Training dogs effectively with methods that are kind is a passion of mine. I use these methods in all forms of dog training: puppy training, pet training, and dog sports training. The challenge of evolving to become a better and more effective trainer, while still using force-free methods, is one that I enjoy. I love sharing with other people how to effectively train their dogs.

When I started training dogs many years ago, choke chains and prong collars were commonly used. Not knowing any better, I fell into this way of training my german shepherd dog for the obedience ring. Max was a good boy, but I sure didn’t make obedience fun for him! Regardless, he did his job and we earned our Companion Dog title.

In 2001 I brought home an adorable golden retriever puppy named Tucker. What worked on Max did not work on Tucker. Instead of doing what I asked, Tucker would just freeze, not wanting to make a mistake. Tucker taught me such an important lesson: traditional methods aren’t necessarily the best way to a happy confident dog.

That realization started me on the journey to positive reinforcement training. As my training methods began to evolve, I saw Tucker’s confidence grow. In 2008, I started Golden Paws Dog Training, and I teach both pet owners and dog sports people dog-friendly training methods that are both effective and fun.


I currently compete with my golden retrievers in many dog sports, including obedience, rally, agility, dock diving, and more. My golden retriever Toby UDX2 OM3 RAE was retired due to physical problems just 30 points shy of finishing his OTCH, earning multiple High in Trials and High Combineds throughout his career. Toby won the Advanced Rally class at the Golden Retriever National Specialty in both 2012 and 2015. He earned his RAE with many perfect scores of 100. In addition, Toby earned many agility titles throughout his career.

Strive has earned her UD and her RACH (Rally Championship). In a limited number of shows, Strive has earned 5 High in Trials and 1 High Combined in Obedience, putting her in the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Obedience Dog Hall of Fame.  She has also earned numerous High Combineds and High Triples in Rally. Strive also has many agility titles and is titled in both field and TEAM. Strive is now being handled by my daughter Lexi in 4-H, Rally, Obedience, and Agility.

Excel is current competition dog and he is featured in many of the videos for my online training classes. Excel has earned his Rally Excellent title and is closing in on his RAE and Rally Master title.  He’s about halfway to a RACH.  Excel also has some TEAM titles and his Trick Dog Intermediate title.

In addition to operating Golden Paws Dog Training, I am an instructor for Fenzi Dog Sports Academy and the Pet Professionals Program and a TEAM Obedience and Rally judge. I have earned both the Obedience/Rally/Freestyle Trainer’s Certificate and the Sports Foundation Trainer’s Certificate from FDSA. I am also a Canine Good Citizen and Trick Dog evaluator, a Professional Member of the APDT, and a field dog trainer for a service dog organization.  Finally, I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.  

Credentials & Experience

Misc. Titles:

  • Canine Good Citizen Advanced
  • Therapy Dog
  • Senior Jumper – Regional (Dock Dogs)
  • WC (Field Title)

AKC Titles:

  • Obedience Novice (CD) through Utility (UD), Utility Dog Excellent (UDX2), and Obedience Master 3 (OM3)
  • Rally Novice (RN) through Rally Excellent (RE), and Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE)
  • Rally Championship (RACH) and Rally Master (RM)
  • Novice Agility through Master Agility
  • Novice Agility Jumpers through Master Agility Jumpers
  • Novice Fast through Agility Excellent Fast

Other Titles:

Various agility titles in NADAC, CPE, and USDAA


  • Certified Professional Dog Trainer
  • 2+ Years experience as a Veterinary Technician
  • Dog grooming experience
  • 20+ years dog training experience
  • Over 14+ years teaching experience
  • Multiple titles earned on my own dogs
  • Worked with many different breeds of dogs
  • References Available
  • Fully Insured

Nicole’s Dogs

Click on a dog for their bio.