Welcome to the third part of our ‘Women and Working Dogs’ series at Highland Canine, looking at the stories behind our female dog trainers. These amazing women work with canines for a number of purposes, providing fully trained service dogs, police dogs and conservation detection dogs for individuals and organizations across the United States.
In the first installment of the series, we caught up with Brandi Wallwork, our Director of Service Dog Programs. You can find out what prompted Brandi to embark on a career training service dogs, in addition to learning about the rewarding experience of finding the perfect match for families across the country, in this article.
Last month, we spoke with Shana Parsnow, Manager of Working Dog Ops. We discussed Shana’s journey to Highland and the challenges of training dogs for detection, trailing and patrol purposes. Catch up with Shana’s story.
This article focuses on Amber Siebsen, an important part of our working dog team. Amber helps evaluate dogs to assess if they are suitable as working dogs and recently helped to train a conservation detection dog to help locate bees.
Highland Canine’s working dog division has provided impeccably trained K9s to law enforcement departments around the United States for over a decade. These K9s – and their handlers – receive world-class training from our team to ensure they are effective in the field.
There are many different components which create the ideal training environment for these K9s. One key aspect is the evaluation stage, where potential K9s are assessed for drive and suitability. In addition, these K9 & handler teams undergo robust training – depending on the team’s requirements, the hands-on training may comprise tracking, trailing, detection or apprehension.
Amber Siebsen covers all of this as part of her role within our working dog team at Highland Canine. Amber joined Highland after graduating from the School for Dog Trainers. She worked in our service dog team before making the move to our working dog division.
Before she’d even thought about a career as a dog trainer, Amber had always had a passion for animals as she was growing up.
“I have always loved animals and knew I wanted to do something with them. I got the first dog of my own on my thirteenth birthday – a Heeler/Border Collie mix named Kody. I still have him now!
I had no idea what to do with a puppy, but I tried very hard to train him to do all kinds of tricks.”
As she started her working life, it became clear to Amber that she wanted to pursue a career with dogs.
“I worked at a doggie daycare for a while, and that really pushed me to want to work with dogs and learn about their behavior.”
Attending the School for Dog Trainers
Although Amber knew she wanted to work with dogs, she wasn’t actually sure which area she wanted to specialize in.
“I ended up coming to the School for Dog Trainers because I wasn’t sure what area of dog training I wanted to go into. Ironically, I actually remember thinking that I didn’t want to do working dogs! I didn’t know anything about it at the time.
I visited several different schools when I was trying to find the right program to match what I was looking for. I had heard that Highland had an intense program, and I was definitely looking for a challenge. I took a tour of the school and I knew it would be right for me.”
Like many students who attend the School for Dog Trainers, Amber found that it was an extremely thorough – and intense – program. Amber graduated from the 24-week Master Dog Trainer course.
“I loved everything about the Master Dog Trainer program. The course was really well set up, so I was able to learn a lot about so many different areas – from behavior modification to search and rescue dogs.
During my time at the school, I fell in love with all areas of the business, and then I ended up with the working dogs later on. I really enjoy it – I love the variety I get to train.”
Becoming a working dog trainer at Highland Canine
After graduating from the School for Dog Trainers, Amber began working in Highland’s Service Dog team – Autism Assistance Dogs – before moving to Highland’s working dog division. Her work ethic and application makes her a valuable member of the Highland Canine team.
“My current role at Highland is making sure the dogs on the working dog side are prepared to match with a handler.
I don’t really have a ‘typical week’ – it tends to vary – but my time at Highland pretty much revolves around working dogs. I’m usually training, helping our K9 teams certify, or evaluating dogs for their workability.
After working here for a while, I found I really loved problem solving, and continuing to learn about new things – like training conservation detection dogs.”
What is the biggest challenge Amber faces in her role as a working dog trainer?
“Every day goes by by too quickly! I have fun working, and sometimes it feels like I don’t get through everything I wanted to in a day.”
“These dogs make a difference!”
Amber continues to play a pivotal role in the day-to-day work of the working dog division, and it’s clear that she finds it both enjoyable and rewarding.
“I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work these dogs. I also have the best bosses and coworkers I could ask for, which make the job that much more enjoyable!”
And like many of her colleagues, Amber recognizes the importance of the work she does every day.
“Whether I’m training a dog for law enforcement, or for conservation, these dogs make a difference – and I love that!”