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Our training methods are based on the science of animal behaviour and learning theory. We offers one-on-one sessions in the client's home or in our Training Center in Montague, MA. Our group classes are kept small so we can more effectively give each human/dog team the attention they need to  succeed in their training goals.

Canine Head Start is located in Montague, MA on 55 acres. Classes are held at our 1600 square foot, climate controlled indoor training facility and the surrounding woods and trails. Come and join us train in this beautiful setting.

Behaviourist - Elise McMahon, KPA-CTP

Elise has been working in animal behaviour with both domestic and wild canids since the early 1990s.  Her work has included projects on a number of captive and wild canids including Darwin's foxes in Chile, crab-eating foxes in Venezuela, African wild dogs at the Philadelphia Zoological Garden, and grey wolves at Wolf Park, Battle Ground, IN. 

She began working with domestic dogs in Philadelphia, PA where she worked at the Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania in the Behaviour Clinic. She held a position there for 2 years during whish she co-developed a Puppy Problem Prevention Program with Lois Hall. During this time Elise was also studying Animal Behaviour and Learning Theory at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as working with well known author and behaviourist, Steve Lindsay. Elise and Anne Marie Forde developed the Puppy Head Start program which is implemented in classes at Canine Head Start. 

Prior to moving to Massachusetts where she pursues her Ph.D. in Animal Behaviour, Elise worked as an animal behaviour consultant in Philadelphia, PA.  Since 1996 Elise has been located in Montage, MA. After completing her fieldwork on Chilean foxes, she opened her training center and began providing group classes, as well as individual evaluations and one-on-one training sessions.

Elise believes that anyone working in the field of dog training and behaviour must have a solid knowledge of animal behaviour and learning theory. Her work is based on positive reinforcement and behaviour modification training.

Elise McMahon is certified in Pet CPR & First Aid.


Instructor - Lottie Haines, KPA-CTP

Lottie began teaching Puppy Kindergarten classes over 10 years ago at the veterinary office where she worked as a vet tech.  With a firm commitment to offer pets and their people a positive approach to training and behaviour modification, Lottie has attended many seminars and workshops over the years. She has a compassionate approach to teaching people how to improve their training skills. She joined our team as an instructor after completing her Karen Pryor Academy Training Partner certification.


Instructor - Susan Kennedy, KPA-CTP 

Susan has been training dogs in formal Obedience for decades. She discovered positive training tools after taking classes with her young Labrador at Canine Head Start and became hooked.  She joined our team as an instructor after completing her Karen Pryor Academy Training Partner certification. 


Intern - Noah Rockland 

Noah has had a lifelong love and fascination with animals of all kinds but what he really loves about dogs is the incredible connection that humans can have with them. He finds it amazing that we can share our
lives with these animals that truly love us back and want to live with us just as much as we want to live with them. He first discovered this amazing bond after adopting his first dog as an adult. Lou, thought to be a Brittany Spaniel and Border Collie mix, was five months old when adopted and went fully blind within a number of months. This only made their bond stronger. Noah’s real interest in formal training started after welcoming his second dog into the family, Obi, a Shetland Sheepdog who wants to chase anything that moves! A well-trained dog makes for both a happy dog and a happy human. This is Noah’s biggest goal as a trainer, to help people to live comfortably with their dogs with as little stress as possible. He wants to help people to understand their dogs better and increase their level of communication, helping to turn them into reliable and trustworthy companions.


Intern - Susanne Schmidt 

After many dog-less years, at last the time was right for having a dog in my life again.   Preparing for rearing a puppy, I discovered the world of dog training based on science, positive reinforcement and relationship building.  I was fascinated by the research that has dramatically changed our understanding of dogs and what makes them tick.  

Raising Mattie, my wonderful Australian Shepherd, wasn’t quite as unencumbered, however, as I had imagined.  Instead, he set me off on a steep learning curve.  Mattie turned out to be a sensitive and shy puppy.  His timidity expresses as reactivity to strangers and has presented us with some challenges.  Trying to figure out how to help us cope more effectively put me on a journey to better understand dog behavior and what makes for a harmonious dog-human relationship.  It also made me keenly interested in helping others sort out common challenges of communication, build relationships of mutual respect and trust, and help their dogs be happy, well-adjusted family members.  Another step in the journey, I am excited to pursue my internship with Canine Head Start.

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