Certified Service Dog Coach Lisa Triggs, MSc, has degrees in psychology and animal behavior as well as a CPDT-KA. Her business, Alliance Animal Training, offers a variety of services in Port Orchard and Seattle, Washington. In addition to service dog training, she offers group classes for puppies and dogs in basic skills as well as advanced skills and dog sports. Lisa shares her home with her animal-loving husband, six Shetland sheepdogs, five cats and a horse. Her dogs have earned titles in agility, Treibball and tricks, as well as AKC Canine Good Citizen titles.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up on the east coast with a variety of animals in my home. In college, I majored in psychology and animal behavior while working at a boarding facility and veterinary office. During that time, I also trained my first dog, Tye, to be a therapy dog, visiting the nursing home twice a month.
During my senior year in college, I started volunteering at the New York Aquarium (NYA), and I fell in love with marine mammals. I was ecstatic to secure a full-time position working at the NYA after graduation. I spent my days caring for and training animals of various species including walruses, beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, sea otters and penguins. Several years later I moved to the Pacific Northwest for a job at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, where I was able to work with even more different species. I pursued my graduate degree and did my research thesis on the walrus. I became known as a walrus expert, and I helped establish the U.S. Walrus Conservation Consortium.
While still working at the zoo, I began to pursue agility as a hobby. I was hooked! I loved the extra-close relationship this created between me and my dogs. I started dabbling in other dog activities as well, including tricks, Treibball and canine conditioning. After the most amazing 26 years of working full time with exotic animals, I decided it was time for my life to take a different path. I started my own training business – Alliance Animal Training.
What made you decide to train service dogs?
I got into service dogs because of the intimate bond that must be formed between an animal and human to create the service dog team. I formed really close relationships with the animals I cared for in my work at the zoo. I wanted to help others create this same type of bond.
Tell us about your work training service dogs.
My service dog training program is still pretty new. I have formed my own program based on 125-150 hours of work with dog-handler teams. I have teams go through all the typical training needed for service work, but I also require them to take classes that help build their relationship. Class options include agility, Treibball, Rally and others, whatever can fit into the team’s lifestyle. I find the prolonged relationship between myself and the teams most rewarding.
Tell us about your business, Alliance Animal Training.
My training business is quite varied. I love to learn new things, so I love to teach a variety of types of classes. In addition to service dog training, I specialize in agility, Treibball, impulse control and other classes that help strengthen the human-animal bond. I am really good at problem solving and thinking outside of the box. I am also available for consultations regarding exotic animals.
What motivated you to enroll in the SDC course?
I am a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and enjoy reading their listserv. I asked the listserv for resources to learn about service dog training. The Cooperative Paws SDC program was highly recommended by a variety of people. I did some research and was very impressed by Veronica, her credentials and her firsthand experience. I signed up as soon as possible!
What did you like most about the SDC program?
There were a variety of things that really struck me regarding this course. I appreciated how accessible Veronica made herself to her students. She sent personal emails reinforcing our progress. I also enjoyed the projects that were required. In one project, students had to pick a busy location a service dog team might have to go and really look at it from their perspective. I also like the Facebook page for graduates. It is a great way to reach out to others in the field with questions.
What has surprised you about working with service dogs?
Most lay people think it is easy to turn a dog into a service dog. It is not! It takes a long time, is a lot of hard work and requires a total commitment.