Human of the Month: Nina Sorochynskyj
Name and Location: Nina Sorochynskyj, Beach Lake, PA
Occupation: Dog Trainer
Nina Sorochynskyj puts her best friends to work! This Certified Professional Dog Trainer has taught her own pets to search, rescue, and detect everything from bodies to bedbugs. When she’s not training other people’s dogs, she’s with her pack walking trails, herding chickens, helping police, or just relaxing in nature.
“Since I was a little kid, I have always been fascinated with dogs and dog training. I remember checking out dog training books from the library and “testing” out techniques on our family pets at the time. When visiting the homes of friends and family, it was always a priority to spend lots of time with the resident canine. As I got older, I became much more interested in dogs with jobs, and how dogs could be trained to help people.”
That’s not to say that becoming a professional dog trainer with her own business was easy.
“Honestly, for the longest time I dismissed the idea of pursuing a career in dog training because there was no clear cut college track that would lead to a dog training job. So instead, as child I participated in 4-H with our family dog, and then later as an adult, I joined a Search & Rescue team to serve in the K9 unit. It wasn’t until the stock market plummeted in 2007/08 and I lost my job that I seriously started considering a career change. I worked several dog related jobs including a bed bug detection canine handler, teaching classes at Petsmart, and became a dog training instructor at a private school, before finally breaking out on my own and starting my own training business.”
Nina’s certification – or CPDT-KA – stands for “Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assisted.” While this sophisticated bunch of letters seems like just another acronym, in the dog training world it most decidedly is not. Some people who consider themselves dog trainers aren’t licensed by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, which is the only independent testing and certification agency for dog trainers. Also, some people can simply pay for certain titles that seem to indicate their ability to train dogs, while they haven’t necessarily honed their skills in quite the same way.
As a CPDT-KA Nina had to spend over 300 hours assisting instructors with dogs, instructing her own group and private lessons, and she had to take a test that focused on the science of animal behavior, training techniques, theory and husbandry. And that’s not even what was required for her dogs to become involved in search and rescue work!
Nina and her dogs are a part of Northeast Search and Rescue, an all-volunteer non-profit search and rescue and emergency service in the Central and Eastern Pennsylvania area. Dogs’ endurance, night vision, and super-sensitive smell and hearing make them ideal for search and rescue missions, and their tracking and trailing drastically reduce the amount of time teams need to spend searching for a missing person, thereby increasing the chances that they’ll be found alive. Kevlar, Sophie, and Dillon all assist with searches, and both Kevlar and Dillon are cadaver dogs, specializing in finding human remains.
“I’ve trained and certified 4 of my own dogs for service in Search & Rescue (SAR). The work we do complements and assists law enforcement in locating lost and missing people. Three of my four dogs have been Human Remains Detection (AKA: Cadaver) K9s. While I can’t go into detail about specific searches, I can say it’s been incredibly rewarding to help the families of these missing individuals,” she says. “We assist on searches with a wide range of scenarios. Sometimes they are lost/injured kids, hikers, bikers & hunters. But we also frequently assist in searches for individuals with autism or dementia, as well as unfortunate situations of drug overdose, suicide and homicide. The work is difficult, intensive and more often than not – in tricky terrain and unpredictable conditions. But the relationship a handler develops with their K9 is like no other. A SAR K9 is both a specialized tool and a partner. It’s a very unique bond.”
So what products or brands inspire Nina as she works with her four-legged friends?
“Three of my favorite toy brands are Planet Dog, West Paw and KONG. All of them design and produce awesome, durable, and safe toys for dogs. They also have excellent programs to aid shelters and rescue organizations, as well as other dog related non-profits.”
And which of our socks does Nina think put the ‘wag’ in swag?
“I think the Flamingo socks are adorable! The simplicity of the single flamingo face, coupled with the glasses – just makes me smile.”
We asked Nina what organization or group would she like for us to shed light on and she suggested the human element of Search and Rescue.
“With the recent catastrophic building collapse in Florida, urban SAR was thrust to the forefront of the national news. I fielded many questions during those few weeks regarding search and rescue and how the dogs are utilized. One little known fact about SAR is that we often rely upon the general public to help us train the dogs, and it’s something anyone can take part in. Basically, for dogs trained to find ‘live’ people – we always need to switch it up and have a new person hide in training. IIt doesn’t require more than a few hours of a person’s time, and a little bit of effort by playing with the dog once they find you. It’s something that all SAR teams struggle with: finding new ‘subjects’ to hide for our dogs!”
So get in touch with your local Search and Rescue team and volunteer to play hide-and-go seek with some studying search pups!
For her dedication to training our best friends for jobs or just a life of leisure, we are so grateful to feature Nina Sorochynskyj as our August Human of the Month!
Meet some of the helping paws!