Our team is fully certified, insured, and has a combined 15+ years of experience addressing aggression and anxiety in dogs and cats. We use only force-free, positive reinforcement training methods. Extensive research supports these methods as the most effective and humane way to train and modify behavior in companion animals.
Pain, fear, corrections, and coercion are not necessary in training or behavior modification. They fail to address the underlying cause of the problematic behavior and can lead to unintended side effects like increased aggression and anxiety.
For more info - see our FAQ.
Rebecca grew up on a farm in Illinois surrounded by dogs, cats, and cows. She loved following the animals around to study their behavior, scribbling down notes about their habits. Her love of animals was bolstered by time spent in her father’s veterinary clinic, and she decided at a young age to work in the field of animal behavior.
The pursuit of that dream started at Yale University where she graduated with a degree in Biology and went on to become a field biologist. She worked seasonally, studying wild animal behavior across the US and internationally -- from Ecuador to the Grand Canyon and other exciting places in between! Eventually she settled down to pursue a master’s degree at Cornell University. For her graduate field work, Rebecca studied the breeding behavior of Common Nighthawks, a bird that is notoriously difficult to find. In a life-changing decision, Rebecca trained her dog Lima to sniff out the nests on their field site in the tallgrass prairie. Through training and living with Lima, Rebecca rediscovered her original love of companion animal behavior.
During the final year of her master’s at Cornell, she learned all that she could about applied animal behavior and training, and started volunteering at the Tompkins County SPCA. After graduation, she served as the Behavior Manager at the same shelter for a little over a year.
Then in 2011, Rebecca became the first ever Behavior and Training Manager at Lollypop Farm, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester. She started the behavior department with only one full time staff member and eventually grew the team to five full time and two part time staff members. Along the way, she collaborated with other department heads to expand staff training & education in cat and dog behavior, positive reinforcement training, and low stress handling for the staff and volunteers at the shelter. She also developed trainings in behavioral counseling, canine behavior evaluations, puppy and kitten socialization, enrichment, and more.
Rebecca firmly believes that the more people who learn how to effectively utilize positive reinforcement training techniques, the fewer animals will end up in shelters or rescues. In order to reach as many members of the Rochester community as possible, Rebecca expanded the public training program at Lollypop, both teaching and mentoring other trainers to teach a full curriculum of classes, from puppy and basic manners to specialty classes for shy or overly reactive dogs, at three different locations. She also developed a program offering behavior consultations for cats and dogs in need of more intensive behavior help, including aggression and anxiety. Combined, the programs reached approximately 1400 community members annually.
Rebecca also developed a robust behavior modification program at the shelter. Working primarily with dogs and cats (but with the odd rat or parrot occasionally in the mix) Rebecca and her team helped to prepare animals for adoption by addressing their behavioral needs at the shelter and preparing them with life skills for their new homes. The team worked with over 475 sheltered animals in 2019 alone. In particular, Rebecca is proud of her work with fearful cats, developing a program to help socialize cats who present in the shelter with unknown socialization histories.
After nine years at Lollypop Farm, Rebecca was ready for a new challenge and started Young Lion Training and Behavior, LLC with Alex (one of the behavior team members!)
Rebecca is passionate about education and loves sharing her knowledge and expertise with both caretakers of animals and peers in her field. Rebecca has spoken nationally and internationally on dog and cat behavior for organizations including the ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund, Cornell Shelter Medicine, the New England Federation of Humane Societies, the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, and Humane Canada. She also founded and organized the first Lollypop Farm Behavior and Training Conference in 2020, and spoke at the event. In addition, for the past several years she has been a guest lecturer at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. She also teaches classes for humans who want to learn more about their furry family members at The Brainery in Rochester, and through the Brighton Recreation Center.
Rebecca recognizes that in an unregulated industry like animal training, it is important to seek out certifications with reputable, independent organizations. She has achieved high levels of certification as both a dog behavior consultant and a cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. These certifications are experience and knowledge based, requiring the applicant to have extensive knowledge of the species in question. In addition, they also require on-going education, and Rebecca keeps up to date with the most current and humane practices in animal training. Rebecca is also certified in low stress handling.
Rebecca loves helping her clients - both human and companion animals - live their best lives together. Rebecca’s nighthawk-finding pup, Lima recently passed away and she is currently dogless. Happily, her two cats - Grumkin and Johnny - keep her busy and entertained with their training, enrichment, and low-stress husbandry needs!
Since she could talk, Alex knew she wanted to train nonhuman animals. While pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior and Biology, Alex conducted behavior research with a captive population of beluga whales and quickly became obsessed with observing behavior in action. Her particular focus was on behavior changes leading up to and immediately following the delivery of beluga calves - 23 in total! This led to Alex accepting a dream position as an assistant marine mammal trainer where she was able to interact directly with belugas, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, seals, and walruses, as well as practice her training skills, of course.
Later, Alex moved to a tiny island in the state of Washington where she worked as a naturalist on a whale watch boat. While educating guests about the ecology of the Salish Sea and the orcas which so many of them came to see, she again found herself observing whale behavior, but craving more hands on training time! So, in her spare time, she volunteered at the local animal shelter which sparked her interest in training companion animals.
After her second summer in Washington, she moved back home to carry out the role of Behavior & Training Instructor at Lollypop Farm. She taught all class offerings, including Puppy Head Start, Basic and Intermediate Manners, dog sport and trick classes, and specialty classes for dogs struggling with reactivity and fear. Alex also offered private lessons covering a complete range of behavior challenges from separation anxiety to aggression.
In addition to her work with dogs in homes, Alex spent the other half of her working hours doing behavior modification with dogs, cats, and many other species at Lollypop Farm. Over the years spent with the shelter animals, she devised many process improvements; including formalizing and refining behavior modification for cats in the shelter, and starting a decompression walk program for shelter dogs.
After seeing many behavior challenges that might have been prevented through proper socialization while very young, she worked with her team to expand Lollypop’s offerings. They soon introduced “Welcome Home” private lessons for members of the public with brand new puppies or kittens in order to help get baby animals started on the right foot! She still loves watching kittens and puppies learn about their world in the early stages of life, much like she did while observing neonate belugas and watching baby orcas in the wild.
In 2019, she completed the Low Stress Handling course certification by Dr. Sophia Yin, and subsequently developed and hosted a workshop on cooperative vet care and husbandry for cats and dogs. Cooperative care continues to be one of her favorite topics! It was something that was heavily emphasized for the marine mammals she cared for, and she hopes to help normalize the same practices for more companion animals in the surrounding community and beyond.
At the beginning of 2020, Alex spoke about the foundations of animal training at the first ever Lollypop Farm Behavior Conference, which brought in guests from all over the Northeast Region.
She lives happily with her husband, their dogs, Pidge and Gilly, and a very bold cat named PK (Pidge's Kitty.) Together, Alex and Pidge have worked through the AKC Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced trick title requirements. They continue to show off their tricks whenever possible, enjoy decompression walks, and love nose work and canine parkour. PK loves training just as much as the dogs do. Gilly is the newest addition and hopes to be a future demo/helper dog for group classes and the occasional private lesson.
Alex is so excited to continue helping the community and spreading positive reinforcement around Rochester! In addition to getting new puppies started off in training, her favorite behavior issues to work on are reactivity to dogs, and cat-dog introductions.