Our Trainers2020-02-09T14:32:30-06:00

Our Trainers

James Bahr, CPDT-KA
James Bahr, CPDT-KAHead Trainer
Jim has over 26 years of dog training experience and has achieved his CPDT-KA certification. He started out training his dogs in obedience first with CGC, TDI, then on to competitive obedience in AKC and UKC. After some quick success in the obedience ring, putting advanced obedience titles on his dogs, he was hooked! Obedience led to other dog sports such as Flyball (his team took 1st place in the Flyball region), Earthdog (Wire Fox Terrier titles on Earthdog), Conformation (Breed champion on his Giant Schnauzer), and Agility.

Agility quickly became his favorite and in the year 2000 he titled the first MACH wire fox terrier. The same year showing in AKC, his giant schnauzer, wire fox terrier, and miniature schnauzer received the Top Agility Dog Award in their breed. He has since put agility championships on multiple dogs of different breeds in both AKC and USDAA and qualified and attended Nationals since 2000. The most recent accomplishment was in 2014 winning the 26” division at AKC Nationals with his talented dog Pressure earning the coveted NAC (National Agility Champion) title.

Jim leads our entire talented Training team at Urban Pooch and will be teaching all levels of obedience and manners, flyball, and agility. Not only is Jim an accomplished trainer, but he is also personable, pleasant and patient – you and your pooch will LOVE working with him! 

Karen Okura, CPDT-KA
Karen Okura, CPDT-KASenior Trainer & Curriculum Development Manager
Karen has over 30 years experience in training and animal behavior. She worked at The Anti-Cruelty Society of 30 years in roles ranging from Adoption Counselor to Humane Educator with her most recent role there being Manager of Behavior and Training.

While at Anti-Cruelty, Karen developed and grew the Behavior Hotline, crafted many of the training manuals and behavior policies and assisted adopters with behavior issues. She also contributed to the Anti-Cruelty publications as the pet behavior expert, acted as spokesperson on radio and TV and contribute to many print articles in publications such as The Chicago Tribune and Dog Fancy Magazine.

Most recently, Karen was Senior Dog Trainer at Collins Canine where she focused on dogs with behavioral issues, puppies and obedience training. “I gained an enormous amount of experience and knowledge in the private sector of animal welfare. I also found my passion in work – helping people help their companion animals, both dog and cat,” says Karen.

Karen will be leading all of our training programs at Montrose Dog Beach and will be in charge of developing new curriculum and training procedures for the company alongside Head Trainer, Jim Bahr.

Pamela Davis, CPDT-KA
Pamela Davis, CPDT-KA Obedience Trainer
Pamela comes from a theatre and education background, and her approach to dog training is very much informed by those fields. A lifelong animal lover whose earliest ambition was to be an entomologist, Pamela began her journey as a “serious” dog trainer when she adopted the world’s best bad dog, a reactive pit mix named Bea Arfur, and became active in Chicago’s rescue and rehabilitation community.

The more she studied dog behavior and learning, the more she realized how many of the tools used in teaching and theatre-making applied! She now structures her training around empathy (to understand the dog’s point of view), communication (making clear requests and “listening” closely to the responses), and follow-through (being patient and consistent, day in and day out). Pamela’s classes are positive-reinforcement, force-free, dynamic, and equally focused on human and canine learning. Come play! Pamela is a CGC Evaluator and has her CPDT-KA certification.

Shannon Lynne Sullivan, CPDT-KA
Shannon Lynne Sullivan, CPDT-KAObedience Trainer
Shannon understands how a great human-canine relationship can increase the quality of life for both the pet and pet parent. Her own journey rehabilitating her reactive Mountain Cur rescue, Virginia, encouraged Shannon to transform her personal passion into a professional career.

Shannon’s approach to training is relationship-centered and reward-based, and she works hard to bring her personal values of deep listening and respect to every class.

Animal training began for Shannon at 8 years old when she began showing American Quarter Horses. She progressed to win a Reserve World Championship before taking a break to study chemistry in college. Shannon later
re-entered the animal training world by adopting her first Mountain Cur, Abby.

Around that same time, Shannon began teaching humans in multiple roles from ski/snowboard instructor, college chemistry instructor, and practitioner of somatic (body-based) education modalities including the Feldenkrais Method. Shannon’s diversity of experience enables her to break-down difficult situations into simple pathways to success.

Shannon knows that no single approach is right for every human or dog, so she continues to study and perfect her ability to adapt to the needs of each dog-human team she works with. She has shadowed numerous trainers, completed certificate programs with Michael Ellis and Ian Dunbar, and is currently preparing for independent certification.

Shannon believes in the importance of strong foundation and shares this passion every day with her Urban Pooch clients in Levels Obedience Classes and Puppy Social Playtime. 

Nidia Vasquez, CPDT-KA
Nidia Vasquez, CPDT-KAObedience Trainer
Nidia has over 7-years of dog training experience. Prior to Urban Pooch, she started her passion as a trainer at Petsmart and at Found Training Center. She studied Psychology and Biology at Northeastern Illinois University. With a Bachelors degree under her belt, she seeks to not only comprehend dog behavior, but continues to grow her knowledge of animal behavior via volunteer work and internship experience with the Shedd Aquarium. Her skill set has made her a valuable team member to the training department here at Urban Pooch Training & Fitness Center.

During her first year with UPTFC, she finally acquired her first pet dog! Nikoah was adopted at 9-months old as a graduation gift for completing her degree in December 2018. He has worked his way up to a full-time demo dog, always tagging along to show off his tips and tricks on how to be a “good boy.” Niko is a Pomsky (Pomeranian/Husky mix) and is one of the younger dogs in the Pooch Staff Pack.

Sue Sentowski
Sue SentowskiCertified Nose Work Trainer
Sue is our Nose Work Instructor and brings her experience and great knowledge of the fun and exciting sport of Nose Work. She has trained her own dogs competing in a variety of dog sports – agility, rally, dock diving, and of course, Nose Work. Sue is a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI) with the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) and competes with her dogs Splash and C.J., both of whom are currently at the NW3 level.

Sue believes that a positive training program with your dog is the best way to achieve the goals you wish to accomplish with them all the while building the relationship between human and dog.

In addition to teaching, Sue is the owner of Sue & Crew H2O, a dog swimming facility in Wood Dale, IL. Sue also does therapy work with her dog Bobber thru Pet Partners.  Sue lives in Chicago with her family and their 4 dogs C.J., Stella, Bobber and Splash.

Robin Taylor
Robin TaylorCertified Nose Work Trainer, Agility Instructor
Robin got started in dog training 10-years-ago when she adopted Dylan from the Anti-Cruelty Society. Because Dylan’s energy and drive needed an outlet, she got started in agility and nose work. Her second dog didn’t have the same drive for sports but loved people, which took them down the path of therapy dog work at grade school reading programs and in hospitals.

Today Robin is continuing her agility and nose work competition with her newest rescue dog, Kaiden, and is just starting to compete in agility with her young dog Raze, a border collie.

Robin believes that all dogs are individuals and need to be treated as such. Her objectives as a dog trainer are to teach her human students how to communicate clearly with their dog partners, be consistent in their communication, and enjoy the journey.

Gretchen Deckard, CPDT-KA
Gretchen Deckard, CPDT-KAObedience Trainer
Gretchen’s passion is teaching and helping owners understand how to live successfully and compassionately with their dogs. Her professional experience includes being the current owner-operator of Gretchen Decker Dog Training, a senior trainer at Animal Sense and For Your K9, and a former Manager of Canine Operations at Oak Park’s Animal Care League. She also volunteers with Pets for Vets, training and placing shelter dogs as companion animals for veterans with TBI, PTSD, and other mental health issues. She received her training certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.