what you do, it never feels like work.
I’m often asked what type of trainer I am. With so many people strictly training dogs in a specific way that fits their own personal beliefs and strengths, most clients expect me to quickly answer what school of thought I subscribe to when it comes to training. My answer is always this: it depends on each human and each dog. I think it’s important to understand all different perspectives, theories, tools, and methods so I can offer each of my clients ways to work with their dog that they feel confident and comfortable doing. Confident energy is the most effective tool when it comes to working with dogs, so it’s important to me to nurture and preserve that. When it comes to the individual dog, some respond better to certain methods than others. Two dogs with similar behavioral issues might have entirely different motivations, so promoting healthier mindsets might look completely different for each dog.
Because each human, dog, and situation is different, I never turn down more information. I study applied dog behavior textbooks that focus on a scientific approach. I’ve learned from balanced trainers, competition obedience trainers, positive reinforcement trainers, service dog trainers, protection trainers, and dog psychology trainers. In the summer of 2019, I had the privilege of spending time with the Monks of New Skete in New York focusing on e-collar training. Under their guidance, I learned more about how to properly use the e-collar to create a deeper bond between dog and owner through trust, clarity, respect, and cooperation. Each method of training has taught me something that I’ve used at one time or another to create stability in a dog or to teach a client in a different way. When I work with a dog, I try to understand what their mind is doing first and foremost and use their behavior as their way of communicating what they’re thinking. To modify not just behavior but the mindset itself, I feel it’s important to have a variety of different tools in your toolbelt and as much information as possible.
Because of the way dogs perceive the world and react to it, I was able to understand myself and the people around me so much better. Each dog offered me the clarity I had been searching for by being an authentic reflection of their surroundings. Unlike so many other things in life, with dogs what you put in is EXACTLY what you get out. Each dog teaches me in honest and direct ways exactly what to put in.
They don’t have hidden agendas. They don’t talk behind your back. Everything they tell you comes from a place with no malice and no selfish intentions. It’s simply the truth that they’re experiencing at that given moment. If the truth hurts, it’s up to you to change. And change is exactly what I specialize in.
Because it was such a long journey for me to change, I believe patience is key when it comes to working with both dogs and humans. I didn’t understand how to be a strong, confident, and clear leader overnight so I never expect my clients to either. Each dog and each human I work with is different. Each human may not have natural personalities that are conducive to strong, confident, calm, and clear leadership. Each dog I work with may not have natural personalities that fit exactly with their owner’s. But, over time, I realized that people’s willingness to change and become stronger, calmer, and more confident was a lot like mine: they’ll do it for their dog.
Dogs are famous for having the amazing ability to make humans feel better by just having them near us. But a dog with an unstable mind has an even more valuable strength. If you listen to them, the unstable dog will push you past feeling better in the moment into becoming better overall. When I start working with a new client, my main objective in that first session is to simply “translate” for the dog. I teach each client to focus on the dog’s perspective instead of their own human perspective. My job is not to teach
the dog how to think like a human, it’s to teach the human to think a bit more like a dog. By simply teaching people what their dogs are telling them, each client I work with becomes stronger, calmer, and more confident under the guidance of their own dog. At the end of the day, your dog is the teacher….I’m just the translator."
Considering Professional Training?
If you're interested in receiving professional training for your canine companion, you may want to start with this questionnaire. The following questionnaire consists of questions that Millie herself came up with to get insight into you and your pet. Based on your answers, Millie will be able to contact you with her recommendations and pricing information!