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About Us

Meet the Owner

Kathy Benner, dog trainer

Kathy Benner, is the owner and founder of The Animals' House. She has a formal education in animal behavior, and 18 years of hands-on experience working in the industry. She has a BS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University and a Certificate in Exotic Animal Training and Management from Moorpark College. 


Kathy spent five years training marine mammals at Sea Life Park in Hawaii, and started her first dog obedience company, Clever Canines, in 1996. She moved to Virginia in 2000, worked as a technician at a busy animal hospital, and then opened the Animals' House in 2001.


Kathy has designed and implemented behavior modification and training programs for dolphins, sea lions, seals, penguins, primates, hyenas, mountain lions, Bengal tigers, parrots, llamas, horses and dogs. She has also worked with clients with various disabilities and has trained therapy dogs. She is a part of four Pet Partners certified therapy animal teams, and a registered AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Kathy currently owns a Dogue de Bordeaux, a yellow Labrador retriever, a mixed breed resuce dog, a blue front amazon parrot, and three horses. 

Meet the Trainers

Nicole McManamon-Trainer

Nicole has been working at The Animals’ House since 2009, after attending the University of Mary Washington, where she studied psychology. She began training in 2011 and never looked back! Nicole has helped rescue over 300 dogs from shelters up and down the east coast. She currently owns two of her own rescue dogs, plus the occasional foster.

Aside from training and rescuing, Nicole spends her free time hiking and being a mommy to her two-legged son.

Kathy Benner, dog trainer

Ashlyn Cohill - Trainer

Ashlyn has been with the Animals' House since 2018 as a part time trainer. She has a B.S. from Salisbury University, with a degree in Biology. After college, Ashlyn worked in the biotechnology field for many years before discovering dog training. She has always loved dogs and animals, but when her own fearful reactive dog joined her family, Ashlyn discovered the importance of socialization and training. Ashlyn continues to educate herself on emerging dog training movements for reactivity and dog sports.

Currently, Ashlyn teaches private lessons and group classes for CGC prep, Rally Obedience, Scentwork, and Agility. Ashlyn is a certified dog trainer through Animal Behavior College and is a registered AKC evaluator. She currently has two dogs – a Cockapoo named Saga and an Italian Greyhound named Bandit who is a titled Advanced Trick Dog.


Amy O’Connor—Trainer

Amy O’Connor, began her experience with The Animals’ House in 2006 while working toward Advanced Agility skills with her American Field Lab, Jack.

Amy is a native of Michigan and holds advanced degrees in (human) Behavioral Psychology and Social Work, and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In 2013, Amy earned her Certification as a Professional Dog Trainer through Animal Behavior College.  

Amy has a true passion for providing our clients with an unmatched level of excellence in behavior modification, as well as following her passion to increase the canine/human bond by teaching agility classes. It is because of this passion that Amy is currently working towards a specialized Behavior Consultant Certification, which will further refine her abilities and allow her to work closely with each client to develop an effective training plan that is custom created for each unique client-dog situation.

Amy is the Director of Training for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Facility Dog Program, which is a very influential program at the hospital because of its ability to improve patient experiences through therapy dog interactions and Animal Assisted Therapy. Amy has since established a curriculum within the program that trains Active Duty Military Facility Dog Handlers to improve patient outcomes, including patient safety, as well as to build the handler’s skill set to influence positive experiences for hospital staff and patients alike.

Kathy Benner, dog trainer
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