By Amber Avalona/ParaglideApril 15, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It started with the teeth. Every time Kimberly Davis, a Fort Bragg wife, returned to her apartment, it was in disarray. It progressed to kennel problems and playing in puddles that should be left alone. But when Davis' beagle-hound mix upped the volume with nighttime howls, the apartment complex said it was time to go.
"I had an epiphany one day that I needed to work with dogs," said Davis, who completed a dog-training program with Animal Behavior College before enrolling in the school's veterinary assistant course. As a result of the training, Davis learned that her beagle mix suffered from separation anxiety - a behavior problem that can increase because of the military lifestyle.
"If I were a (dog owner), I would feel more comfortable being with a trainer who not just knows about the training, but knows about my dog," said Davis in citing her reason for further education.
Davis landed a job at Bed and Biscuits Boarding in Stedman, N.C., thanks to her ABC education. For the past month, she has helped at the kennel and is preparing to train a puppy that the owner rescued from South America. Davis also trains canines for other Fort Bragg Families.
So what is her favorite part of the job' Davis said, "It's having somebody come in, ready to get rid of their dog and then by the end of training, they're like, 'Maybe this is a great dog, maybe I do like this dog.'"
Steve Appelbaum, founder and president of ABC, signed an exclusive contract to provide dog trainers for Petco in the 1980s. He developed the ABC program as a way to ensure the highest level of professionalism among his staff. As word spread among animal professionals, the school quickly grew into a stand-alone company.
Students learn the positive reenforcement of appropriate behavior, versus the punishment of negative actions. To help with this, trainers use tools like clickers, housetraining aids, chewing deterrents, interactive toys and safety equipment.
"For people that want to dedicate their lives to working with animals, the fact that this kind of school exists for them is unique," said Appelbaum. ABC combines a distance (or home-based) curriculum with an externship at a veterinary hospital or animal shelter in the student's community.
Animal lovers choose between three career paths with ABC - certified dog trainer, veterinary assistant or groomer. ABC charges between $3,015 and $3,770 for its program, depending on a student's payment plan, but that price is reduced to $0 if a military spouse qualifies for the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Financial Assistance Program.
"Military Families move quite a bit, and because we have so many mentors, it's possible for people to transfer and continue with their course of study seamlessly," said Appelbaum.
Davis agreed. While working toward a bachelor degree, she lost 10 to 20 college credits with each move. Not so with ABC. Davis said, "It's been one of the easiest things I've done as far as school goes. I feel like I got a good education."
Kimberly Davis can be reached at 843-860-5313. For more information on ABC programs visit www.animalbehaviorcollege.com. To apply for MyCAA financial assistance check out www.militaryonesource.com.