Our Elite Trainers
It is important you know who you are working with your dog.
Sami Jo, Head Canine Specialist and Behaviorist
Sami Jo Menning always loved animals, but never imagined how far dogs would take her into her career. She was always finding herself in the field with her father and his trained Labradors every fall following in his footsteps. From there she found working with dogs was very rewarding.
After graduating, she went to attend Starmark Academy and earned her accredited certificate as a Canine Training and Behavior Specialist. Since then, she has used her communication skills to help dog owners learn to love living with their dogs! "Dog training can be a very personable job. Your clients let you into their homes, routines, struggles and into their lives. And sometimes the changes that training requires can be hard," she says. "I love to be the support and encouragement while those changes take place, and I love to see the results in the home that comes with training!"
Sami Jo has 4 dogs: Blu, a 7 year old German Shepherd; Tex, a 4 year old Black Lab; Lola a 4 year old corgi with so much personality AND a 3 year old Dalmatian named Ray, who makes sure to pull in everyone's attention. Blu is her everything dog who enjoys any sport she puts her mind to, but he also loves to work as a working Search and Rescue dog, certified Therapy Dog, trick dog and dock diving competitor. Tex is her retrieving fool who has earned his Hunting Retriever Champion in the UKC hunt tests, has titled in dock diving, the AKC obedience ring along with Rally. Lola loves to steal the show at any dock diving event while also practicing in barn hunt. While Ray recently earned his Championship in the conformation ring and enjoys dock diving, barn hunt, trick training and titled in Rally! One of Sami Jo's passions is dogs with jobs or in a sport and dogs who are active, healthy members of the family.
Addison, Assistant Training Manager
Addison was born and raised in Parkston, South Dakota. She graduated Starmark Academy in Hutto, Texas receiving her certification as a Canine Behaviorist and Trainer. She currently has a German Shorthaired Pointer named Coors who is very outgoing, attentive, and loves to learn new things. While in Texas, Addison also adopted a pitbull/boxer mix who is loving dock diving and being an incredible demo dog. Addison says "One of my favorite things about training dogs is seeing that 'light bulb' above their head that goes off when figuring something out and I am excited to train and work with them!" We are very blessed to have Addison a part of the team!
Madison, Dock Diving Assistant
Madison has been with Paws since the beginning of dock diving started. Madison helps run all of our dock diving classes, swimming lessons and dock diving advanced jumps. You may see her standing pool side encouraging all the dogs as they learn the sport of dock diving and swimming. She loves to see them progress through and gain confidence in the water. You may see her around competing herself with her personal dogs Diesel and Bailey in Dock Dogs as well as spending time training Diesel. Madison is a wonderful asset to the team of Paws and our dock diving growth!
Taryn, Puppy University Lead
Taryn had a big passion for animals growing up. Being surrounded by dogs her whole life helped guide her way into dog training. Her first job was working at a dog daycare and boarding facility. While working she received hands on exposure to dog body language and behavior. From there her passion grew and she completed her online Animal Behavior College for Canine Obedience. She made her way to a Senior Dog Trainer at her last job and continued to get exposure to puppy socialization, solving problem behaviors, clicker training, leash walking and teaching group classes. At Paws Pet Resort you will see her being a lead trainer in our Puppy University program where she is getting puppies started off on the right track to socializing and learning. She is also a dog owner to Frost, her Australian Shepherd and Kira her German Shepherd. She loves to spend time training and working them.
Sophie, Puppy University Assistant
Sophie is our assistant trainer for Puppy University! She was born and raised in Sioux Falls and is currently in school studying Veterinary Technology. She has two Golden Retrievers named Murphy and Maggie and loves to try new things with them such as dock diving, agility, rally classes, and more.
Sophie has been with Paws since April of 2021- while loves getting to know each puppy individually and discovering their unique personalities. One of her favorite things about working and training with our students is when they conquer a new skill. She says " I love seeing it “click” for the puppy and seeing the transformation they make from the first day to graduation. My goal for Puppy University is to help shape well-mannered puppies who can go on to do amazing things with their owners and families". She hopes to continue learning and growing as a trainer from our wonderful staff and students.
Emma, Puppy University Trainer
Emma is our newest addition to our training team. Currently living in Baltic, SD she will be attending USF in the Fall of 2022 while also working at Paws. She has a 6-month-old Brittany Spaniel/Lab mix, Millie, who is very outgoing, happy, and loves any attention she can get! Emma has been shadowing at Paws since September learning the ins and outs of training dogs. Emma says, "Working with puppies brings me so much happiness especially when they love to learn new things as much as I do" while her favorite thing about being with puppies every day is getting to know each of their very different personalities and loving them like her own! A goal I have for Millie and Emma is to continue training to be the best they can be and get more introduced to the water and the world of dock diving. You will see smiley Emma bringing up puppies and working with them in the afternoons.
Hollie, AKC Obedience Trainer
Hollie has always loved animals and knew she would always work with them one way or another. One of her first jobs was working at a dog boarding kennel in Stillwater, Minnesota where she grew up. Hollie graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Fish and Wildlife biology degree, and after college worked as a zookeeper for 15 years. Although she has left that career behind her, animals have remained a big part of her life. Hollie is a licensed master falconer and loves to spend time in late summer and fall flying and hunting with her hawk. Hollie first discovered AKC Obedience at the local kennel club and has been competing in AKC Obedience since 2014. Her German Shorthaired Pointer Faust (13 years) is retired from AKC Obedience with several High in Trial awards, High Combined, and received his Utility title right before retirement. Onyx, her 4 year old Pomeranian is currently competing in AKC Obedience. Her 1 year old Golden Retriever, Lark, is currently training for Obedience and also loves dock diving.
REVIEWS & TESTIMONIALS
"Betsy is my 3 1/2 year old Pitsky. She’s always been terrible to walk on a leash. She would pull, lunge, bark, and run around in circles when any sort of distraction came along and it was nearly impossible to redirect her once she got going. She is strong and her pulling and lunging would leave me with sore and sometimes strained muscles— it was scary and anxiety-inducing even thinking about walking her. It got to the point where we were only walking around the outside of the house or up and down the sidewalk where I knew it’d be safe and distraction-free. I decided that I really needed help and signed her up for day training with Sami where she would work with her one-on-one during the day. I was absolutely amazed with the results! She walks right beside me and no longer pulls, lunges, or runs in circles! Betsy and I now go for several mile walks almost daily in new areas. I feel so much more confident in my ability to handle her while walking- I welcome distractions now! Betsy’s behavior all around has been improved now that she can go on longer, more stimulating walks. We are BOTH much happier now." ~Cristina Matos
"Working with Sami Jo has been a very rewarding and great experience. We got our Labrador puppy, Birdie, in March of 2019 at 8 weeks old and have been taking classes with Sami Jo and even private lessons. Birdie has changed so much since then and has made leaps and bounds with her listening skills and behavior all thanks to Sami Jo’s direction and exceptional ability to handle dogs. Thank you so much Sami Jo! We couldn’t have made it this far without you!" ~ Elizabeth Willers
"...And that’s how Downtown Henry came into our lives. Before coming to Paws Pet Resort, we took a basic obedience class from a chain pet store. That was a good introduction to very basic commands, but I wanted to continue learning and building a bond with Henry.
There are two key aspects of the training at Paws that I think are most beneficial. 1) They don’t train the dog, they train the humans and give them all the tools they need to achieve the desired results with their dog. 2) The instruction is based on positive reinforcement, which builds confidence for both canine and human.
Henry has been enrolled in Sami Jo’s classes, but Taryn has assisted in several of them and even filled in as instructor. Their teaching styles are complementary and I think it’s beneficial to be exposed to both instructors as you will get different suggestions of things to try.
While there was little doubt Henry would grasp the concepts in class, I was a bit of a mess in the early days – super nervous, freaking out over the little things and intimidated by classmates who seemed to have no trouble perfecting every skill. I got over myself because I could plainly see that Sami’s instructions work. Henry’s sits came quicker, his down stays lasted longer, he walked next to me more and more and didn’t pull on the leash as much.
Success in training classes takes work and practice outside the classroom. It’s not work like you do at your day job, though. It’s fun! And it pays off in ways that you can never imagine when you start.
From basic obedience to dock diving lessons and learning to be a Canine Good Citizen, Henry has demonstrated his two best traits – pleasing his humans and learning. With each lesson, our bond has become stronger. He is a gentleman walking around downtown on a busy Friday night. He goes to dog-friendly stores and is getting better and better about not shoplifting treats!
This testimonial is likely longer than desired, but there is probably nothing that attests to how great Paws is than sharing how Henry starts to whimper at 69th and Cliff in sheer excitement because he knows where we are headed. He bounds out of the car and has to muster every bit of restraint he gained studying to be a Canine Good Citizen so he doesn’t leap into Jeanine or Sami Jo’s arms when he enters the building!" ~Susan Hoffmann
I cannot say enough good things about Paws Pet Resort, the trainers and the training process. It has been absolutely amazing and so beneficial for our miniature Aussiedoodle, Alice. We started private lessons with Addison when Alice was 8 weeks old. Addison was an amazing trainer, she showed us how to work with Alice in a positive way and get the results we were looking for with our puppy. Addison would give me tips and pointers on training and was even available after training for any questions I had. We continued the private lessons until our puppy was old enough to participate in Paws Stay and Train program. Alice was a part of this program for 4 weeks. The trainers would communicate with us every week to let us know how she was progressing with her training, often sending pictures of her. The Stay and Train program really helped Alice hone in on her basic training skills learned through her private lessons and build upon them. Stay and Train was worth every penny! She is still very much a puppy, but she definitely knows what is expected of her at our home. We are now starting Puppy 201 group class and this has been a blast. It is great to work with Alice in a group setting, where she can be easily distracted by other dogs and people in the room. Paws Training program really is top-notch, from private lessons, to stay and train to group lessons. The trainers give you the skills and tools that you need, along with the support to make your dog the best it can be! ~ Mindy Stevens