Meet our Trainers

Meet our Trainers

Susan Spinks CPDT-KA

Dog Training Program Manager

Susan Spinks is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She received her CPDT-KA from The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers in April of 2016. She is also an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator. In June of 2017, she earned her Pet Dog Ambassador Instructor and Assessor designation from the Pet Professional Guild. In April of 2018, Susan graduated top of her class at the Pat Miller Canine Behavior and Training Academy Level 1.

Susan’s journey to becoming a dog trainer began when she adopted Chloe, a “vibrant” dog from the Orange County Animal Shelter. If you have a new puppy or a “vibrant” dog of your own – Susan knows what it’s like! She began training classes with Chloe the following week and hasn’t stopped training since. Her earliest dream was to be a zoologist and live among the wolves, but working with you and your pets is definitely the next best thing!

In addition to Chloe the “vibrant” pup, Susan has had a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Zoe and a boxer mix named Isobel. She also has a husband named Richard. Of the lot, Susan says that Richard is by far the best behaved. Susan and Richard have lived in Chapel Hill since 1990.

Susan is especially passionate about group classes, and she strongly believes that all clients and dogs should leave each class feeling great about their performance, potential, and future. Susan looks forward to meeting you and helping you and your dogs create a wonderful family.

Melanie Berk CPDT-KA

Senior Dog Training Instructor

When Melanie was a child, she made up her own imaginary nonprofit called “P.A.W. (Paws Across the World), so some might say her career path has been unsurprising. Studying Psychology and the Environment at Oberlin College provided a foundation of thinking about behavior change and community-based solutions. From there she hopped over to Massachusetts (brr!) in search of a Master’s degree in Animals and Public Policy at Tufts Vet School.

Along the way she found a job at the MSPCA (a real nonprofit), her dog Seamus, and husband, Brendan, so she thinks the winters were worth it. Nevertheless, when the opportunity to move to Durham arose, she was quick to pack up Seamus, Brendan, and her horse, Nick, and migrate south, where Shiloh the mischievous beagle became the newest addition to the family.

Her lifelong passion for animal behavior and welfare translates naturally into dog training with the shelter and community in mind. Her goals for the dog training program include improving the behavioral health and enrichment of dogs both currently at Paws4ever and in the greater community, increasing successful adoptions, and building better communication & understanding between human and canine kind, so both can lead happier, fuller lives!

She has her certification in professional dog training (CPDT-KA) and is continually seeking to learn more about dogs and how to best help them, so enjoys opportunities for continuing education, such as conferences and seminars. She even takes her work home with her–she loves bringing home shelter animals for foster vacations so they can destress and get some TLC while awaiting their forever homes. She is always happy to talk about dogs, so make sure to say hello and bring your canine questions!

Anessa Custovic

Dog Training Instructor

Anessa has been a dog-lover her entire life, from back when she was a little girl being raised by her German Shepherd, Gonzo. Anessa became interested in training after she got her black lab, Dash, and started training classes.  After taking Dash through every class she could find, she started over with her German Shepherd, Kara. Anessa dedicates almost ALL of her free time to her two pups and loves every second of it. Aside from obedience, Anessa does nose work with both of her dogs and intends on competing with them. She is also a working dog club member where she trains Kara in bite sports. Anessa has been teaching group classes for two years, and next to working with her own dogs it’s her favorite thing to do. She loves incorporating tricks and games into regular obedience in order to keep both you and your dog engaged!

Thierry Mabry

Apprentice Dog Training Instructor

Thierry is currently a member of the IAABC and is pursuing her CPDT-KA certification. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

As a child, Thierry was terrified of dogs. However, when she was five years old, her dad brought home their first dog, a stray puppy who they named Copper; that’s when everything changed. Ever since that day, Thierry has spent her free time teaching the family dogs every trick and cue she could think of. 

At the beginning of 2018, Thierry adopted a severely dog-reactive dog named Atlas. Adopting Atlas has intensified her interest in the dog training and behavior community. She strongly believes that it is crucial to build a relationship of trust with your pet in order to achieve excellent training and behavior change. She is a self-identified behavior nerd and will happily geek out with anyone who will listen. 

Thierry and Atlas are currently working towards competing in Scent Work trials and hope to find other dog sports they both enjoy!

Brian Gibbs

Apprentice Dog Training Instructor

Brian is currently pursuing his CPDT-KA certification.

He became interested in working with dogs after his dog Sonny passed away. Knowing the time was not right to get another dog, Brian began volunteering at Saving Grace Animals for Adoption. There he has spent many hours playing and working with a wide
variety of dogs.

Brian is very interested in learning about the canine world, how dogs interact with each other and with people.

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