At A Pleasant Dog, we use operant conditioning, classical conditioning and positive reinforcement (a.k.a. science) to help you and your dog be the best team you can be. We are proud to be the premier source for positive reinforcement training in Michigan and to lead our industry through continuing education for trainers, behaviorists and the veterinary community.
Our trainers are based in Grand Rapids and the lakeshore and all carry or are pursuing industry recognized certifications. They are educated in learning theory, ethology, animal husbandry, health, and more. We keep our skills sharp through continuing education. In addition to dog training, many of our trainers have crossed over from dog training to other species and bring experience in equine learning, feline learning, exotic learning, and more to the classroom.
Just like a human school, we have trainers who specialize in different subjects including puppy socialization, AKC CGC, tricks and sports, fear, anxiety and tough behaviors like aggression and more. Whatever your learning goals, we can help you and your dog. And if we can’t, we will refer you to someone who can.
Gineva has been training horses for 15 years. She previously founded Cloverfield Stables, where she enjoyed working with learners of all ages. For the last six years, Gineva has poured her heart and soul into learning to apply the principles of positive reinforcement to her equine training.
When Gineva reached out to shyly ask about learning about training dogs, we were thrilled. We have long wished to expand our practice to multiple species, and bringing Gineva aboard is a first step toward Pleasant Horsemanship! Gineva is part of our Lakeshore team, and lives in the Spring Lake area.
When Gineva isn't working in our dog training program, she assists us with our administrative team. She's got kindness in spades, a drive to excel, and a wit so sharp, it could cut diamonds. Gineva is owned and loved by two pitties, Dutchess and Gwendolyn Ruffles; and one horse, an Arabian gelding named Con, whose great grand-sire was one of the horses who played the black stallion in the movie.
Marin Sarnacki holds a bachelor’s degree in Zoology with a concentration in Animal Behavior from MSU. Through high school & college she worked at several different dog daycare & boarding facilities as well as an animal shelter & a veterinary hospital. Helping to rescue dogs is her passion; and she fostered several dogs while they were looking for new families. Marin is working towards becoming a certified trainer. Her goal is to help dogs find their perfect person & to help dogs be their best version!
Michelle has been working with exotic and domestic animals for over a decade. She pours passion and drive into whatever she sets her mind to doing and loves to share that with everyone around her. Michelle joined our team in the spring of 2021 to help take the reins of the administration team. She works behind the scenes helping to keep things organized and running smoothly. When she is not hunkered down on her computer helping us, she is taking care of her beautiful big family of six. She is always busy doing something interesting from pigeon racing and bee keeping in the spring and summer to practicing falconry and hunting in the fall and winter. Falconry is the pursuit of wild game with a trained bird of prey. There are only about a hundred falconers in Michigan and less than four thousand in the country.
Introducing Alex Stephenson, Admin Extraordinaire! Alex has loved dogs and animals from a young age and always aspired to work with them. She obtained her undergrad degree in biology and philosophy with a focus on topics like paleontology and consciousness. Her masters is an early prehistory, where she studied the domestication of canids (see why we love her?) Alex would tell you that she’s overjoyed to serve at A Pleasant Dog, where she serves as the main contact to connect people and dogs to the many great things we do. In her free time, Alex spends time with her husband, Josh, training her cat, Starbucks, raising plants, and hiking!!
We first met Aries as a little girl and knew right then and there she would grow up to work with animals. Aries helps run our playgroups and train our puppy day camps. She can frequently be seen holding a shy puppy in her coat for extra confidence building.
Aries has been accepted to Michigan State University in the fall, where she hopes to study to become a veterinarian. In her free time, she dances with Imprint Dance Company.
Alexis has been involved with dogs and dog welfare from a very young age. From participating in dog 4-H, to visiting the local dog shelter with her mom, to volunteering and fostering for local animal shelters as an adult, Alexis has always known that dogs would play a major role in her life. After attaining a BS in Marketing from Ball State University in Indiana, she worked in the marketing field for many years, before making a career change to work with animals. After 4 years of working in a local veterinary clinic as a veterinary assistant, Alexis came to A Pleasant Dog to work with dogs and their owners in a different capacity. In addition to helping with marketing and administering A Pleasant Dog, Alexis is also interning with our training team!
When Alexis isn’t at A Pleasant Dog, she enjoys spending time at home with her husband, Nolan, usually watching football, and hanging with her new furkid, Muppet, and whatever foster dog is living with them at the time. In addition to volunteering, Alexis enjoys running and working in her flowerbeds.
Alex cannot recall a time when she did not have a dog in her life. She has always grown up with small and large dogs. Once she completed her Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, she knew it was time to raise her own puppy. She rescued a sweet, little border collie mix at that time and discovered A Pleasant Dog.
Emmy is different from any dog Alex had in the past. She had anxiety, so Emmy started researching more and more about positive reinforcement training to provide Emmy with the most secure, loving and happy life possible. Emmy has given Alex so much purpose. Not only can she help teach kids in schools, but she discovered her passion for helping dogs learn as well.
Alex and Emmy are involved in a variety of dog sports including without limitation disc, agility, and nosework. They love going on adventures to new places to hike. In her free time, Alex also enjoys playing soccer, listening to music, and traveling with friends and family around the world!
Tara has always had a drive for helping people and pets. She graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice. After working in pet retail for two years, she fell in love with training. Tara is compassionate, empathetic, and bright. She believes all dogs, any breed or age, are capable of reaching their full potential. Tara lives in Holland and is part of our Lakeshore training team.
In her time off, Tara loves to spend time with her fiance, and their home zoo. With three dogs, two cats, a ferret, and fish, she's never short on things to do. She loves reading, advocating for human rights, true crime podcasts, cooking, and relaxing evenings with friends. Tara is currently pursuing her CPDT-KA.
Sam hails from the exotic world and has been in the zookeeping field for almost 7 years. What started at age 3 as a desire to become a T-rex keeper has evolved into a love of all animals. Working with a variety of species, her experience with marker training and positive reinforcement has spanned from dogs and cats, to whales and parrots.
"What I love most about training is seeing the relationships formed between the people and the animal. Watching both parties grow over time and develop their trust is what makes training so rewarding to me."
She lives in Grand Rapids with her partner Taylor, a chocolate lab Lucy, and a rascally ferret Jasper. In her free time she enjoys trivia, puzzling, concerts, and being with friends.
Roxanne grew up fascinated with horses and rode religiously for ten years. After her dog Oakley found her, though, her passion for dogs and training emerged. Oakley suffers from anxiety and separation anxiety, which drove Roxanne to study positive reinforcement and science based methodology to help him and others. Through this work she learned that science based methods were the only way she wanted to work with animals (and we love her for it).
Roxanne worked at Camp Saugapup for two years fine tuning her knowledge and skill in dog behavior and management prior to joining our team. She is currently studying through CATCH Canine Trainers Academy, as well as pursuing her CPDT-KA.
In her free time, she enjoys taking her dogs, Oakley and Timber on Decompression Walks, playing Fallout 76 with her partner, cooking and in summer, attending music festivals.
Gin has a diverse background, but when she adopted her first dog, she discovered her passion and has been training ever since. Gin has competed in various dog sports including barn hunt, rally, disc, freestyle, field trial, lure coursing, and her favorite, agility.
Gin currently owns three dogs: Rizzo, a longhair dachshund, and Ferris and Charlotte, two mixed breed rescue dogs. She has learned a lot about training through being the owner of both fearful and reactive dogs. Her favorite part of dog training is shaping and watching for that special moment where the dog starts to figure out what they are learning! Her mission as a trainer is to help build confidence in dogs and handlers, both individually and as a team.
In her free time, Gin enjoys training and competing with her own dogs, renovating her new home, and bird watching.
Carlos is awesome in so many ways. We first met him after working through a difficult foster dog case, and we knew he would be an asset to our team right away. He shares his passion for behavioral science with us by teaching classes and private lessons. Carlos is currently pursuing his CPDT-KA certification. We count ourselves very lucky to have him on our team.
Carlos is a social worker by day, which makes him an excellent people trainer. He is owned and loved by Rocky, his canine doppelganger, whom he adopted from Hearts of Hope. The two of them make an excellent team.
Pat has been around dogs throughout her life. Beginning with training them for her father (a dog breeder) as a child and then teaching her first 4-H class at 15, her experience is varied and well rounded.
Pat has been training dogs in agility since 1996 with her first competitions in 1997. She has titled several dogs in conformation, obedience, and agility. Currently she trains regularly with Jen Pinder, international team member, regular contributor to Clean Run Magazine and internationally known agility instructor.
She loves to teach her agility students and loves for her students to do things they never could have imaged themselves doing. Her students have earned numerous titles in all venues. For Pat, teaching people and their pups life skills and agility teams to work together is the most fun thing you can do in life.
Jenn Gavin, CPDT-KA, FPPE is the owner and founding trainer at A Pleasant Dog. She has been rescuing and training dogs for over twenty-five years. For the last ten years, Jenn has focused her practice on anxious and aggressive animals, and has become one of the most trusted trainers working with aggressive animals in our state. Jenn works extensively with veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists.
Jenn is passionate about sharing what she knows and presents frequently to the training and veterinary communities. She has been an invited speaker before the West Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, The Science of Animal Behavior Conference, West Michigan Therapy Dogs, and others. She has spoken on a variety of topics including "Helping Fearful & Aggressive Animals - It Takes A Village", with Kathy Sdao and Dr. Jill Sackman, DACVB; "Risky Business - Assessing and Managing Risk in Aggression Cases"; "How to Choose A Trainer" with Dr. Jill Sackman, DACVB; "Covid Puppies"; and "Body Language and Therapy Dogs."
Jenn is a licensed Family Paws Parent Educator! She adores working with families and their dogs.
In her free time, Jenn enjoys camping and hiking with her family and their dogs. She has a thing for old houses and has served on the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission since 2017.
What training methods do you use?
⟶ We concentrate our practice on positive, non-compulsion training methods. We believe a relationship based upon mutual trust and respect is the most effective and humane way to train your dog. To this end, we use treats, toys, and praise as motivational tools to accomplish our training goals. Our approach is supported by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior)
Does this mean I will always have to have treats or toys on me?
⟶ No (although you might be more fun if you do). We use treats and toys to teach new behaviors and phase them out as the behavior is learned.
How old should my puppy be to attend puppy training? Do they need to be fully vaccinated?
⟶ The ASVAB and AVMA recommend that puppies attend group training classes with other puppies with the same health clearances as soon as the first round of shots. At A Pleasant Dog, we prefer that puppies have the second round of shots and we require a clean fecal check to attend school. The risks of communicable diseases are outweighed by the benefits of early socialization (and the fallout of having a puppy who misses socialization during the critical window for socialization, which closes at 12 weeks of age).
What payment methods do you accept?
⟶ Cash, check, major credit cards
At A Pleasant Dog, we strive to make learning with your dog fun and easy through a wide variety of training offerings. We offer everything from one on one private training sessions, to group classes, to stay and train offerings, and everything in between.