Meet Marissa

 

Facilitating transformation, behavior change, and connected relationships for dogs AND their people.

It all started with Sully


In 2007, a 6-month-old black lab mix named Sully walked into my life! I was so happy to have found my perfect companion and even more excited to begin our perfect relationship. 

As Sully grew both older and more attached to me, he became less tolerant of other dogs and started barking and lunging on leash. I felt embarrassed and confused. This wasn't “supposed” to happen to me - I'm a dog trainer after all.

Over time, Sully’s behavior started to get worse and I became more and more frustrated with him. The heavy realization that my perfect dog did not exist was so sad for me. My ego was disappointed she didn’t get her perfect relationship. 

I took a step back and developed a training plan with the hopes of changing my dog’s behavior. The training plan focused on what I wanted Sully to do instead of barking and lunging. I thought if I could control his behavior, we would both be happy! Right?!


The paradigm shift


And, that’s when it hit me! My plan was only addressing Sully’s behavior. What about my thinking or behavior needed to shift? What was my role in this relationship? And how could I work together with Sully instead of making him the one to blame?

When I stopped trying to control Sully and focused exclusively on understanding him, how he sees the world, and why he was reacting in certain ways, I was finally able to get to the root of his problems AND develop compassion for him along the way. That is when the true behavior shift took place for BOTH of us!

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Trainer. Coach. Podcaster. Teacher. Speaker. Explorer. Lifelong Learner. Extrovert. Empathetic Listener.


My professional experience


I began my career working with canine companions after attending the Academy for Dog Trainers in 2007. Shortly after, I developed my private practice, Paws & Reward: Coaching people, Training dogs. Through my life experiences, education and my relationship with Sully, I have developed a unique approach that inspires behavioral transformation for both​ dogs and their pet parents. 

I believe that our relationship with our canine companions can be a window into how we relate to our world around us which allows us an opportunity to expand as individuals. This innovative, personal development approach is designed to help people cultivate self-awareness and intimacy in the relationship with their dog, themselves and others. I outlined this approach in my book: Human-Canine Behavior Connection: Building Better Relationships Through Dog Training.

In addition to my private practice, I have had the pleasure of working for three different animal shelters directing their behavior departments in CO & CA, the most recent being the Dumb Friends League. I have implemented many innovative canine and feline behavior modification programs. As a result of these efforts, I have been invited to present at several industry conferences. In addition to that success, I have provided behavior consulting to shelters in Texas, Colorado, California, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

Currently, I am the Colorado Humane Society’s Community Liaison at Dumb Friends League, offering animal shelters and rural CO communities the education and resources needed to expand their animal welfare impact. I am also the Board President of the Shelter Playgroup Alliance, offering education to shelter staff and volunteers to develop comprehensive enrichment programs to support the animals in their care.    

Certifications & Education


  • Certificate in Training and Counseling through Academy for Dog Trainers
  • Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed
  • 2007: SFSPCA Academy for Dog Trainers
  • 2007: Clicker Expo Rhode Island
  • 2009: Clicker Expo California
  • 2014: Fulfillment Course with the Coaches Training Institute
  • 2014: Fundamentals Course with the Coaches Training Institute
  • 2015: CFAWA Annual Conference 
  • 2016: CFAWA Annual Conference 
  • 2016: IAABC Annual Conference
  • 2017: HSUS Annual Conference 
  • 2017: PCAT Behavior Evaluation Training 
  • 2017: Petfinder Adoption Options - Sacramento 
  • 2017: Petfinder Adoption Options - Albany 
  • 2018: Canine Science Symposium 
  • 2018: CFAWA Annual Conference 
  • 2017: Petfinder Adoption Options - Phoenix 
  • 2018: Shelter Playgroup Summit
  • 2019: Learning and Living with Animals, Dr. Susan Friedman online course
  • 2019: Shelter Playgroup Summit
  • 2019: CFAWA Annual Conference
  • 2020: The Lemonade Conference
  • 2020: Shelter Playgroup Summit

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