Leighann Hurley, Professional Dog Trainer
Dogs have interested Leighann since childhood, but without a family pet she had to get creative when it came to spending time with dogs. In 2001, she began dog-sitting to fulfill her doggie need. In 2003, a transition to boarding out of the family home meant she got to spend even more time with the dogs.
Thanks to years of boarding, Leighann has experience with many different sizes, ages, breeds and personalities. She also offers clients special expertise for transitioning new dogs into their home.
Training and behavior modification have also been long-time fascinations for Leighann. In 2009 and 2010, she had the opportunity to Foster Train for Service Dogs, Inc. Those months were pivotal stepping stones in her training career, and the private lessons she received from their staff of professionals launched her into the reward-based dog training world. Seven years later, she volunteered as a Puppy Raiser and spent three months getting an in-depth look at the world of making puppies successful.
Communication is at the heart of Leighann’s love of training. “There is something beautiful about taking a dog who knows next to nothing, and teaching them that certain words, signals, or scenarios mean specific things for his behavior.”
Leighann also cherishes togetherness, and desires to see dogs and their families spending as much time together as possible. She advocates for training because she believes that well-behaved, well-socialized dogs enjoy richer lives spent with their families compared to their uneducated counter-parts.
In her free time, Leighann enjoys cooking, singing with the Round Rock Community Choir, reading and watching suspense-filled TV dramas with her family. Leighann is currently taking clients for Board and Train, Private Training, Day Training and Reverse Board and Train in Austin and the surrounding area!
Karin Liebrand, Professional Dog Trainer
Gentle, fun and effective are words that describe Karin’s approach to dog training. She uses rewards-based training to jump-start positive communication between pet parents and their four-legged best friends, giving them a valuable skillset that fosters a spirit of teamwork, collaboration and trust.
She is a graduate of the highly respected Karen Pryor Academy of Animal Training and Behavior, a rigorous program that focuses on positive-reinforcement training methods, learning theory and hands-on dog training. In addition to training, she has expertise in canine body language and basic behavior modification.
In 2000, she first witnessed the power of training while working with a trainer to address her own dog’s behavior issues. She quickly became a training enthusiast, attending Obedience, Tricks, Agility and Rally classes with her dogs and joining a canine drill team that performed at dog shows, nursing homes and parades. She also started volunteering at the Austin Animal Center – which is now the largest no-kill shelter in the country.
A desire to become a professional trainer began growing in Karin, and after much soul-searching, she decided to follow her heart and pursue a new career goal. Before entering the pet services field, Karin worked as a magazine writer and editor, a technical writer and a corporate trainer after earning a Master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Karin lives in Austin, Texas. Her pet family includes training superstar Squiggy (a skateboarding Border Collie mix who was adopted from the Austin Animal Center), Tillie (a lovable Lab who is a reformed leash lunger) and shy Brooklyn, a Chihuahua-Dachshund mix. Karin is currently taking clients for private training in Austin and the surrounding areas!
Donna Wasielewski, Professional Dog Trainer
Donna Wasielewski has been training dogs since she was 15 years old and entered her first dog into a 4-H obedience competition. That sparked a passion for dog training that has continued to grow for the next 20 years. Donna pursued Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice Studies and Applied Psychology Behavior Analysis and also has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Studies. During her time in college, Donna completed an internship at the local shelter where she developed and implemented a volunteer dog training program to increase adoptability.
Though her original goal was to become a police K9 officer, Donna ended up finding her passion in a different arena, working with at-risk youth and shelter dogs. In 2008, she founded Kids-N-K9s, a 6 week dog training therapy program for at-risk teens and shelter dogs at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. As the program director and lead trainer, Donna instructs the youth on how to train the dogs manners, skills, and tricks to improve their adoptability. To date, over 100 homeless dogs that were considered not very adoptable have completed the program and found homes (a 100% adoption rate!). Through this program, Donna has learned a lot about how to improve the human/animal relationship in addition to skills working with a variety of breeds, energy levels, and motivation issues. She has learned to be creative and resourceful in her methods as dogs living in a shelter can be a challenge to motivate and train. She has presented at numerous large professional conferences and University of Texas Social Work classes about the program and has been instrumental in helping several other similar programs start around the state.
In 1999, Donna started training and competing in dog agility with her Pomeranian, Mindy. Though her career was short, Mindy, with some patience and perseverance, became a very successful agility dog with a box full of blue ribbons. Since then, Donna and her Border Collie, Siryn, have had a very successful career competing all over the country including being a 3 time National Finalist, 2 time Regional Champion, and Top 10 in the nation numerous years. Her most recent accomplishment was winning 2nd place in the Finals at the 2016 AKC Agility Nationals Championships. They have earned 7 Championships and also the highest career award possible, the Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award. Several years ago, Donna found a new training challenge and hobby, Nosework, where the dog is trained to find odors for sport (like birch and clove) like police dogs are trained to find drugs and bombs. With just 6 weeks of training, Donna and Siryn scored 2nd highest in the trial at their first show. At her second trial, Donna and Siryn became the first team in the nation to earn the Level 2 title with two first place ribbons. She has been an instructor for agility and currently teaches Nosework, where her students have gone on to win some of the highest awards.
In addition to competitions, Donna loves to teach dogs manners and skills where they can be better incorporated into life activities. She enjoys taking her dogs hiking at many off leash parks, she can be found kayaking on Town Lake with her dogs during the summer, and she enjoys eating at patio restaurants while her dogs lay by her feet. She believes in using positive methods to teach because the goal is to keep the dogs’ spirit and personality while teaching them the appropriate ways to interact, behave, and ask for what they want. Donna loves working with people and seeing the excitement they have when they accomplish something positive with their dogs.
Donna currently lives in Austin with her three dogs, a spunky 15.5 year old Pomeranian named Puppy, her 12.5 year old Border Collie, Siryn, and her newest addition and agility partner in training, a 2 year old Border Collie named Fayze. Donna is currently available for Board and Train and Private Training Sessions.
Caitlin, like many animal trainers, raised and cared for a variety of animals throughout her youth. But it was during her senior year of college that she began volunteering with a non-profit animal rescue organization in Tucson, Arizona. During this time, she realized one of her greatest passions in life: working to save and improve the lives of animals. She chose a path that would combine her love for teaching and her passion for helping dogs by accepting a position as a group training instructor. During that time, Caitlin gained extensive, hands-on experience and spent countless hours researching and studying the science of animal behavior and learning theory. Hard work paid off when in 2007, she earned her professional title from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Not long after, Caitlin also became a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a certified evaluator for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Program. In January 2008, Caitlin established her own training company in southern California, where in two years she helped hundreds of dogs become proud four-legged members of their families. These successes brought Caitlin to Austin, Texas in February 2010, where she could live and work in one of the largest dog-loving cities in the country.
Like many great teachers, Caitlin only continues to learn and grow in her profession. Regularly traveling throughout the country for animal behavior conferences, training seminars and workshops, she has received instruction and guidance from many of the world’s leading animal behavior and training professionals, including Dr. Ian Dunbar, Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Karen Pryor and British dog trainer Victoria Stilwell of Animal Planet’s TV series, “It’s Me or the Dog.” Caitlin is also proud to promote future generations of educated dog trainers by mentoring students in an internship program with Animal Behavior College.
Caitlin’s primary goal is to help people create and maintain the most happy and healthy relationship with their dogs as possible, using “brain-based, not pain-based” training methods as their formula for success. She believes every dog deserves a special kind of canine education to become better behaved, lifelong companions in their homes, as well as to safely live and thrive within their community.
Caitlin currently resides in Austin, TX and shares her life with two talented rescue dogs, “Rosie,” a 6 year old Shepherd Mix and “Maggie,” a four year old Border Collie, and her two cats, “Wyatt” and “Josephine.” Currently taking clients in Austin and the surrounding area for: Board and Train, Private Training and Reverse Board and Train.
Kelly Smith, Professional Dog Trainer
Kelly started working with the puppies at her riding stable at the young age of seven, so speaking “dog” is practically her third language. Originally an East Coaster, she slid on the cowboy boots and set her sights on TX.
From private training, reverse board and training, ESA, CGC and ESD training and teaching classes, adventure training and agility, Kelly can do it all.
With 7 years of dog training experience and a CPDT- BA candidate, she takes an insurmountable amount of pride in her work. Her outgoing and warm personality makes the learning process fun and comfortable for both the dog and owner. Getting to know the families she works with allows her to see the owner’s ideal relationship which helps her visualize the path to harmony. She takes pride in what she does, and honestly loves your dog, as she considers him/her as her lovebug as well. Kelly will be with you every step of the way, from 8 weeks to 18 years. Kelly is currently taking clients in South Austin for private training, and reverse board and train.
Carmen Marburger, Professional Dog Trainer
Carmen Marburger was born and raised in Germany where she met her husband, an Army Officer, in 1991. Carmen got her first dog at the age of 14 and already knew back then that working with dogs was her passion. In 2000 she was introduced to clicker training and was immediately hooked. From then on she read every dog training book she could get her hands on and started attending dog training seminars. In 2010 she graduated from Animal Behavior College as a dog trainer and veterinary assistant.
She is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainer as well as the Pet Professional Guild and regularly attends conferences and seminars including the Clicker Expo. In 2011 she participated in the 5 day trainer workshop and CARAT seminar held by Suzanne Clothier (Author of Bones Would Rain From The Sky). She is an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator as well as a Pet Partners evaluator for Therapy dogs.
Carmen lives with a German Shepherd and a Standard Parti Poodle who are both registered Therapy Dogs. Carmen is currently taking clients for Reverse Board and Train and Private Training in Georgetown, Round Rock, Hutto, and the surrounding areas.
Laura Neiheisel, Founder of Austin Dog Zone
Laura has had a passion for animals since childhood, particularly dogs and horses. She began to rescue animals early in her life. As a teenager, Laura rescued a shepherd mix named Yogi who had severe food allergies and aggressive behavior towards strangers and other dogs that quickly surfaced after adoption and improved health. Yogi inspired Laura to educate herself and grow as a dog owner in all realms of care and behavioral knowledge. The next dog that had a strong impact in her life died of cancer at the prime age of 8 years old. Laura gravitated towards the dogs in shelters with signs on their crates as a warning, more often than not because they were fearful. These dogs would forever leave a stamp in Laura’s mind and heart to always pursue the best in training and care. Every single dog in Laura’s life has taught her something and made her better. And training has been an integral part of this journey.
The premature death of her family pet caused Laura to spend years researching nutrition and wellness in dogs. When Laura was in college, she worked for three years as a pet food nutritionist from 2006-2009 . She helped educate hundreds of pet owners on proper nutrition and care. Laura continues her education researching the latest medical care, holistic health, nutrition and behavior for our beloved canines. Her goal is to never stop learning. Her experiences with shelter dogs and dogs with behavioral challenges reinforced a strong belief that many pet owners are not properly educated on the fundamentals of dog ownership. Laura was determined to help educate. This passion never left. Austin Dog Zone was born in 2011.
When you inquire about Austin Dog Zone services, you will often hear from Laura first over the phone or by email. Laura frequently forms relationships with local Austin dog rescue organizations with the goal of successful adoptions and placements through training. Her favorite part about her job is the amazing clients we have and the break-through moments for both the dog and handler. There is nothing like it!
Laura lives with her husband, their dogs, Rocky, Chip and Zoey, Emma and their cat, Duncan–a full house!