Meet Us Monday - Vanessa Charbonneau

Some of you may already know me; maybe you've taken a group class, or done some private training sessions with me.

Perhaps you've just chatted with me via e-mail before. Maybe you've heard my name, or the name of my business.

Maybe this is your first time on my site and you have no clue what you're getting into!

What I'd really like is for you to get some insight into the person and passion behind Sit Pretty Pet Services. Maybe when you can attach a face to the name you will feel more comfortable and confident asking your questions, and discussing your worries about your beloved pet.

Animals have been a big part of my world from day one; something I am incredibly grateful for. Every animal that has been in my life, whether it be as a family pet, my own personal dog, a neighbor's pet, a client's dog, or one I simply pass on the street - they're all teachers. I am constantly learning, evolving and growing from the experiences I share, and interactions I have with this plethora of animals in my life.

My Dad was my first dog training role model; he was a member of the Vancouver Police Department's K9 Division for 11 years. I was indirectly involved in a lot of puppy rearing, some of the basic tracking and obedience training, and got to witness formal training sessions with the team of handlers and their dogs. A working dog and human relationship is a really incredible thing to observe; I think that when you are forced to trust a dog with your life, you develop a relationship that cannot be summarized with words. My Dad had that relationship with his canine partner, PSD Ace. Their bond was something you might witness in the movies; they spoke each other's language and knew what made each other tick. Spending time with my Dad and his dog planted the first seeds of interest into canine behavior and training. Service dogs are trained to perform skills that you might think would be impossible for a dog to perform. I wanted to know how to train dogs to do so much more than run of the mill obedience; I wanted the tools to be able to teach dogs virtually anything within their physical limitations.

After I graduated as a Registered Veterinary Technologist in 2008, I became engrossed in a different world of animals; the medical world. After a brief, and stimulating internship at Vancouver Emergency Hospital, I moved up to Fort St John for the first time and started working at a mixed animal practice. I am still a registered VT today, although I work only on a casual basis, as I have decided to invest more of my time and energy into my training business.

It wasn't until we were transferred out of Fort St John for my husband's work that I began to look back towards the world of dog training. In 2012 I decided to jump into that world with both feet when I enrolled in the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Behavior and Training. This program opened the doors into the world of dog training for me and brought to life Sit Pretty Pet Services. Since the day I graduated as a Certified Training Partner, the snowball effect has continued to pick up momentum. Training Expos, online courses, mentorship with other dog trainers to learn their tips, tricks and teaching techniques, to my most recent educational endeavour; enrolling in The Academy for Dog Trainers, taught by the brilliant and innovative Jean Donaldson. This is a 2-year-long, science based program that I am just over a quarter of the way through.

To say I am hungry for knowledge would be putting it lightly; I crave it. To learn is to understand, and what I wouldn't give to have a deeper and more thoughtful insight into the mind of the dogs I encounter, communicate with and train on a daily basis. The mind of an animal is so much more complex and detailed than we humans give them credit for.

Some of you may know that my life is not just dogs. I am a wife, and a Mother to a pair of crazy, wonderful, and fast-paced little girls (ages 5 and 2.5 years.) These little ladies provide me with so much joy and keep me running constantly. The balance between being a Mother (which is and always will be my first priority) and running my own business, that I am so deeply invested in, is a daily struggle. Just when I think everything is where it needs to be, something changes. Maybe you've seen the effects of this struggle. Perhaps your session has been re-scheduled due to one of my kids being ill, or maybe you just witness the tired lines of parenthood on my face when classes wrap up at 9:00pm.

So when I am slow to return e-mails, or when I can only book your sessions on certain days during the hours that I have childcare available, this is why.

I have the privilege (and challenge) of owning Kaslo, a 6-year-old Heeler Mix who my husband and I adopted from Idaho 5.5 years ago. Kaslo was a busy little puppy who had poor self-control skills; honestly, in some moments he still does. He has poor social skills with other dogs, and is leash reactive. He is far from perfect, but for me, he is the perfect teacher and perfect companion, and my time with him has made me a more patient and understanding trainer.

Everyday of life comes with new challenges and opportunities to learn; it can be from my family, a friend, a new client or their dog. I embrace every opportunity to learn and to teach, not only those who come to me looking for help, but myself as well. My passion is my job, and I'm so fortunate to be able to spend my time doing what I love.

So if I'm not teaching class, or working with a dog, I'm generally found at the park with my kids, or taking them to some sort of activity. If you can't find me with my family, I'll be found deeply immersed in my schoolwork; studying, learning and growing as a trainer so that I can provide my clients and their families (pups, of course) with the best service and experience possible.

That's me.

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