About: Us

The People Behind the Biz

Veronica Boutelle

Founder, THRIVE! Coach, dogbiz U Instructor

Veronica and her team have been helping R+ dog trainers create their dream businesses since 2003.

Veronica is the author of How to Run a Dog Business and writes for multiple industry journals, including regular business columns in PPG’s Barks from the Guild, APDT’s Chronicle of the Dog, as well as APDT Australia’s Clicks and the APDT New Zealand member newsletter. She is a sought-after speaker at conferences and dog training schools across the country and internationally, teaching R+ dog trainers how to help more dogs while better enjoying their businesses in countries ranging from North America to South America, Europe to Down Under. She is also a Clicker Expo faculty member.

Veronica combines her experience as a professional dog trainer and business owner with her former career as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, and curriculum developer to create unique and effective programs and products to help dog trainers start, grow, and enjoy successful businesses. 

Fun Fact: Veronica grows much of her own food and is rarely seen at home without dirt under her fingernails. She’s also a compulsive weed puller. See weed, must pull.

Gina Phairas
BSc Comms, CTC

Founder, THRIVE! Coach,
dogbiz U Director

Gina is a former San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers instructor, teaching fellow trainers alongside Jean Donaldson and Janis Bradley. Gina brings extensive experience in the dog industry to her work, including serving as Behavior Rehabilitation Coordinator at the SF/SPCA, co-founding a consulting non-profit for shelters and rescues, consulting for and managing one of the first dog daycares in the CA Bay Area, and running her own successful dog training business. 

These days Gina uses her experience and advertising background to coach THRIVE! members and run dogbiz University, her brain child for providing effective, easy-access business support to R+ dog professionals. She also regularly shares dog business wisdom at dog training conferences and seminars, including those held by PPG, APDT, and as Clicker Expo faculty.

Fun Fact: In her first career Gina worked on television commercials and news programs. She’s also hosted a music video show.

Tia Guest

Lead Business Consultant, THRIVE! Coach

Tia has been a professional dog trainer and instructor for more than two decades with experience in virtually all facets of the dog services industry. Tia was the first and founding director of the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior, assisting in the creation of its flagship Dog Trainer Professional course. She also played a central role in the creation of the Victoria Stilwell Academy curriculum. Tia is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a Level 2 TAGteacher through TAGteach International, a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, and a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator for the American Kennel Club.

Tia understands what it is to start and run a dog business, having opened a daycare, training, and boarding facility back in 1999 when dog daycare was practically unheard of. Sold in 2004, that business continues to thrive. Today, Tia revels in helping fellow dog professionals do the same through her work as a dogbiz business consultant.

Fun Fact: Amidst all the work she’s done for our industry, Tia somewhere along the line learned to fly a plane.

Sarah Hoth

Business Consultant

Sarah brings together dual backgrounds in both training and business to guide dogbiz clients to meet their business and career goals. On the training side, Sarah is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and Dog Walking Academy graduate and the owner of The Persuaded Pooch in St. Louis, MO. On the business side, Sarah sports a master’s degree in business along with bachelor’s degrees in communications and the social sciences, as well as 15 years of experience in sales and marketing. Sarah is an AKC Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy evaluator. She has also trained both service and therapy dogs, including time served as Development Director for a local service dog training organization.

Fun Fact: Sarah sings in the African-American chorus with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Alexis Davison

Business Consultant

Alexis is committed to the education and support of fellow force-free dog trainers: She is a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, charged with teaching the KPA Dog Trainer Professional Program in Australia, a regular speaker at dog training conferences, and provides continuing education through her UnChase! program. Through dogbiz she provides one-on-one support as a dogbiz business consultant for our clients in Australia and New Zealand.

Alexis is a nationally accredited Dog Behavioral Trainer with a Certificate IV in Dog Behavioral Training in Australia, a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP), and an internationally Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Named 2014 Dog Trainer of the Year by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia, Alexis’ professional memberships also include the American Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild Australia.

Fun Fact: Alexis gets around: 12 months in India, the Himalayas for 2, overland from Delhi to London, Moscow when tanks rolled through the Kremlin, and the Aurora Borealis at the North Pole (barefoot!).

Delphi Colman

THRIVE! Member Success Coordinator

Delphi keeps our THRIVE! members on track and inspired through her stellar work as Member Success Coordinator. She is always buzzing with ideas and solutions to enhance the member experience. No stranger to life as a dog pro, she built and sold her own business The Dog House in Sydney and now runs The Canine Scentre in Coffs Harbour, Australia. Delphi credits her business success to delivering high standards of care to her two and four legged clients, and is passionate about ethical business practices. She’s worked as a pro dog walker for eight years and is also a certified dog trainer.

Fun Fact: Delphi loves immersing herself in new cultures and has lived and worked in five countries on three different continents. 

Deborsha Lashway

Client Support & Operations
Manager, Organizational Goddess, Glue

Deborsha, our Client Support & Operations Manager, is Awesomeness Incarnate and the glue that keeps dogbiz together and allows us all to do what we do. She’s the first point of contact for new clients and students and has a raving fan club among them. (Clients often tell us they wish they could find their own Deborsha, but we guard her like a hungry dog with a pig’s ear.)

Deborsha wears multiple hats within the company, running everything from customer support to billing and accounts to order fulfillment to overseeing the daily operations of programs like the Newsletter Service. She is, in other words, indispensable (and thus our understandable resource guarding behavior).

Before joining dogbiz, Deborsha held administration management positions in the health-care industry.

Fun Fact: Deborsha somehow fits in time for multiple hobbies, including gardening, tending her chickens, and playing board games. Oh, and she’s a blue belt in Tai Kwon Do, too.

Harriet Alexander
BA, GDipPsych

Writer & Content Curator

Harriet writes our Newsletter Service, oversees our blog, and writes powerful website and marketing copy for our clients and THRIVE! members. Harriet has spent the past decade orienting her life around all things dog, and loves taking knotty topics and turning them into accessible and fun content. She has written for Australian Dog Lover magazine, BHARCS, Our Good Brands and the Pet Dog Trainers of Europe. She completed a creative writing major (BA) at the University of Melbourne and has expertise in copywriting, policy writing, web design and content curation. Harriet understands the unique needs and challenges of dog industry professionals and has been running her own dog training business since 2013. She loves supporting fellow R+ professionals to achieve their creative business goals.

Fun fact: Harriet started her career in the arts industry and has a pretty smug list of ‘amazing gigs attended’ from her time working at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

What dog pros say about the people behind dogbiz

Our mission

It’s simple: Our goal is to help more dogs live happy lives by helping R+ dog pros learn how to run thriving, ethical businesses. If we can keep you in business, you can keep helping dogs. Simple as that.

The dogbiz story

In 2000 Veronica Boutelle and Gina Phairas, our eventual founders, were working as Director of Behavior & Training and Academy Instructor, respectively, for the San Francisco SPCA. Jean Donaldson’s esteemed Academy for Dog Trainers was part of the department at that time, and Veronica and Gina were early graduates of the program as well.

Over the next three years Veronica and Gina watched as four classes of talented dog trainers graduated each year, only to fail. Many found themselves taking part-time jobs to make ends meet. Others headed grudgingly back to previous careers they’d been glad to leave behind.

These were great dog trainers who’d been well prepared to make a difference in dogs’ lives. The problem? They didn’t know how to run their businesses. Growing increasingly worried about keeping good R+ trainers in the game, Veronica and Gina began hatching a plan.

In 2003 dogbiz (originally called The Dog Training Education Center, or dogTEC for short) opened in the California Bay Area. Since then we’ve grown steadily to serve fellow dog pros throughout the U.S. and internationally, dedicating ourselves to developing innovative products, services, and educational resources to increase the business IQ and success of R+ dog professionals around the world.


dogbiz philosophy in a nutshell

A team approach

When you work with a dogbiz consultant you benefit from the collective wisdom of the entire consulting team. Same when you take a Biz U or DWA course. Our consultants, dogbiz U faculty, and Dog Walking Academy instructors continually share ideas and best practices to give you the best possible experience and support.

Real people

We consultants, faculty, and instructors value our credentials, experience, knowledge, and skills. But we know a human connection is just as important. You’ll find us to be real, down-to-earth people who love making a living helping others make a living doing what they love. (We dare you to say that five times fast…)

Dog pros helping dog pros

Our clients and students work hard to pursue a career with dogs; the person teaching or supporting you has to understand what this means. We are all accomplished R+ dog trainers with experience on the front lines of the dog industry, including as walkers and sitters and running daycare and boarding facilities.

Celebrating diversity

We serve and support all R+ or force-free trainers—trainers of all races, colors, national origins, sex, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities. In short, if you’re 100% committed to force-free training, we’re 100% committed to you.

Living vicariously

We actively celebrate our clients’ and students’ successes. We live vicariously through each business up and down, each triumph and set back. It thrills us to see students and clients in an “ah-hah” moment. We share in missed sleep when there’s a problem to solve. And we live for news of a successful price increase, new website launch, or first client. 

Practicing what we preach

We teach only ethical approaches to business success that are good for dog pros, dog lovers, and—most importantly—dogs. Then we strive to follow the advice we give our clients, students, readers, and followers. “Do as I say, not as I do” seemed sketchy when we were kids; it’s definitely not a good philosophy for business advice.