Who is Sarah Richardson, PhD?

Sarah Richardson (PhD, CPDT-KA, CDBC, CSAT) is The Canine Connection’s founder and lead instructor/trainer. She has been professionally involved with dog training and behavior since 1998.

From 1998 to 2001, Dr. Sarah apprenticed with Kay Stephens, DVM, a veterinarian in College Station, Texas, who specializes in dog training and behavior and who was one of the first positive reinforcement trainers in the country. While working with Dr. Stephens, Dr. Sarah taught training classes for teen and adult dogs, assisted Dr. Stephens with her behavior consultations, and absorbed an enormous amount of knowledge from one of the true pioneers in the field. Through this intensive, hands-on experience, Dr. Sarah developed a foundation of knowledge and skills that led to the founding of The Canine Connection after she moved to Chico, California in 2001.

Dr. Sarah founded The Canine Connection in January 2002. She was the first to introduce positive reinforcement methods of dog training, based on a scientific approach to understanding dog behavior, to dog lovers in Chico and California’s North Valley. Since that time, she has helped thousands of dog parents with her positive, progressive approach.


  • In early 2002, Dr. Sarah became one of the first in the nation to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA; Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers), a certification she has renewed every three years since then through active continuing education.
  • Additionally, she is one of only a handful of trainers to also be recognized as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC; International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), a certification she has held and renewed every two years since 2006.
  • Dr. Sarah received a Certificate in Canine Counseling, with Honors, in 2002, from the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, widely considered the “Harvard” of dog training.
  • In summer 2015, she completed a 3-month, certification program in behavior modification for separation anxiety under Malena DeMartini (who literally “wrote the book” on separation anxiety) and became a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT).
  • Additionally, Dr. Sarah is a licensed evaluator for Pet Partners, the nation’s leader in setting standards for animal-assisted therapy.
  • She is a Certified Trick Training Instructor with Kyra Sundance’s program Do More With Your Dog.
  • She is also a Certified Dog Walker (which means certified for dog pack management) through the nation’s only Dog Walking Academy.

Leading Edge Knowledge

Dr. Sarah has taken behavior courses with the field’s top trainers, including Bob and the late Marian Bailey (the world’s foremost experts in animal training), Jean Donaldson (author of Culture Clash, Dogs Are From Neptune, and Mine!), and many other internationally recognized trainers and behaviorists. She truly loves learning and has completed hundreds of hours of professional workshops and seminars so she can bring the most recent knowledge and techniques to her students.

Click HERE to see some of the educational seminars, workshops, and conferences she has attended.

A Trainer’s Trainer

Dr. Sarah leads a skilled, professional staff that is passionate about helping people and dogs develop fun, energetic, and lasting connections. She’s a “trainer’s trainer,” mentoring many aspiring dog trainers and animal professionals as they develop their knowledge and skills. She is an approved mentor-trainer for CATCH (Canine Trainers Academy) and has several dog trainer apprentices working under her at any given time.

Code of Ethics

As a member in good standing of the leading certification and professional organization in the field of dog training and behavior, Dr. Sarah adheres to the codes of ethics of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and Pet Professional Guild. Here own Code of Ethics is:

  1. Always treat clients and animals with respect and kindness, withholding judgement, and sharing and implementing advice and approaches that are based in the most current scientific knowledge about dog behavior. To this end, Dr. Sarah consults and confers frequently with other professionals and attends dozens of hours of continuing education every year.
  2. Recognize that behaviors reflect underlying emotional states that must be understood, addressed, and potentially modified if real behavior change is going to occur. Particularly when stress, fear, and anxiety are the emotional roots of behavior, it is humane, fair, and right to address the root cause rather than simply suppress or change the behavioral response.
  3. Use positive tools and methods and avoid punishing tools and methods  when applying training and behavior approaches. This includes avoiding the use of prong/pinch, choke, and shock collars that are designed to cause discomfort and suppress behavior. Dr. Sarah's approach is to prevent unwanted behavior and encourage and reinforce desired behavior so that this becomes the dog's default behavior.
  4. Be honest at all times, including not guaranteeing the results of training and behavior programs, or suggesting that there are "quick fixes" to complex behavior problems. As behavior is affected by many factors, some of which are well beyond the control of Dr. Sarah and the dog's owners, and as behavior is also dynamic, it is misleading to offer guarantees. Rather, we apply our best knowledge based on the most recent scientific understanding to a well-defined training program, make adjustments as necessary, to help our dogs e the best they can be.
  5. Maintain professional integrity at all times, including representing herself and The Canine Connection accurately, interacting with colleagues within the training and behavior profession honorably, keeping her word, and remaining humble and grateful.
“I met Sarah roughly 14 years ago when I had a fearful German Shepherd pup that I did not know how to handle. I had taken him to three other trainers before meeting Sarah. One trainer told me the dog was useless. One trainer said to put the pup into those situations that scared him, saturate him until he changes behavior, and the other trainer just did not  know what to do with him. When Sarah first met my shepherd she said ” this is going to be one of the sweetest dogs you will ever have”. She was right. It was this dog who changed my heart for the better and helped me begin to understand the canine world. Sarah taught me to train this pup in a positive, reinforcing manner. She taught me about thresholds, how to approach his fearful behavior and begin to change it, in turn changing the dog's mind set and fear responses. Fourteen years later, my third shepherd in tow, she continues to inspire me to learn more about canine behavior and training. I am now studying animal behavior in college and continue to perfect my marker training skills with all my animals.  I strongly recommend Sarah Richardson, and The Canine Connection team to anyone wanting to better understand how animals learn, and how to use positive based training methods.”
Candice Smith
Service Dog Trainer

Research on Human-Animal Bond

Besides her involvement with The Canine Connection, Dr. Sarah is also a faculty member at Chico State and a researcher on the human-animal bond. At Chico State, she teaches a class she has developed for all majors entitled "Human-Animal Interactions." This class was recently recognized as one of three new and innovative classes at Chico State. Her research papers have been presented at national and international conferences.

Click HERE for a list of papers and presentations.

Dr. Sarah’s Animal Family

Dr. Sarah’s own animal family has included many dogs and two dog-like cats. Her dog family has included (not all at the same time) a Labrador Retriever, three Greyhounds, four German Shepherd Dogs, three Australian Shepherds, a German Short-Haired Pointer, an Aussie-Brittany Spaniel mix, a Catahoula-Greyhound mix, a Dalmation-Lab mix, a Norwegian Elkhound mix, a Staffordshire Terrier mix, and… a Schipperke!