Sarah Richardson, PhD, CPDT-KA, CDBC, CSAT
Certified Professional Dog Trainer-KA, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer;
Founder, Owner, and Lead Dog Training & Behavior Specialist
Dr. Sarah founded The Canine Connection in Chico, California, in January 2002, after moving to Chico to assume a faculty position at Chico State. When she arrived in Chico in the summer of 2001, she realized that there were no opportunities for people to learn about the power of positive training in the area - not surprising since positive reinforcement training was then very new to dog training everywhere - and so she set about creating ways for people and dogs to benefit from science-based, force-free training. Since then, she has helped generations of dogs (and now generations of people too), with their beloved canine friends. You see, she's not just a dog trainer. She's a teacher - of people and their dogs.
Who is Dr. Sarah? She was one of the first in the nation to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-KA (back in 2002). She is also a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, a title currently held by only a few hundred people in the nation. She has further expertise as a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer. And she has been involved in therapy dog work since 1998 and is a Licensed Evaluator for Pet Partners, the premier animal therapy organization in North America. She is strongly committed to mentoring new trainers and is a mentor for CATCH Canine Trainers Academy. Although she has been professionally involved in dog training and behavior for over two decades, she regularly participates in continuing education opportunities with her academy of colleagues that hold the practice and profession of dog training to the highest standards.
Click HERE to read more about Dr. Sarah’s certifications, background, and experience.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Autumn discovered The Canine Connection in 2015 when she was seeking help for her new puppy, Darby, a sweet and spunky cattledog. Along with bringing Darby through our puppy program, Autumn answered a call for our management team and her Canine Connection adventures began. She began working for us as our Client Care Coordinator, then became our Operations Manager, and has now assumed a brand new position with us, that of Community Outreach Coordinator. Why did we develop this position? Because we are absolutely dedicated to serving our community so feel it is important give to others - animals and people - not just our clients and not just at our center. As Community Outreach Coordinator, Autumn is building a variety of community programs and events that benefit animals and animal lovers in a myriad of ways. She is overseeing our therapy dog program, annual fundraiser for Chico Animal Shelter, our monthly giving program to animal-related causes, Camp Fire assistance programs, and so much more. Originally from Sonoma, California, Autumn has fallen in love with Butte County, making her home in Forest Ranch with her family.
Along with Dr. Sarah, our training team includes instructors of national prominence and assistants with expertise and enthusiasm. Together, we ensure that your training program is positive and productive, whether conducted at your home or our center, through group, private, or board-and-train services.
Instructor - Manners and Life Skills
Nancy Kerns brings decades of experience and her national reputation in dog owner education to The Canine Connection. As the founding editor of the Whole Dog Journal, an advertising-free national magazine that is a strong proponent of positive reinforcement-based training methods, Nancy is immersed in the world of dogs from every perspective. For the past 22 years, she has been writing about the effectiveness and benefits of force-free, dog-friendly training, as well as reporting on up-to-date research about canine behavior and health. She is also a long-time volunteer and former board member of the Northwest SPCA in Oroville. She fosters for that shelter regularly, usually taking on any large litters of puppies that are brought into shelter care. In this way, she has raised more than 100 puppies in just the past few years. Nancy owns two dogs, both adopted from the NWSPCA, 11-year-old Otto and 3-year-old Woody, who serve as Grumpy Uncle and Fun Uncle to the foster puppies. She loves teaching puppy classes to help owners get off to a great start with their pups. She enjoys helping parents of teenage pups navigate the sometimes challenging teenage months (yes, teenage-ness is a thing for dogs just as it is for people). And she has a huge heart for helping those who have adopted adult dogs from shelters.
Instructor - Manners and Life Skills
Animals have always been a passion of Alyssa's. Growing up she had birds, fish, reptiles, rats, hermit crabs, rabbits, hamsters...and of course, dogs! In order to follow her dream of working with animals, Alyssa studied Animal Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and even had the opportunity to intern as a dolphin trainer in Bermuda for a summer!
After earning her Animal Science degree, Alyssa went on to earn a Master's degree in Environment and Community from Humboldt State University (HSU). Through her time studying and working at HSU as an academic advisor, Alyssa discovered her love of coaching people and leading classes.
Drawn to the field of dog training, Alyssa enrolled in the Dog Training Internship Academy (DTIA) in San Francisco, originally started by expert dog trainer Janis Bradley. Following her certification from DTIA, Alyssa started her own business in Berkeley called Dancing Tails Dog Training, where she provided private client consultations and taught canine behavior classes at Berkeley Humane Society.
After having her daughter in 2017, Alyssa put her business on hold and she and her family moved to Chico. Here, she and her husband, daughter, and beloved basset hound are enjoying a slower way of life than they experienced in the busy Bay Area. We're so glad they found Chico and that Alyssa has joined The Canine Connection team!
Instructor - Agility
What makes Suzanne an amazing agility instructor? She’s an addict. A complete agility addict. In 2012, Suzanne realized that her puppy, Stella, had turned the living room into Stella’s own personal agility course and so Suzanne decided she should check the sport out so that her puppy had an appropriate outlet for her energy and drive. Fast forward seven years, and Suzanne has added two other Aussies to her agility team (Sunny and Gracie) and she and her Aussie, Sunny, are ranked as one of the top teams in the country! When not teaching her devoted agility students at home, Suzanne and her three Aussies compete nationally and have earned numerous titles and championships – something they could care less about because for them this is the game they love to play the most. Indeed, what makes Suzanne not only a great trainer of her own dogs and competitor with them but also a superb coach and instructor is that Suzanne recognizes the importance of fun, play, and teamwork in the sport of agility.
Instructor - Rally O and Dog Sports
To say that Esther has a love of and commitment to dog training is an understatement! Esther is ALL ABOUT dog training, and her approach is to ground it in relationship-building games that have led to her success in agility, rally, flyball, and search and rescue. Further, Esther is known for taking “tough to train” breeds to the top levels of competition in a variety of sports.
When asked to recite her “top ten” accomplishments in dog training, Esther had this to say: “In no particular order they are: my Puli, Harry Potter, was in the top five for his breed for agility six years in a row and was invited to the Agility Invitational six times. My Schipperke was in the top five for her breed and was invited to the Invitational too. My two Bull Terriers were the number one and two for their breed in the nation in flyball for several years. My Brittany was also one of the top flyball dogs in the nation for her breed for several years, this after top trainers who had her before me said she would never play flyball. I have had several dogs in multiple breeds earn high level agility titles. My Puli earned his MACH title, and also some rally, obedience and flyball titles. I once raced in a flyball tournament and all the dogs on the team were mine - I had to get three handlers to help me! And recently, my dog Journey and I went to the Rally Nationals in Oklahoma - it was a grand adventure.”
But that’s not all… currently, Esther and Journey, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, are certified as Mission Ready Area for Butte County Search and Rescue and very active with this group. And if that’s not enough to keep her busy, Esther has nine beautiful grandchildren who all live locally and a brand-new puppy, Sailor, a Lagotto Romangolo! We are thrilled to have Esther on The Canine Connection training team!
Jacob Paxson (and Kitty)
Jacob is a life-long animal lover. We call him our "urban cowboy" because he grew up in Sacramento but moved to Chico to attend college here because he loves the rural and small town life. He initially joined our Dog Care Team, working in our daycare and boarding program, but his interest in training dogs and teaching others to do so led to his assuming his current role as one of our valued training assistants. In his first year with us, Jacob fell in love with one of our foster dogs, a sweet German Shepherd named Kitty, and adopted her. Jacob trained Kitty for therapy dog work and together they recently passed the Pet Partner Therapy Dog evaluation. Additionally, Kitty often serves as a mentor and neutral dog in our training program, helping socialize dogs to respond more comfortably with other dogs.
Ally grew up in Chico, surrounded by dogs, horses, goats, and other critters. She first came to The Canine Connection as a youngster, when her family brought their sweet Newfoundland puppy, Georgie, through our puppy program. As Georgie grew, so did Ally's love of training and she participated in several more training classes with her big furry dog. As Ally was about to finish high school, her family adopted a German Shepherd, Frankie, who also joined our training program - and at that time Ally did too! Ally is now a student at Butte College and has her first dog of her own, Midge, a dog who lives up to her name in size alone - she's tiny but there's nothing small about her personality! Midge has taught Ally some of the nuances of working with small dogs and together, the two have earned their Tricks 1 title!
Personal Assistant to Dr. Sarah
Emily, an animal lover all her life, molded her graduate and undergraduate studies to align with her passion. She recently completed her Master of Science in Psychological Sciences at Chico State with a focus on human-animal interactions. While an undergraduate student, Emily coordinated the Animal Connection program at CAVE, a program designed to link student volunteers with animal-related voluntarism in the community. As a graduate student, Emily researched the benefits for students of applying positive reinforcement techniques to working with shelter animals. During this time, she enrolled in Dr. Sarah's Human-Animal Interactions class at Chico State and became hooked on understanding canine behavior and the unique bond between dogs and their people. Emily brings to The Canine Connection not only her passion for animals but also advanced knowledge on principles of learning and behavior that she applies to understanding our canine friends.
Dog Care Team - Daycare and Boarding
Our gifted dog care team brings years of experience to their supervision of your dogs. The experience of our team includes graduating from the Animal Sciences program at Chico State, working in large, urban dog centers in the Northwest, studying in veterinary assistant programs, and volunteering at animal shelters in the U.S. and internationally. Each Dog Care team member completes a 16 module training program as part of their work with us, the only training program of its kind in the dog care industry. Our dog care team loves dogs, is skilled with dogs, and feel privileged to care for your dogs here at The Canine Connection.
Leader of the Pack
Bryan joined The Canine Connection after a long career in exemplary kitchens, juggling all the ingredients for exceptional dining experiences. When he could no longer ignore the call of the wooly and wild, he brought his multi-tasking to the world of dogs at The Canine Connection. Here, he is known for his deep love of dogs and ability to wrangle them and the team that cares for them with unwavering attention and care. When not overseeing the dogs and our team at The Canine Connection, Bryan enjoys his time with his own family of humans and animals which includes Rex, a teenage Aussie, Lola, a teenage human (who dresses up our doggie fountain each month), Bandit, a senior dog of mysterious genetic origin, two cats, a guinea pig, and his wife, Patty, who has been a friend of The Canine Connection for many years, since Bandit was part of The Canine Connection’s puppy training program.
Camille is a Chico native who brings a lively, curious spirit to her work at The Canine Connection. She recently returned to Chico after a stint in Portland, Oregon where she worked at a busy, urban daycare and boarding center with rooftop play areas - what a change for her to be able to oversee dogs at ground level in our park-like grounds! Her love and interest in animals goes well beyond her work at The Canine Connection as she is working toward her bachelors in Zoology. When not playing with dogs at The Canine Connection, Camille can be found with her own dog, a first generation doodle. We are glad he is willing to share her with our VIIPS (very impressive and important pooches) at The Canine Connection.
Jenny grew up in the small town of Glenn, outside of Chico. With a family home filled with huskies, she became comfortable, at a very early age, with canine antics and lots and lots of dog fur! Thinking she might like to work in the veterinary field, Jenny began studying for a vet tech degree but then realized she was interested in a more holistic view of animal care and is now working toward a bachelor's degree in Animal Science. With a level head and big smile, Jenny ensures that our days finish up smoothly with daycare dogs safely home and our boarding VIIPS tucked in for the night.
Marc, a recent graduate of the Animal Science program at Chico State, loves dogs and cattle, in that order. While his long-term goal is to work with cattle in nutrition or genetics, Marc is currently enjoying being immersed in all things dog. Marc has a truly special connection with dogs - every dog here at The Canine Connection, even those that are sometimes a bit skeptical about newcomers, welcomed him with wiggles and tail wags when he joined our team. He just has that "zen dog vibe." Marc came to Chico from the Bay Area and we are sure glad he is here. When not hanging with the dogs, his chosen activities are going to the gym and woodworking.
Dog Care Attendant
Mary is an animal lover and student of behavior - human behavior. When not tending to her own sweet dog or to our family of dogs at The Canine Connection, Mary is busy with her studies in investigative criminology at Butte College. She is also a published writer and we are sure we will see her on the best seller list someday. Mary has a special connection with all dogs, but a particularly special connection with one little dog named Tasha who has been Mary's best friend for many years. Mary is originally from the Pismo Beach area, came to Chico for college, and we are mighty glad she did!
Dog Care Attendant
Gill is a world traveler who feels most at home with animals. Prior to coming to Chico to attend Chico State, Gill traveled to Africa where she worked with shelter dogs (Namibia) and lemurs (Madagascar). To provide her with more opportunities to travel, she is pursuing a degree option in Hotel and Lodging Management at Chico State. When she learned about The Canine Connection, she realized a great way to combine her interest in resorts with her love of animals was to work at a dog resort - and voila! she joined our team. Gillian moved to Chico from Sonoma County and is a dog mom to a big, happy, mixed breed dog.
Dog Care Attendant
Courtney is a Chico native who grew up in a home with many different animals. While she loves all critters, she has a special connection with dogs. She loves them and they love her back just as much. Courtney is currently enrolled in a vet assistant program and so her work with dog behavior at The Canine Connection is rounding out her professional development. When not at work, Courtney might be found outdoors on the warm days or indoors on the cool days, cuddling with her sweet Dachsund.
Dog Care Attendant (Night Owl)
Brandon is a cool dude with a huge heart. He has always loved dogs and his special connection with them shows in the TLC he provides to the VIIPS (very important and impressive pooches) who are with us overnight. Prior to joining The Canine Connection as our "night owl" (one of our team members who stays overnight with the dogs), Brandon worked with persons with disabilities. His border collie, Sister, was his sidekick in this work and he discovered the wonderful effect that an affectionate and well-trained dog can have on people in need. Brandon lives in Durham with Laura and Nicky and their dog, Razzie.
Dog Care Attendant
Cheyenne, a native of Paradise, is a recent graduate of the ROP Veterinary Assistant Program.
Dog Care Attendant
Ashley is a native of Chico and life long animal lover.
Client and Canine Concierge
Madisson became a friend of The Canine Connection when she began bringing her English Mastiff puppies to us for training. She is a longtime dog lover who is hooked on the show ring. At the age of nine (yes, nine years old!), she showed her first English Mastiff, winning back to back "Best of Breed" awards. Since then, she has been actively involved in AKC showmanship with her dogs and also handles many different breeds for other owners. She currently shows her two dogs, Page, an English Mastiff, and Rou, an Australian Shepherd. She is also the co-owner of Frankie, one of Dr. Sarah's dogs, and credits Frankie with getting her hooked on the Australian Shepherd breed. Madisson lives on a small family farm with many species of animals. While she loves every animal of every species, dogs - of every size, shape, and breed - are her true passion.