Speaking 'dog' is only part of what we look for in OpBarks staff
for Role Model Trainer
Feeling the love!
- Washingtonian Magazine: 2011 & 2013 “Best in Behavior & Training”
- Philly Tails 2009 & 2010: “Favorite Dog Trainers & Agility Instructor”
- Northern Virginia Magazine 2009: “Best Pet Therapist”
Note: we simplified our lives in early 2013 and stopped providing services to the DC and Northern VA area. If you need a referral for that area, let us know. We have lots of great colleagues down there!
Interviews and Webchats
Every now and then someone in the media comes to us for an expert opinion. When President Obama was looking for a dog, the BBC asked Leigh's opinion on good choices and here's 6 ABC's Nydia Han asking Leigh about Dogs and Babies.
Close Ties to the Pet Community
View the clip > (Sweets is at the very beginning)
Speaking at Conferences
Leigh Siegfried at an event sponsored by Petfinder where she is teaching
animal rescue and shelter workers
about enrichment, training and behavior.
Teaching the Staff at Shelters
WILL I BE A GOOD FIT?
Looking for your next dog? We offer free pre- and post-adoption consults. Contact us. We're happy to talk dog via phone or email, take a look at online listings of dogs you are considering, or provide you with a referral to a trusted shelter, rescue or even a responsible breeder. Basically we can help you hone in on the best fit for your family.
And if you have a few questions once you get your new dog, pick our brain a little more.
We have a sequence of things we run through, watch how your dogs reacts and then can tell you quite a bit about your dog.
Here's a video of Sue Sternberg, a renowned shelter dog temperament testing advocate, showing how she identifies a friendly dog by its behavior. Video >
From their site: "...no two puppies are the same. An experience can be wonderful for one puppy and traumatizing for another. And unless someone realizes this, problems can quickly escalate — or become entrenched. You want a trainer capable of judging what's right for your particular puppy. OS trainers have years of experience reading the subtle body cues of hundreds of puppies, and designing socialization programs accordingly."
Everyone who knows her finds this impossible to believe: Leigh did NOT grow up with dogs. Though her mother claimed allergies, Leigh looks back and thinks perhaps it had more to do with the OCD-vacuumed house they lived in. Her mom gave in to smaller, less hairy animals though. Among her childhood pets were a succession of hermit crabs, gerbils and even a squirrel she named Luke. Still, she was drawn to dogs so buddied up to the ones in the neighborhood like they were her own. Among her dog friends were Nefer (a German Shepherd across the street), Casey (a mutt), Shannon (an Irish Setter) and Rocky (a Golden who loved the mailman so much that the local news did a story about him).
So it's no surprise to anyone that after graduating from Penn State and doing some work as a copywriter, Leigh left the corporate world for a life where she could pal around with dogs again. She started out in the Washington DC area working at animal shelters, dog daycares, training centers, and eventually become the Animal Behavior & Training Manager at one of the most progressive shelters on the East Coast, the Washington Animal Rescue League. In those early years, she had the opportunity to study with Debbie Winkler, the then vice president of the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants). Debbie had this to say: "Leigh has an uncommon compassion and insight with animals that helps her achieve success when other methods have failed." So obviously growing up with dogs isn't crucial to becoming a dog trainer but a strong interest in them (and all animals) from a young age does pay off.
While gaining experience as a dog trainer, Leigh noticed an all-too-common problem: dog owners were being taught things that worked in a classroom environment but that didn't work in the real world. In 2004, she started Opportunity Barks with this goal in mind: Teach dogs so their good manners stick OUTSIDE the classroom too—which is where it counts! Since then, OpBarks has added some full- and part-time staff. Together, they've worked with many, many dogs, including 11 of the Michael Vick pit bulls.
In addition to obedience training, Leigh is very interested in canine cognition, behavioral science, the human-animal bond and ethology. When not working with people and their dogs or consulting on the shelter front, she can be found keeping up with the work of Marc Bekoff, Frans de Waal and Brenda Aloff to name a few. She's also in frequent contact with her mentor, veterinarian and ethologist, Dr. Myrna Milani, who is an expert in the animal point of view.
So if you work with Opportunity Barks, in addition to learning how to teach your dog obedience, we'll also teach you how to "read" your dog, interpret their behavior, keep them happy using enrichment techniques, and prevent them from practicing unwanted behavior (the trainer term for this is management). Of all of those, enrichment is probably Leigh's favorite to teach. She's found that helping a dog be a dog every now and then can work wonders on the behavior front and is easy for owners to do.
If you read the beginning of Leigh's bio above, you know that she didn't have a family dog growing up. Her first dog was actually our mascot, Sweets. Here she is as a young pup. Back then, Leigh had no idea this little German Shorthaired Pointer mix would grow up to become such a diva—let alone a National Geographic Dog Genius. (See slide 7 above.)
Here's 12-week-old Sweets in her crate, a place she spent more time in, at higher altitudes, than most pups ever do. Long story short, Leigh has a dog trainer friend whose family was in Serbia with the Foreign Service. They rescued a litter of 12 sick little puppies from a woman who was feeding over 60 dogs on scraps of bread. Despite her friend's efforts, only Sweets and 3 of her littermates survived. When they were well enough to travel, they were flown to the U.S. and got adopted.
Before we keep going (and although the subhead says "dogs in Leigh's life") we wanted to share some cutes from Leigh's early life. Though she didn't have a family dog, she still managed to surround herself with animals. Here she is with a horse; her gerbil Speedy with some enrichment she devised years before she'd learn what enrichment was (Heart-shaped cardboard chew? Right on!); a neighbor's cat; and a stock photo stand-in for her childhood pet squirrel, Luke.
When Sweets was 5-years-old, she got a little brother. This is Tater, a Vizla, at 4 weeks old stretched out on his back while napping with his littermates. An expert napper, that pose is one of his favorites to this very day.
Here's Leigh doing some early training with Tater pup (and Sweets hanging close). Tater's name comes from early video of him with his littermates wandering around. Like most young pups learning to walk, they weren't very coordinated and Leigh and her husband swore Tater looked more like a drunken potato with legs than an actual dog. So that's how he became Tater. (His official name is Sienna Pointe's Red Bliss Tater.)
Most of the time Leigh wakes up to this—Tater happily tangled in the blankets. Though he's a master napper, when awake, he's great at noticing birds and pointing them out to Leigh.
As a trainer, Leigh has more dogs in her life than most people for sure. Here are Simi, Leena and Ava showing off their focusing skills in a Focus & Control class at OpBarks' Sweet Spot Farm in Quakertown, PA.
Two dapper poodles, Sydney (left) and Zubin (right), relax after a training walk around Doylestown, PA. Zubin's an OpBarks client because when he moved from a rural area to a busy town, though he is very friendly, he became stressed on-leash. Through Boarding School and Private Training, he transitioned from being a reactive rover to being relaxed rover. And Syd over there? She goes with the flow and is just there to provide moral support.
A well-matched group having a play session at Leigh's Sweet Spot Farm in Quakertown, PA
Deacon the Labrador, a JumpStart training dog taking a training break to check out some sticks. Ah, Labs and their love of sticks! Part of our work with him was teaching him real life skills and manners while also encouraging him to explore the world around him and build up his confidence. Go D!
Leigh's guests, Harry and Bodhi, checking out the locals at Sweet Spot Farm in Quakertown. PA.
Two puppies, Leena the Jack Russell Terrier and Finn the Brittany, rolling around during a Puppy Social at Leigh's Sweet Spot Farm in Quakertown, PA.
Ivy, a Great Dane mystery mutt, taking a break during a training session in Philadelphia, PA.
She's quite happy in her new home. Thanks, Street Tails Animal Rescue!
Raylan, a Jack Russell Terrier, exploring the chute at Leigh's farm during a break from Puppy Primer class at Opportunity Barks in Quakertown, PA.
To wrap things up, we're back to Leigh's dogs. Tater (left) and Sweets (right) having a "butt on fire" off-leash run on the beach in Dewey, Delaware.
Though Matt runs his own training and behavior business, we're fortunate to have him work with us as an Opportunity Barks instructor too. He teaches group classes for us in Philadelphia.
Among his favorites? Our B-Dog Classes. Whether it's helping young pups stretch their manners and obedience or it's working with adolescent and adult dogs that are newly adopted or new to training, you will likely meet Matt teaching B-Dog 1, 2 or 3 classes. Many dog owners can be overwhelmed just trying to get it right from the get go, and Matt will have you feel at ease getting to know and better understand your new fuzz butt or how to be effective in training. Whether it's working on leash walking or holding a long down stay- Matt will help you understand good communication while stretching your obedience skills. And with enough herding nerds out there, you may see him teaching a Triebball workshop soon! Like Matt says, "a solid training foundation can build a lifetime of “good dog!” behaviors." We couldn't agree more.
Leigh has known Matt for years and knows him as a champion for force-free, humane training methods and as someone who makes sure learning is fun for dogs and owners. Like her, he's also a true dog nerd. He's an avid reader of books and articles on the science of dog behavior and he frequently attends workshops, seminars and lectures with the industry's leading professionals.
Before college, he volunteered as a dog handler and worked with shelters in Long Island, NY assisting with temperament testing and socialization. After graduating from Bard College and moving to Philadelphia, Matt got a job assisting the head trainer at a Philadelphia-based dog training company that specialized in personalized in-home dog training programs. This exposed Matt to a wide variety of dog breeds, temperaments and a lot of hands on work. He learned that though not all dogs are motivated by the same things, but every dog does have something that gets them excited to learn.
It wasn't long ago that Ingrid was on the client side of things. A few years ago, she and shy girl Scarlett (above) took classes with us and knocked our socks off. Of course, it helped that Ingrid came to us already well-versed in our style of training (positive) and dog behavior in general. She also has a wonderful sense of curiosity and a keep-on-learning attitude. When she expressed an interest in becoming a trainer for us, we were thrilled. She started as a class assistant, became an instructor and is now our Programs Manager.
Ingrid's experience with dog training didn't start with Scarlett though. It was actually the first dog she owned as an adult, Indiana Jones, who sent her digging deep into the intricacies of dog-human relationships. Indy came from an abusive home and needed to be shown a better way of life. Ingrid read a ton of books and managed to get Indy turned around. If you check out the photos below you'll find out more about Indy and the other dogs that Ingrid counts among her close dog friends.
Not every student becomes a teacher in the dog training world but Ingrid has a secret weapon—one she's been honing since 1993—she's a dog groomer. Imagine spending every day convincing happy and not-so-happy dogs to tolerate all kinds of things they'd rather not have done because it'll be worth it in the end. Yes, that takes skills! In addition to grooming for Digger Dogs in Bristol, PA, Ingrid puts her bachelors degree in business administration to good work for them too. She works with their finances, manages their marketing and advertising, and maintains their website and social media presence.
This is Ingrid's first childhood dog, Valkyr, a Red Bone Coon Hound. Her family adopted her as a puppy when Ingrid was 5-years-old. The two of them became inseparable. If you ever meet Ingrid, ask her how Valkyr ended up in a full body cast. The story will end with "Lesson learned: Research the breed! Coon Hounds do not belong in the suburbs!"
Ingrid's second childhood dog, Thistle, a goofy Yellow Lab who had a coat more like a Husky than Lab. In addition to being one of the funniest dog she's ever known, she was also the first one Ingrid tried to train. Fortunately Thistle was a fast learner and to this day is the easiest dog Ingrid has ever trained.
Indiana Jones, a Staffordshire Terrier, had an unlucky start in life but fortunately that changed when she met Ingrid. "She was the absolute love of my life," says Ingrid—even though, compared to her childhood dogs, Indy was a doozy of a pick. Ingrid rescued her from an abusive home that had a heavy handed/misguided/old school approach to dog rearing. That history made Indy a challenge to train, or rather, re-train. Ingrid considered herself pretty well-versed in dog stuff, having grown up with so many of them and working as a groomer, but Ingrid found herself not knowing enough to help someone like Indy. So she read and researched as much as she could and built a personal library of training and behavior books. To Ingrid's great credit, it worked. Indy flourished under Ingrid's patience, love, dedication and use of humane, positive training methods.
This is Ingrid's current dog, Scarlett Grey, a Staffordshire mix rescue adopted from Philly PAWS. She's a "complete and total snug-bug-love!!!" but she's also a shy little girl. Ingrid adopted her in 2011 and has been working with her ever since to little-by-little help her become braver and braver. It's through Scarlett that we met Ingrid. They took classes with us and you can find out how that story ends if you read Ingrid's bio above.
Another shot of Ingrid's Scarlett Grey, this time wearing her sun-dappled happy face.
This was taken after a Rover Achiever class that we used to offer but is now part of our B-Dog program. Scarlett LOVED the class but this is what she did as soon as she got home. She was completely worn out after all of that thinking and achieving!
This Yellow Lab belongs to Ingrid's parents. Her name is Ula Inish, which means sea jewel island in Irish. She actually had green eyes as a puppy. Ula is her mother's BFF. She's 12-years-old, will steal your coffee, and Ingrid's family is pretty sure she's a mind reader.
This Staffordshire Bull Terrier also belonged to Ingrid's parents. Her name is Briar Rose and she's Ingrid's dad's little shadow. Briar Rose was found as a puppy—all beaten up, bloody and with broken bones. Ingrid's parents took her in and Ula (see prev slide), who was a only pup back then herself, seemed to adopt her too. Together they nursed her back to health. Briar Rose lived a long, happy life with the good fortune of being found by the Faber fam!
This is Ingrid's first "niece". She's the dog on the bottom and her name is Mischief. Their guess is that she's a Schipperke mix. Mischief was the first dog in Ingrid's family to attend professional dog training classes and, despite her name, she passed with flying colors.
This is one of Ingrid's other "nieces", Comet. She used to be the young pup among Ingrid's family dogs but now she's the old lady. Despite losing one eye to a tumor and starting to lose her hearing, she's aging quite gracefully. Who doesn't love a deaf lady pirate? ;-)
Zira, a Shiba Inu, belonged to Ingrid's best friend. Zira was rescued around the same time that Ingrid rescued Indiana Jones. Like their owners, the two dogs quickly became best friends. In fact, they never bonded more closely with any other dog than they did with each other and were true BFFs. Zira outlived Indy but even at age 15 and blind, she still recognized Ingrid when she visited.
Leigh and her dog/our mascot, Sweets, getting inspiration for Circus Dog Class by visiting Ingrid at one of her flying trapeze practice sessions at Fly School Circus Arts in Philadelphia. Ingrid is a "frequent flyer" there. Notice that the thought of it has Sweets closing her eyes ;-)
Before you choose a dog trainer or behavior consultant, it's important to dig a little into their credentials and professional affiliations.
Of them all, we always point out our CPDT credential. Think of it as an international "bar exam" for trainers but with a hands-on requirement too. Read more on our home page.
We encourage you to choose carefully. Here's an excellent article to guide you: Whole Dog Journal's "How To Find The Best Dog Trainer For Your Dog".
Keeping up with all the new research about how dogs work—their brains, their physiology, their drive, their individuality, their relationship with humans—that's the stuff that excites us. Diving deep into nerd-dom and digging into canine cognitive science is indispensable for our extra challenging cases, and actually, just as helpful for finding better and better ways to help average dogs and average owners achieve their training and behavior goals.
So here are a few of our deep, dog nerd loves. Take a look. Maybe we'll turn you into a tiny bit of a dog nerd yourself.
We do private lesson house calls to help puppies and dogs: • master house training • learn to heel or just walk nicely on leash • come reliably when called • give polite greetings at the door • learn not to jump up at people • learn to channel their energy in approved ways and not be destructive • and of course we can teach all of the basic commands (sit, stay, lie down, come, "leave it", "drop it", "watch me", etc.)
For bigger issues, we generally start with an in-home behavior consult to see firsthand what's going on and then work out a game plan to help you deal with things like:
• aggression • growling • biting • barking and/or lunging when on-leash at other dogs or people (reactivity) • general anxiety • separation anxiety • difficulties with crating or confinement • house training challenges • fearful behavior • barking • OCD • dogs having trouble adjusting to a new home or to new companion pets • safety around babies or toddlers
We do one-on-one dog training lessons and behavior consults in our new facility in East Falls Philadelphia and at our Bucks County HQ, Sweet Spot Farm in Quakertown, PA.
See Our Contact Page for exact addresses
Go to the
"What Keeps Us Busy"
section of the home page.
We hold classes in Philadelphia at our new East Falls facility (south of Manayunk, north of the Art Museum)
We also hold classes in Bucks County at our country place in Quakertown: OpBarks' Sweet Spot Farm. We have 5 acres up there and also offer • Boarding School • Off-Leash Hiking • Agility • Country Adventure Days
See Our Contact Page for more about each location including a full list of services and exact addresses.
Though we can sometimes work in visits within a few days of when we hear from you, because of our large coverage area, our schedules for private appointments do get pretty full. If you are considering using us for in-home lessons or a behavior consult, it's a good idea to at least get in touch early on to discuss the possibility so that if you decide to proceed, we can start watching our calendar for days when we'll be in (or near) your area.
Within our Philadelphia travels: South Philly, Rittenhouse Square, Center City, Old City, West Philly, University City, Point Breeze, Art Museum Area/Fairmount, East Falls, Manayunk, Roxborough, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Mt. Airy, Germantown.
NJ near Philadelphia: Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Collinswood, Woodbury Heights.
Towns outside Philadelphia: Gladwyne, Bala Cynwyd, Narberth, Penn Valley, Merion Station, Ardmore, Conshohocken, Lafayette Hill, Plymouth Meeting.
In our travels around Quakertown, Bucks County: Coopersburg, Hellertown, Springtown, Sellersville, Perkasie, Dublin, Ottsville, Upper Black Eddy, Doylestown, Chalfonte, New Britain, Solebury, New Hope, Frenchtown (NJ), Lansdale, Green Lane, Perkiomen, Collegeville, Phoenixville.
Don't see your specific town? This is a partial list. Towns near these towns are definitely in our range. If you want to know if we'd come to your specific town or city, get in touch.
Skype, Phone or Referrals: If you live outside our coverage area and want behavioral advice, feel free to contact us. We may be able to refer you to someone or possibly work with you by Skype or phone (depending on the nature of the problem, of course.)
If you're down this far on this page, you probably came to this site curious about something going on with your dog or just wanting to know what the best training options might be.
Pick my brain. It's free. I'll answer any questions you have, including pricing and how we get started (if it does seem like a case for a pro.) And then you'll have the info you need to decide what your next steps might be.
And heck, it might be a simple thing. I'll send you a link to an article and you'll be on your way. And if not, at least you'll know it's something that likely requires a professional to help get things back on track.
– Leigh Siegfried, CPDT-KA
Owner and Training Director
Lots of experience.