Florida’s Emerald Coast DogSmith

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Catherine M. Zehner, PCT-A, CPDT-KA, CGC Evaluator, Delta Society Pet Partner William J. Zehner, Jr., CDT

czehner_newCatherine Zehner launched the first DogSmith enterprise in July 2008 after coming to the realization that pets – and particularly dogs – have the power to change lives.

A Massachusetts native, Catherine’s family raised and showed Norwegian Elkhounds in conformation, and began showing them in the AKC ring as a junior handler at the age of 11. She also worked in private barn training and showing European warmbloods for show jumping and three-day eventing.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., Catherine as a daily newspaper journalist in Northwest Florida before moving into lobbying and then local government.

It wasn’t until she and her husband, William, adopted their first German shorthaired pointer, Colter, in 2005 that they began to realize that working with dogs is truly where their skills and passion resided. A family member undergoing long-term rehabilitative care in a Boston, Mass, facility asked Catherine to bring her pet cat for a visit. When the visit came to the attention of other patients, the staff of the hospital was amazed to see the transformative, motivating effect it had on all the patients, who crowded into the visiting lobby. Upon her return from Boston, Catherine and Colter embarked upon a course of study to become a pet therapy team. At six months of age, Colter earned his Canine Good Citizen “CGC” certification from the American Kennel Club. At just over a year of age, Colter earned his Therapy Dog International Certification, the Delta Society Pet Partner certification as well as titles in AKC Rally (RN) and obedience (CD).

In 2008, the Zehners rescued a five-month-old Australian Cattle Dog that changed their world. They credit this sick, fear-aggressive, abused, reverse-housetrained and untrusting puppy with making them into better people and trainers. “We had to make a list of the most dangerous behaviors and just work down the list fixing them,” Catherine recalls. “Rory may not have any special titles, but the fact that he is happy, confident, friendly and reliable enough to be an ambassador for The DogSmith is prize enough for us.”

In 2013, they also rescued a year-old Norwegian Elkhound named Copper. The Zehners hope to compete with him in AKC rally in 2014. They also live to serve their domestic longhaired cat, Vincenzo, that William rescued in 2001.

In their spare time, the Zehners enjoy competitive sailboat racing, gardening, boating with their dogs, and Catherine and Colter still do the occasional volunteer work at local hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

The DogSmith of The Emerald Coast, Florida offers Dog obedience training, private dog training classes, dog behavior counseling, group training classes, canine board and train programs, latch key dog training, canine good citizen training, puppy star training, puppy socialization classes and a selection of pet care services, in home pet care, pet sitting, canine slumber parties, dog walking, pet waste cleanup and overnight pet sitting services. We service the following areas, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Wewahitchka, Callaway, Springfield, Parker, Cedar Grove, Panama City, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, Fountain, Youngstown, Laguna Beach, Sunnyside, Seagrove Beach, Seaside, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Miramar, Niceville, Valparaiso, Bluewater Bay, Eglin AFB, Destin, Sandestin, Fort Walton Beach, Freeport, Ebro, DeFuniak Springs.

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The DogSmith Pledge
As a DogSmith professional,

I pledge to use my knowledge and skills for the benefit of pet owners and their pets.

I will practice my profession conscientiously with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of The DogSmith ethics, mission, vision and values.

I accept as a lifelong obligation, the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.