June 25, 2019

Passion + Dedication = Top-Notch Dog Training in the Making

By Published On: June 25th, 2019Categories: Article

Dog Training Careers run in the family. Melissa is Dogman Mark’s niece!

Meet Melissa Koba: The Latest Pro-Train Institute Student

It’s been two months since Melissa joined the team at Pro-Train. For her, the two months have flown by and she can’t stop smiling. That’s because she is 100 percent confident she knows where she belongs and is thriving as one of the newest dog behaviorist trainees here at Pro-Train.

Melissa has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Psychology. And it’s no surprise that she’s taken so well to dog training as a career. Melissa is the 30-year-old niece of our founder and legendary dog trainer, Mark “Dogman” Castillero.

“I’ve watched Mark and the team at Pro-Train for years from afar, as I earned my degrees at Cal State Fullerton and Pepperdine,” says Melissa. “I saw something in the team that made me want to pursue my career in dog training…I saw passion, dedication, and a solid business model.”

Thor is ready for a day of brace training.

An Early Wake-Up Call and a Commute from Orange County

That kind of passion and dedication gets her moving each day to travel the distance from her home in Orange County to the training facility in North San Diego’s Vista. Her alarm clock goes off at 4:00 a.m. and she starts her day alongside lead trainer Saheed Lawal by 9:00 a.m. She feels like she’s integrated with the team nicely and feels very lucky to be working under Saheed. “Saheed is so influential, creative, innovative and inspiring,” she said. “He is one of the reasons I am here and working so hard.”

When asked what she has enjoyed the most, she points to her learning how to train service dogs. “I enjoy the emotional aspect of service dog training…relating to both clients and canines and using my education in Psychology to push me even further to ensure well-bonded and well-suited service dog-owner pairs,” she said. She’s been working with a repeat client, in fact, who has mobility issues and uses a motorized scooter. Melissa has been learning under Saheed’s guidance how to train this client’s four-month-old Blue Heeler named Remi.

On Training Her First Service Dog, Thor

She is also working with a German Shepherd named Thor. And Melissa gets to take Thor home with her as part of the service training. “Thor is being trained as a brace dog for a woman who falls a lot, so it’s a different scenario than Remi and requires me to get creative in my approach with each dog,” she added. Thor is learning his retrieval commands (i.e. “Go get my keys”) and learning how to press buttons like on Life Alert. Primarily, Thor will be a strong “bracing” dog for falls.

Melissa has enjoyed learning all types of dog training under the guidance of lead trainer, Saheed Lawal.

Melissa, of course, is learning all types of dog training. Basic obedience, behavior modification and protection dog training. At 5’1, she’s worked with GSDs and other protection dog breeds at least half her weight! She welcomes each experience and enjoys the freedom to use critical thinking skills coupled with her training to offer the best that Pro-Train is known for.

Making a Difference in the Lives of Women

In addition to her days at Pro-Train, Melissa works as a part-time research assistant for a criminologist in the state’s “Healing Trauma” program. This program teaches women in the California Prison system how trauma has affected their lives and how to break free from that pain cycle and live a better quality life. “My UCLA research has a goal of reducing recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend),” said Melissa. She finds great value in working under Nena Messina, PhD who recently started a nonprofit called Envisioning Justice Solutions. Her nonprofit is about to open a wellness center in Los Angeles soon to give free services to formerly incarcerated women and their children. “I plan on taking service dogs there at some point to help the women,” Melissa added.

Just as she has seen this program positively influence women, she sees how she can positively affect dog owners’ lives as she becomes an excellent dog trainer.

After celebrating her milestone 30th birthday this year, she knew it was time to make a lifetime career decision. “Dog training is what I was born to do and I’m so happy to be a part of the Pro-Train family, she said. Adding, “I smile all the time now. I know I’m in the right place.”

Thor at home with Melissa’s dog, Laker, after a fruitful day of training.

Our Pro-Train Institute

If you know of someone who is interested in a career in dog training, please share this article with them. Our Pro-Train Institute has graduated many top-rated trainers. To learn more, check out our website about the Institute here.

And if this article has inspired you to have your fur baby trained, we are always ready and able to tackle any canine behavior and breed. Give us a call at 877-BAD-DOGS or email us at michael@protraindog.com