Our Trainers

We have multiple trainers at each class so we get to know you and your dog and there is always someone available to answer questions. We’re a team and we’re all here to help you and your dog succeed.


Liz Palika with Sisko, her Australian ShepherdLiz Palika is the founder of Kindred Spirits Dog Training and has been teaching dogs and their owners in San Diego North County for more than 30 years. Liz has been active in a variety of dog sports over the years, including agility, carting, conformation (dog shows), competitive obedience, flyball, Frisbee competitions, herding, lure coursing, schutzhund, search and rescue (including tracking and air scenting), scenting games, therapy dog work, and weight pulling. She is an AKC CGC evaluator, #4182, a Certified Dog Trainer, and a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant. Liz has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including USA TODAY, PARADE magazine, and many radio and podcast personalities. GOOD MORNING, AMERICA  sent a film crew to interview her during the disastrous pet food recalls of 2006/7. She was awarded the San Diego Channel 10 Leadership Award and the North County Times Women of Merit Award. Liz has been writing professionally since 1985 and has written for most of the major pet publications, general interest magazines, as well as many major blogs, including Embrace Pet Insurance and the Honest Kitchen’s blog. Many of Liz’s books have been recognized for excellence.  Most recently her column on dog behavior, “Behavior Conundrums” won Best Regular Column from the Dog Writers Association (2015) and her book, “Idiot’s Guide: Dog Training” won Best Non-Fiction Book from San Diego Book Awards (2014). Liz, Petra and Kate record the popular podcast, “It’s a Doggy Dog World.” Available from Pet Life Radio and I (heart) Radio, this podcast has fans from all over the world, including Europe, Australia, South Africa, and China. Although the subjects most often discussed are training and behavior, anything dog related is fair game for a discussion. Liz shares her home with two Australian Shepherds, Bashir and Sisko; one English Shepherd, Bones; and three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk.


Petra, trainer and co-owner, with her puppy, Poncho, and her Australian Shepherd, Rio

 Petra Burke has been training with Liz Palika for almost 30 years after having attended Liz’s classes with a challenging German Shepherd, Hans. Now a business partner and co-owner of Kindred Spirits, Petra teaches group classes, is a CGC evaluator # 26916. Petra has a special interest in working with disabled dogs, especially those with vision or hearing issues, and dogs who have lost a limb. Petra shares her home and mini-farm with one Australian Shepherd, Rio; one English Shepherd, Poncho; two Pomeranians, Keely and Benji; one ten year old Morgan horse named Raz; and several chickens and cats.


Kate Abbott, trainer and co-owner, with her two dogs, Walter and Qwill

Kate Abbott is a business partner and co-owner of Kindred Spirits with a long history of working with dogs. She, like Liz and Sue Dewar, was previously a veterinary technician and Kate also was a handler and trainer with a canine surety company for several years. Kate has been with Kindred Spirits for fourteen years and teaches group classes, does all of KS’s private training, is an AKC CGC evaluator, #38967, and is an apprentice behavioral consultant with Liz.  Kate also teaches the Red Cross Emergency Pet First Aid course several times a year. Kate is a past president of Love on a Leash and Kate’s dogs, Walter and Qwill, are both certified therapy dogs. Kate visits at local nursing homes weekly.


Dawn McMahon has been a trainer with Kindred Spirits for seven years. She is an AKC CGC evaluator #51903. She assists and teaches the basic obedience classes as well as puppy, CGC, intermediate and therapy dog classes. Dawn is also instrumental in keeping KS running smooth as she helps in the office.  Dawn has a particular interest in fun canine activities and with her dogs she enjoys therapy dog work, tricks, scenting games, fun agility, and carting. She is exploring Rally now and hopes to compete soon with her youngest dog, Finn.


Melissa, trainer, with her three dogs

Melissa Duffy has been a trainer at Kindred Spirits for more than five years. She has a particular interest in canine body language and fun dog activities. Her English Shepherd, Toby, who is now five years old, tends to be fearful in certain situations but has made great progress. Because of his fear issues, Melissa has a passion for helping anxious dogs feel more comfortable. Melissa discovered KS a number of years ago when her Rat Terrier, Dinky, was in need of more activities and the two of them attended basic obedience classes, trick training, and more. Dinky, who is about to celebrate her 15th birthday, also discovered the joys of agility. Besides Toby and Dinky, Melissa also has a second English Shepherd, River, who is two years old who loves scenting games. Dinky, Toby, and River can be seen doing demonstrations in the classes. Melissa is KS’s IT professional and we’d be lost without her. Melissa is also an AKC CGC evaluator, #76654.


Tamara and her doberman, Alister

Tamara Harvey has been an assistant trainer with Kindred Spirits for a short time, but has been a KS student for many years with a variety of dogs and breeds. She enjoys working with dogs with challenges and takes pleasure in seeing them turn around and become cooperative, obedient dogs. Having owned bully breeds, she likes to help those dogs and their owners achieve a better understanding and working relationship as well as showing the public that these can be wonderful dogs. Tamara is a CGC evaluator, # 91552.



Tamara is also a sign language interpreter, she has been able to assist deaf persons in our classes. She’s often at classes to lend a hand, particularly on Saturdays. If you might benefit from having a sign language interpreter, send us an email.


Sue with Sophie and Tanner--two rescue dogs well trained

Sue Dewar is an apprentice trainer with Kindred Spirits but has a long resume working with dogs and other animals. She was a veterinary technician for many years; not just for dogs but also exotics. She has also been active in rescue; fostering, rehabilitating, and training dogs often considered ‘untrainable’ until they were adopted to new homes. She has also trained therapy dogs, and dogs who worked on TV shows and in the movies. She presently shares her home with Sophie, a German Shepherd; Opie, a Miniature Pinscher; and Tanner, also a Miniature Pinscher and her most recent rescue. Tanner was a wild child when he came to Sue but he’s made huge progress and is now a lovely, well behaved, social dog.  Two cats also share Sue’s home. Sophie and Tanner are often seen in the classes.

See what we teach in our basic obedience class and our puppy class.

Our dog training articles cover a number of problem solving solutions as well as tips on how to teach your dog.