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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 Cal State Chico. When she arrived in Chico, she realized that there were no opportunities for people to learn about the power of positive training in this area and 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. Dr. Sarah was one of the first in the nation to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-KA and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, a title currently held by only a few hundred people in the nation. She is also a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer and Licensed Evaluator for Pet Partners, the premier animal therapy program in the nation. 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 frequently participates in continuing education opportunities with her community 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.

Autumn Stansfield

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 pogram, Autumn answered our 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. In this capacity, Autumn will be expanding our reach beyond the walls of The Canine Connection to help build a variety of community programs and events that benefit animals and animal lovers in a myriad of ways. Originally from Sonoma, California, Autumn has fallen in love with Butte County, making her home in Forest Ranch with her family.


Lexi Pillsbury

Client Care Coordinator

Lexi joined The Canine Connection not long after she realized her true passion and desire was to work with dogs in a setting that focused on the best care and treatment of our furry family members. She graduated from Chico State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Physiology but decided to pursue a career that better fit her dog-loving lifestyle. Originally from Paradise, she has spent the last several years rescuing dogs and hopes to always be able to provide a loving home for a pup in need. Lexi’s current rescue is a little, courageous Maltipoo named Toby who now gets to spend his days greeting clients and hanging with the other small dogs! With years of background in customer service, she is dedicated to ensuring both humans and dogs receive the best service possible!


Training Team

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.

Nancy Kerns

Puppy Development Specialist and Instructor

Nancy Kerns, who is our lead puppy program instructor, 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.

Suzanne Morlock

Agility Specialist and Instructor

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.

Jacob Paxson (and Kitty)

Training Assistant

Jacob is a life-long animal lover and urban cowboy. He moved to Chico from Sacramento to attend college here and because he loves the rural 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 Padgett

Training Assistant

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 loves up to her name in size alone – 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!

Emily Treat

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

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.

Bryan Mills

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 dogs, 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 their caretakers 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 origins, 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 Funke

Weekend Supervisor

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 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 she can be found with her own dog, a first generation doodle who has one of the most caring and coolest dog moms in the universe. We are glad he is willing to share her with our VIIPS (very impressive and important pooches) at The Canine Connection.

Jenny Romo


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, she 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 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.


Nicholas Siemens

Dog Care Attendant

Nick first came to The Canine Connection as part of a high school internship program and he never left! His love of dogs, commitment to working with them, and team spirit became quickly apparent and we knew we had to adopt him into our Canine Connection family. While Nick loves all dogs – big and small – his own furry companion is an Aussie named Lilly that he enjoys training. Nick grew up in Orland, riding his horse and enjoying the family Aussies.



Marc Stiver

Dog Care Attendant

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 the right 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.

Mary Cron

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!


Gillian Morris

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.

Courtney Doughman

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 an online 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.


Brandon Bark

Night Owl

Bio coming soon