Karen grew up on a farm surrounded by animals. She was active in 4-H and FFA, showing horses, dairy cattle, pigs and of course dogs. Even as a child she was always looking for ways to improve her relationship with the animals in her care. These early experiences cemented her love for all animals and her understanding the importance of lifelong learning for herself.
In 1982, Karen was given a beautiful Belgian Tervuren by her husband. Rista was the first dog Karen titled in AKC formal obedience. This led to a 35 year journey of training and showing dogs in multiple sports and earning over a 100 titles.
In recent years, Karen has been devoted to working with reactive dogs and their owners. She believes in a force free method of training where the dog has the choice to say “No, I’m not comfortable with this.” By empowering the dog and removing all force and intimidation, dogs learn so much more quickly. They become curious and confident, making the bond between dog and owner so much stronger.
Karen's introduction to rehabilitating reactive dogs came in 2008 when she adopted Maya. Maya was so fearful and anxious that she would go catatonic when asked to do something as simple as sit. She was also extremely reactive to unknown people and dogs.
Karen sought help from Leslie McDevitt, the author of the book “Control Unleashed,” and began learning how to help Maya to feel more comfortable around the things that used to cause her terror.
Over time, she was able to help Maya became relaxed enough to go to dog shows and compete, earning titles in three different sports. The knowledge and fulfillment she gained from working with Maya has made Karen's life purpose to help people understand their dog’s anxiety and treat these dogs with empathy and compassion.
In addition working with clients' dogs, Karen continues to work with reactive dogs at home. Mosley, a feral dog adopted in 2014, was unable to be touched in any way when he came to Karen. Through desensitization and counter conditioning, she slowly taught him to be comfortable with touching and handling. Because of his aversion to touch, Karen worked with Ken Ramirez, former lead trainer at Shedds Aquarium to teach Mosley to be relaxed at the veterinarian’s. As the result of her work with him, Mosley is able to be relaxed for blood draws, vaccinations and general veterinary procedures, and voluntarily allow them without being restrained.
Karen's most recent addition, Whimsy, came out of a neglect case in which she was isolated in an outdoor pen. From the ages of five weeks to five months old, Whimsy had no contact with humans or other dogs. Unsocialized and anxious in every day situations, Karen feared she would become a fear biter if something wasn’t done immediately. She quickly began to work with Whimsy using Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol and Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed Puppy Program. Karen has carefully exposed her to new people, dogs, and experiences in a positive way, to ensure that she grows to be as well-adjusted as possible.