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Our Faculty

Steven Appelbaum
Steven Appelbaum
Founder and President of Animal Behavior College

With 40 years of dog training and pet industry experience, Steven Appelbaum used his extensive knowledge and business acumen to create Animal Behavior College – the largest specialty school of its kind in North America. ABC offers pet industry certification courses in all 50 states and every Canadian province, and the ABC Alumni Group boasts the largest number of certified dog trainers in the United States.

Appelbaum always knew that dogs were his life’s passion and knew someday he would devote his career to working with them. After enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1977, he worked as a security specialist and patrol dog handler and trainer before being honorably discharged a few years later. In 1981, Mr. Appelbaum enrolled in Animal Trainers Career Academy where he honed the skills acquired in the military to learn how to train dogs for motion pictures. After graduating at the top of his class, he formed his first company, Animal Behavior and Training Associates (ABTA) which provided dog training services.

Over the next 10 years, ABTA branched out to major pet stores, and in 1994, was named the exclusive provider of dog obedience classes for the entire chain of Petco® stores. By 1996, ABTA expanded into Canada through Petcetera stores. This expansion made ABTA an international success and the largest dog training company in North America.

Building ABTA required that Mr. Appelbaum and his staff locate and hire trainers from all over North America. However, he soon learned that 70% of the professional trainers he considered hiring failed ABTA’s basic training exams. It was this revelation that influenced his decision to offer a structured education program for dog trainers.

In 1998, he created Animal Behavior College. ABC combines a home study curriculum with hands-on Externship training. Initially, the school only offered a dog trainer program. Today, ABC offers four core programs in dog training, cat training, pet grooming and veterinary assisting. ABC also offers a classroom program for students who want to attend a more traditional brick and mortar school. In addition, the school offers 5 relevant Short-term Programs on an array of subjects including, Pet Nutrition and Diet, Pet Sitting and Dog Walking, Training Shelter Dogs, Pet Massage, and The Art of Selling and Teaching Private Lessons. At present time, ABC has graduated and certified more than 24,300 students in the U.S. and Canada combined.

Mr. Appelbaum is a lecturer and has been an expert consultant and witness in several dog bite cases. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and was also featured as one of the top 25 most influential people in the pet business by Pet Product News in 2005. He is instrumental in forging new strategic relationships between ABC and major pet product vendors, manufacturers, and pet organizations. He has written numerous published articles and columns for magazines including, Pet Age, Pet Business, Pet Product News International, Real Simple® Magazine, and Purchase Family Magazine and has appeared in several podcasts, radio, and TV interviews. Mr. Appelbaum is the author of the book The ABC Practical Guide to Dog Training and is the former editor of Off Lead Magazine.

A private pilot and avid jogger, Mr. Appelbaum and his wife Shelley reside in Pasadena, California and are “pet parents” to a Basset Hound named Truffles and a gigantic 105-pound Labrador Retriever named Sam.

Debbie Kendrick
Debbie Kendrick
Vice President of Animal Behavior College

Debbie Kendrick has been with Animal Behavior College since the school opened in 1998. A top-level dog training professional, she has more than 40 years of experience in the pet services industry and has served many roles, including pet behavior modification expert, consultant, and business analyst. Through out her professional career, Ms. Kendrick has successfully forged invaluable relationships with industry manufacturers, retailers, organizations, and animal shelters.

She began her illustrious career in 1974 under the apprenticeship of an AKC Dog Obedience Judge and Master Trainer. After completing the 1-year apprenticeship, Ms. Kendrick competed in obedience trials across California from 1975 to 1979, titling her own dogs in both basic and advanced obedience. She and her beloved German Shepherd, Hector, were also winners of the prestigious “Will Judy” award, given to dog/owner teams who earn at least 195 out of 200 points at three high-level obedience competitions during a single season. This, coupled with her winning the Top Dog Award at the Southern California Dog Obedience Trials, gave Ms. Kendrick the experience and reputation to successfully own and operate a dog training business from 1980 to 1988.

In 1988, after meeting Steven Appelbaum, then owner of Animal Behavior & Training Associates, Inc. (ABTA), he offered Ms. Kendrick the position of Head Trainer of dog training programs at three Southern California locations. She accepted the offer, and as a result of her efficacious leadership, the locations soon ranked among the Top 10 dog training facilities in the state. Ms. Kendrick received several promotions, including Regional Training Manager and National Sales Manager. In 1998, Mr. Appelbaum asked her to share in his vision of creating a nationwide school where canine enthusiasts could obtain the appropriate education and training necessary to become certified professional dog trainers. She accepted and was named Vice President of the newly created Animal Behavior College (ABC).

In addition to the immeasurable contributions she made to ABC, in 2004, Ms. Kendrick translated her dog training passion into the creation of a campaign to improve the rehabilitation and adoption rate of shelter dogs. She named the campaign Students Saving Lives, which provides shelter dogs with one-on-one training from ABC’s Dog Obedience Program students. Before a student graduates, he or she is asked to donate a minimum of 10 hours of training to a local animal shelter, humane society or rescue organization. Each student works with homeless canines to address behaviors and socialization problems that often get in the way of the dogs’ adoptions. As of September 2017, ABC students have donated more than 140,000 hours through the program.

Ms. Kendrick received a nomination for the 2001/2002 edition of the International Who’s Who of Professionals and has written articles in pet industry publications, including Fido Friendly Magazine and the now defunct Dog Fancy Magazine.

She is an ABC Certified Level 2 Dog Trainer (ABCDT-L2), a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and a supporting member in the dog division of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).

In her much coveted free time, Ms. Kendrick enjoys relaxing with her family and her three rescue dogs, Roxy, Jazz and Gabby, as well as, doing chores on her ranch located in Southern California.

Alvaro Berrios
Alvaro Berrios
Digital Marketing Strategist

As Digital Marketing Strategist for Animal Behavior College, Alvaro strategically oversees paid search and social media campaigns while analyzing performance data. In addition, he conducts post-campaign analysis, which includes customer segmentation, conversion performance and improvement recommendations, and measures results.

Prior to joining ABC in 2015, he was a Software Business Analyst for two years for Xap Corporation, after being promoted after a brief stint as a Market Research Analyst. A creative problem solver, Alvaro managed and supported project delivery requirements from the product design phase to final product delivery, as well as determined the impact of those proposed software and business processes solutions before implementation. Before then, he worked as a Controls Specialist for the Walt Disney Company and a Marketing Coordinator for Engel & Voelkers.

Alvaro earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Chapman University. In addition to hiking and spending quiet time with his wife, the epicure enjoys smoking various meats, exploring big cities, and learning about different cultures.

Angela Pena
Angela Peña
Director of Media & Public Relations
Director of Student Services

As the Director of PR and Student Services, Angela is responsible for creating public relations campaigns that support ABC’s key business objectives, which include increasing brand awareness and enhancing the school’s reputation through media relations. She leads ABC’s efforts as an industry influencer, increasing consumer appreciation of pets and pet industry careers. As the Student Services Director, she assists students who are experiencing academic challenges. The department serves as a student resource and provides counseling to help those who need it get back on track.

Prior to joining ABC, she was the Director of Business Development and Account Services for Scott Public Relations. Angela has held several leadership positions for companies and organizations including Director of Public Relations for Publicis, Director of Development for Ball State University, Director of Corporate Communications for ATA Airlines, Manager of Communications and spokesperson for Nuveen Investments, Senior Media Relations Manager for Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Manager of Media Relations for the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association. She also taught full-time at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and as an adjunct at Ball State University, Ivy Tech College, and Prairie State College.

Angela was part of a three-person team that was awarded the Silver Telly for their educational DVD, “A First Amendment Guide for Principals and Administrators.” She was named Young Careerist by The National Federation of Business & Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. and was a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) fellow honoree. She also served as a board member for the nonprofit Life After Brain Injury.

Angela earned a Master’s of Science degree from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northern Illinois University. She has an unbridled curiosity for astronomy and enjoys gazing at the stars through her telescope, visiting wineries, watching documentaries, and spending time with her husband and their dogs, Bentley and Baxter.

Candace Mason
Candace Mason
Director of Admissions

Candace has been with Animal Behavior College (ABC) since the school’s inception in 1998. Prior to that, she became a professional dog trainer in 1994 and worked part-time at Animal Behavior and Training Associates (ABTA) for Petco®. Candace was recruited by ABTA for the position of Human Resources Director, where she supervised testing and hiring procedures for more than 400 ABTA Petco group class dog trainers nationwide. In 2003, her astute dog training knowledge, customer service expertise, and diligent work ethic led to promotion to Director of Admissions for Animal Behavior College.

As Admissions Director, Candace oversees registrations and enrollments for ABC’s four core programs. She analyzes results and creates admissions policies and procedures.

In addition to training dogs for more than two decades, Candace is a photographer and equine trainer. She competed in the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), and in 1989, was the youngest rider to ever compete in the 700-mile Pony Express XP Rides from Nevada to Utah. To date, she’s competed in more than 1,000 race miles with AERC.

Candace enjoys spending time with her family and her Siberian Husky rescue, Maven. She also offers dog-sitting services during her free time.

Cris Acuna
Cris Acuña
Talent Acquisition Manager and Benefits Administrator

Cris joined the Animal Behavior College team in 2002 and has been instrumental in identifying and recruiting individuals to fill staff vacancies. She has helped ABC identify key talent and has successfully assisted managers, directors, and senior staff in filling important positions. In addition, she manages employee health benefits and tracks employee participation. Before joining ABC, Cris was an Assistant Manager at 100% Soccer and a Production Coordinator for York Entertainment.

An ABC Certified Dog Trainer (ABCDT), she earned two associate’s degrees in General Education and Broadcasting from Chaffey College. Cris enjoys spending as much time as possible with her husband and their two children.

Jason LaCour
Jason LaCour
Assistant Director of Admissions

Jason joined Animal Behavior College in 2011. As the Assistant Director of Admissions, he assists the Director of Admissions with all aspects of the admissions process, including developing goals, training admissions counselors, and monitoring statistical reports and operational inefficiencies.

Prior to ABC, he worked as a sales manager for Discus Dental and was an operations manager for J&R Imports. Jason is an avid animal enthusiast who has rescued and raised dogs most of his life. He volunteers at an animal rescue and spends much of his spare time with his two dogs, Keela, a Pit Bull mix, and Sandy a Border Collie mix.

When he is not with his dogs or volunteering, Jason is a stand-up comedian who recently placed third in a Los Angeles comedy competition. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Washington.

Jessica Calder
Jessica Calder
HR Manager & Payroll Administrator

Jessica joined Animal Behavior College in 2016 and performs a wide range of human resources duties. She handles payroll and oversees employee relations, staff training and development, and employee safety. In addition, she ensures that ABC is in compliance with federal and state statutes.

Prior to joining ABC, Jessica served as Director of Communications for the Society for Human Resource Management - Brandman Chapter, where she was responsible for promoting human resources best practices through an information exchange, which included benefits, compensation, and talent management. In addition, she coordinated the Society’s external outreach while overseeing its internal chapter development. Jessica also held several other positions including, Coordinator for Park View Travel and Ambassador for Legal Value Firm.

She earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Brandman University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of San Francisco. In her free time, she enjoys relaxing with her trio of cats: a gray tabby named Romeo, a black tuxedo cat named Pancake, and her lucky black cat, Donut.

Kimberly Decker
Kimberly Decker
Admissions Compliance Manager

Kimberly joined Animal Behavior College in 2009. Her main role is to assist the Director of Admissions in managing ABC’s Admissions Counselors and ensure counselors’ actions comply with ABC’s policies and procedures. In this fluid role, she also manages the Communications Department and works with all departments to ensure computers and technical systems are operational, and appropriate policies and procedures are followed.

Before joining ABC, Kimberly worked for several companies, including APW, California Chassis, Pro Trades, Goodman Manufacturing, and Westaff. She’s also held many management positions in both customer service and territory sales.

Kimberly is a certified ABC dog trainer (ABCDT) and volunteers at a rescue. In her free time, she spends as much time as possible with her husband and their large extended family, and with their three rescue dogs Max, a Pit Bull mix, and Diva and Hachi—both Shepherd mixes.

Kristyne Bennett
Kristyne Bennett
Director, Payroll

Kristyne has been with Animal Behavior College (ABC) since its inception in 1998. Two years prior, she began working part-time and soon moved to full-time as Executive Assistant to Steven Appelbaum of Animal Behavior Training Associates, Inc. (ABTA). Thereshe worked in several different departments, including human resources, payroll, and accounting. Due to her exemplary performances, she was quickly promoted to Director of Payroll for ABC.

In her position, Kristyne serves as controller and oversees all bookkeeping, creates and tracks invoices, ensures department spending does not exceed budget allocations, and administers the company’s 401K plan.

The Pennsylvania native earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In her spare time, which doesn’t happen often, she enjoys reading and scrapbooking. Kristyne also enjoys spending time with her family and their two dogs, Charlie Brown (an Australian Shepherd mix), and Lucy (a German Shepherd Shar-Pei mix), and their seven-year-old goldfish, Goblin.

Sherri Collins
Sherri Collins

Editor of Pet Product News International for 4+ years, Sherri L. Collins was instrumental in several of the publication’s initiatives, including the launch of Natural Pet Product Merchandiser, PetProductNew.com’s Product Finder, and Retailers’ Top Pick Awards. A veteran editor and journalist with more than 20 years’ experience in trade, consumer and enthusiast publishing, Sherri is now the Editor for Animal Behavior College, reviewing ABC curriculum as well as web and print content. Sherri is also responsible for the ABC Alumni e-newsletter, Paw Prints, as well as ABC’s Pet Words e-newsletter, a free monthly publication containing pet-related articles for the public.

In the past, Sherri assisted Animal Behavior College with PR initiatives, partnerships and trade shows. At SuperZoo 2012 she moderated a panel on Ensuring Customer Loyalty and presented the 2012-2013 Retailer of the Year Award.

Sherri earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from California State University, Chico and an Associate’s Degree from Rio Hondo College.

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