PAWS Instructors

Debbie Spence, Owner & Agility Instructor

Debbie has been involved with dogs since the early 1980’s, training and competing first in obedience and then discovering agility in 1989 and becoming addicted to this new sport. In 1996, Debbie opened her own agility school, PAWSitive Agility Working School (PAWS), where she has established a notably successful training program that has enabled her students to enhance their bond with their dogs while enjoying the challenges of training and competing in the exciting sport of dog agility.

Debbie has attended numerous agility seminars over the years, learning from nationally-known competitors such as Sharon Nelson, Katherine Leggett, Nancy Gyes, Dave Blackshaw, Stuart Mah, Stacy Peardot-Goudy, Susan Garrett, Anthony Clark, Tracy Sklenar, and Greg Derrett. After attending two of his seminars several years ago, Debbie adopted Greg Derrett’s “System of Handling” (described in a series of articles in Clean Run Magazine in 2003), returning to her agility training school and re-teaching most of the handling and training techniques that were being used at the time. Greg’s system is quite simple, and the results have been impressive, both for Debbie’s own dogs and her students’ dogs.

Agility Success
Debbie’s own dogs currently include two Border Collies (Braedan and Ryker) and one Sheltie (Kelby).  The youngest, Kelby, was born in September 2017 and has already started his agility training.  Debbie has high hopes for her young’un.

Braedan was born in November 2009 and started his agility adventure immediately, attending a puppy agility workshop with Greg Derrett at the age of just 10 weeks. Braedan has earned USDAA’s prestigious Platinum ADCH and Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as three MACHs in AKC.

As a 10-week-old pup being fostered by Border Collie Rescue of Texas, Senna came to live with Debbie in early 2003. Competing at the highest levels of agility competition, Senna has earned his Platinum ADCH, Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award, and Bronze Performance ADCH in USDAA.  In AKC, he earned his MACH 3 and then moved to Preferred where he earned his PACH in February 2014.

Cameron, a Sheltie acquired from one of her students in 2004 at the age of 3 1/2, suffered from major fear issues that had to be overcome. After gaining confidence, Cameron successfully competed in agility competition and earned his USDAA ADCH & Performance ADCH and AKC MACH 3 titles.  Cameron retired from competition in September 2014, just short of his 13th birthday.

Other dogs Debbie has owned and trained in agility include Boomer (Sheltie), Tristan (Border Collie), Catcher (Border Collie), and Kallie (Border Collie). 

Besides competing with her own dogs, Debbie also runs some of her students’ dogs on occasion.  She also earned a MACH 2 on a Scottish Terrier when his owner passed away from cancer and asked that Raster continue training and at PAWS.

Victoria Severns, Agility Instructor and TTouch Practitioner

Victoria was introduced to agility by her first Border Collie, Jessie, after experiencing a wide array of dog sports. Much to their frustration, nothing seemed to capture Jessie’s attention until they discovered agility. They started training with Debbie at PAWS in 1997, and the shy, insecure youngster grew into a happy, confident dog. Victoria became an instructor at PAWS in 1999 and has been teaching and training a succession of Border Collies since that time. She and her first three Border Collies (Jessie, Maude, and Moss) competed in AKC, NADAC, and USDAA, earning numerous titles in the various classes. Her youngest, Keenan, is just beginning his agility training and has many lessons to learn (and to teach). Victoria also teaches agility through Dog Scouts of America at their annual Texas mini-camp.

Through the years, Victoria and her canine companions have participated in a variety of other activities including obedience, herding, flyball (Purina Incredible Dog Challenge and ESPN Great Outdoor Games), Dog Scouts of America, Geoscenting, and therapy dog work visiting nursing homes. Victoria is also a certified TTouch practitioner who works with companion animals and their people in private consultations, group classes, seminars, and workshops in the Dallas – Ft. Worth area. In 2010, Victoria joined the judging staff of the second Extreme Mutt Makeover in which shelter dogs are paired with trainers for 7 weeks to learn basic obedience and improve their prospects for adoption.

In an effort to stay current in agility training and dog behavior, Victoria has attended a number of seminars/trainings, including those offered by Greg and Laura Derrett, Susan Garrett, Suzanne Clothier, Chris Zink, Patricia McConnell, and Turid Rugaas.

Victoria’s philosophy for training is based on respect, communication, cooperation, and most of all FUN for everyone.

Peggy Friauf, Agility Instructor

Peggy has been teaching riding (horses) for over 30 years. At the age of 11, she taught her dog to jump using trash cans and rake handles because her parents wouldn’t let her have a horse.

While at a major horse show with clients, Peggy saw an agility demonstration and found herself spending as much time watching the agility as she did the horse show. In 1999, she took her first agility lesson with her Jack Russell Terrier, and in 2001, Dozer earned his first title. In 2004, Peggy started training with PAWS and is currently training her 3rd, 4th   & 5th agility dogs (a Jack Russell Terrier and 2 Border Collies). She’s also been helping Debbie teach both beginners and regular agility classes since 2008.

Peggy says agility is a sport she really enjoys, as is helping to enrich people’s interactions with their animals.

Steffany Jay, Agility InstructorSteffPercy

Steffany never thought she would train dogs, let alone teach when she rescued a cute black & white dog from the shelter.  She soon found out the dog was an Australian Shepherd and also that she needed a job.  She fell into agility and quickly became addicted.  Steffany was lucky enough to find Debbie & PAWS pretty quickly in her career, and she’s been training at PAWS since 1998.

Steffany says she really appreciates the positive training methods used at PAWS to teach dogs how to learn rather than just what to do.  By letting them use their brains, they only get smarter.  She attended a weekend clicker training exposition and got to learn from some of the most renowned names in animal training about the science of learning.  In the small group sessions, you could see the light shine in some of the dogs’ eyes when they “got it” and figured out what their owner wanted.  Steffany’s goal is to see that light come on for the dogs and handlers in the classes she teaches.

Having lost two dogs at a very young age to cancer, Steffany relationship with her four-legged friends has become most important, and she wants to teach her students how to build their own relationship with their dog even if they never compete in agility.  “Just as the dogs need to learn what we want, we need to learn how to teach them and get the most out of our time together.  In the end, the ribbons don’t matter.  What does matter is the love you share with your dog.”

Barb Bristol, Agility InstructorTopper dogwalk

Barb has been interested in dog training since childhood, when a neighbor hired her to teach his dog to walk on a leash.  She has been training and showing dogs (Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, a Collie, and several mixed breeds) in obedience since 1983, but Barb fell in love with agility in 1998 when she started training with Debbie and PAWS.  She is now training and trialing her 6th Great Dane with Debbie.  Barb regularly attends training seminars to keep up with the latest training theories.  She believes that agility is not only a fun sport and not only a great way to build a dog’s confidence and improve physical condition, but it’s also a fantastic way to build an incredible bond between dog and owner.

Leann Zimmerman, Agility Instructor

While Leann has had dogs her entire life, she had never really trained one until she rescued her all-American, Scout, in 2011.  She knew she wanted to train Scout and, through an obedience class, found out about agility.  Leann thought agility would be a great way to strengthen her bond with her new dog, so she quickly enrolled him in an agility class at a nearby facility.Scout

About a year into their training, Leann & Scout were at their first agility fun match, and it was there Leann realized she knew very little about agility.  A group of people at the fun match noticed Leann’s struggles and directed her to PAWS.  Leann set up a private lesson with Debbie with the idea in the back of her mind that she might be wasting her time and money trying to do agility with Scout.  Much to her surprise, Debbie told Leann that Scout would make a great agility dog.  And so the journey began.  Leann found she had to relearn most of what she thought she knew, but she loved the emphasis on positive training (which is not how she was initially taught), and she & Scout entered their first trial within six months.  Scout initially suffered from ring stress and would often seem uninterested in working with Leann, but all the PAWS instructors offered great advice and encouragement.  Through the positive training, patience, and perseverance, Leann & Scout became a team, and both have been changed by agility.  They compete in USDAA and at the Master level in AKC.

Leann is excited to share her experience with the students at PAWS with the hope that, through agility, more and more dog owners can strengthen the bond they share with their dogs.

Hannelore Orkis, Obedience Instructor

Hannelore has over 35 years of experience in animal training. She started in the training arena with horses, and that easily led to dogs.  Hannelore spends a great deal of time reading, as well as attending a wide variety of seminars, lectures, workshops, and conferences to stay current on the latest trends in both animal & human behavior. To help educate the public, she gives behavioral overviews to rescue groups, vet clinics, schools, 4-H clubs, dog groups, etc. She has been a guest speaker on several radio shows in New Jersey and Oklahoma.

Hannelore is regularly called on to deal with unique dog behavioral issues and situations. She has built a reputation on being able to assist with a variety of cases, especially the most challenging ones. She enjoys helping humans learn about animal behaviors to bridge communication so they can bring out the best in their dog and therefore help him become a delightful pet. PAWS is extremely fortunate to have had Hannelore teaching clicker obedience classes since 2003.

(And, just for the fun of it, Hannelore trained two Betta fish to perform a novice obedience heeling pattern using her reinforcement-based training methods.)

Nancy Strack, Obedience Instructor

Nancy began her agility training at PAWS with her dog, Sadie, in 2001. Sadie was a Doberman/Whippet mix that excelled in agility. Sadie was Nancy’s first agility dog and earned the USDAA Performance Dog (APD) and NADAC Agility Trial Champion (NATCH) titles. Sadie also qualified and attended the NADAC Nationals and USDAA Nationals in 2004.

After Nancy retired her dogs from agility, she took the opportunity to teach the Clicker Obedience class at PAWS. She discovered that teaching Clicker Obedience was much more rewarding for her. Through the wide variety of seminars and conferences she attended, Nancy developed a passion for learning animal behavior. Not only has the information she learned helped her own dogs, but she continues to educate others on the latest trends as well.

Nancy is also involved in Dog Scouts of America with her Australian Cattle Dogs Tyler and Rosie.  They belong to Troop 119 where Nancy is a Scout Master.  Nancy also trains Tyler in Treibball where he has earned the ATA-Beginner Title with the American Treibball Association.  Rosie is currently training and competing in agility.