Jean Donaldson: Instructor, Coach and Mentor

The Academy for Dog Trainers was founded in 1999 by Jean Donaldson.

She ran it for ten years as a residential program at The San Francisco SPCA before spending a year and a half re-inventing the curriculum in its current form as a two-year e-learning course. The new format broadens the scope and content of the original program, includes the latest research on behavior and training, and allows students a much longer enrollment time so that they may study, “marinate” and integrate concepts and skills, train and fit their course work around their life commitments.

Jean is one of the top dog trainers in the world and has lectured extensively in the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. She is a four-time winner of The Dog Writers’ Association of America’s Maxwell Award, and her seminal book The Culture Clash was named number one training and behavior book by The Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Her other titles are Mine! A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs, Fight! A Guide to Dog-Dog Aggression, Dogs Are From Neptune, and Oh Behave! Dogs From Pavlov to Premack to Pinker.

Her most recent book, Train Like a Pro, was her first written training guide for a lay audience.  In 2018, Jean authored and instructed Dog Training 101 for The Great Courses, another resource for dog guardians.

Before transitioning full-time to pet dog training, Jean competed in dog sports with dogs of various breeds, earning numerous titles and wins including OTCh, HIT, TDX, and FDCh, as well as a CGC. She ran a successful training school for fifteen years, and spent six years doing primarily referral aggression cases. She holds a degree in comparative psychology and is a keen student of evolutionary biology.

Sarah Pennington: Coach and Mentor

Sarah will be an important part of your journey through the Academy. An experienced hands-on trainer and the owner of Yaletown Dog Training, she will guide you in timing and technique as you progress through your video assignments and provide support and encouragement at each level of the Academy course.

Sarah became interested in the science of animal learning when she read the Culture Clash 10 years ago and has never looked back. She runs her own dog training business, Yaletown Dog Training and is a member of the Board of Directors for West Coast Cocker Rescue, which takes in Cocker Spaniels from high-volume shelters in British Columbia and Los Angeles and volunteers with the BC SPCA.

Sarah has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Guelph, and worked as a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver for many years. For the last 15 years she worked in Pre hospital cardiac arrest resuscitation research.

As a board member of Families for Children, an orphanage in Southern India, Sarah has regularly travelled to Coimbatore since 1982, and serves as the nonprofit’s Volunteer Coordinator. Sarah lived in India for three years and Mogadishu Somalia for one year where she acted as volunteer director for Families for Children.

A Montreal native, Sarah moved to Vancouver in 1985. She and her husband share their home with two rescue dogs – a Pekingese mix and a Whippet cross.

Kristi Benson: Coach and Mentor

Kristi lives in San Clara, Manitoba, Canada, where she is the owner of Kristi Benson Dog Training.  In addition to working with pet dogs and owners, Kristi has fostered, trained and placed racing sled dogs since 2007, and worked with sled dogs since 2005. 

Originally trained as an archaeologist, Kristi will be putting her science skills to use helping The Academy conduct research, as well as coaching and mentoring students on their Levels, and many other projects. 

Kristi enjoys skijoring and recreational mushing with her Alaskan huskies, training the heritage chicken and cattle on her farm, and all things to do with Pleistocene megafauna.

Lori Nanan

Lori Nanan lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania and is owner of, which provides client-friendly courses as well as business consulting services for trainers.  Previously, Lori was the Canine Behavior Education Coordinator at Women’s Humane Society in Bensalem PA.  Lori provides classes to the public and to WHS shelter dogs, as well as free monthly presentations to educate the public on all things dog. 

Lori founded Your Pit Bull and You, a resource created to highlight rewards-based training and promote pit bulls in a positive light with fellow Academy team member, Kelly Cottrell.  Lori also works with Academy grad Malena DeMartini-Price, doing initial contacts for potential separation anxiety clients.  

Her interests include pit bulls, shelter dogs, enrichment, her own dog, Hazel, who keeps her on her toes, ice cream and Game of Thrones.  Lori runs The Academy’s social media, helps new students get integrated into The Academy and navigate program resources, as well as working on other projects – she is The Gamekeeper for our annual tradition, “The Academy Awards,” –  reminding us all that we didn’t get into dogs to add more drudgery to our lives!

Casey McGee

Casey owns Upward Hound Dog Training in River Falls, Wisconsin.  She is an Honors graduate of the Academy as well as Malena DeMartini’s separation anxiety certification program.  

Casey found her calling in force-free training after years of volunteer rescue work and a career working with domestic violence and sexual assault advocates, law enforcement and prosecution to reform the way that public institutions respond to violence against women and children.  

Most recently from Duluth, Minnesota, Casey and her partner now live on a retired dairy farm in western Wisconsin with their three dogs and a flock of geriatric chickens.

Erik Tamm

Erik lives in Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, where he splits his time between dog training and software development.  Prior to getting involved in volunteering and dog training in Hong Kong, Erik worked in various countries around the world as a software developer.  

A native of Sweden, Erik enjoys training his own two dogs, James and Charlie, as well as hiking, windsurfing and spending time with his family in his spare time.  

An Academy Honors graduate, Erik handles all things tech for The Academy.  

Kelly Cottrell

Kelly lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Prior to moving to moving to Knoxville and starting her family, Kelly served as the B&T Manager at the Louisiana SPCA in New Orleans and Vice President of The Sula Foundation, an advocacy organization devoted to fostering responsible pit bull guardianship in New Orleans. 

She founded, with The Academy’s Lori Nanan, Your Pit Bull and You, the positive training website and social media phenomenon.  She has presented seminars, videos and talks on a variety of topics including reactive dog classes and desensitization and counterconditioning. 

Kelly helps The Academy with graphic design and art,  as well as being involved in many other Academy projects.