Meet the woman who trains “un-trainable” dogs, Rona Distenfeld.

Thumbtack Writer PhilippaB
Thumbtack Writer
2 5 404

Rona Distenfeld is a marketing consultant turned dog trainer in Austin, Texas. Here’s how she changed careers to do what she loves, as told to by Thumbtack.


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I started volunteering at my local shelter, Austin Pets Alive, which pulls dogs from other shelters that are at risk for euthanasia. I started just walking dogs and very quickly became the person that opened in the morning. They hired a behavior program manager who started training classes for very committed volunteers, and I zoomed through those classes and became a member of the behavior team.


I found out some of these dogs had been given up in the first place because their original owners had been told by several trainers that they were “un-trainable.” And here I was training them and passing them through the Canine Good Citizen Test, and they would go on to get adopted. So I went to the head of the behavior program and said, “I feel like I’m making a difference here and I feel good about that… Do you think I could do this professionally?” And he said if he had any money, he’d hire me in a heartbeat.


My goal was not to work with the dogs in the shelters, but to work with dogs while they were still in their homes, so they stayed there and didn’t end up in a shelter in the first place. The truth is that maybe 15 to 20 percent of my clients have a dog that’s such a problem that they’re considering rehoming or sending the dog to a shelter, and the other 80 percent are people with puppies or dogs they want to stop pulling them down the street or stop jumping on people. But for that small percentage for whom it’s the difference of the dogs staying in their homes or going to a shelter, getting a trainer in there to help them and actually get results… that’s what makes it all worthwhile for me.


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5 responses
Moderator Meckell

I love this, thanks for sharing! 

Level 4

I hear ya.... After 22 years, I've only met 2 dogs that were absolutely untrainable and were laid to rest due to mental disabilities, other than that, with time, patience and lots of positive reinforcement, the stars are the limit!!!  This is what I do and I wouldnt change it for the world!!!  High five and thanks for the great work in the community!!!!

Moderator Meckell

That's awesome @bmaraia you're clearly very good at what you do. Keep it up! 

Level 1

Can I get help to build my 

page ? Please 

thank you 

Level 4

I wish we could clone you.  The world needs more of this!  I've been walking dogs & Pet sitting for the past 10 years.  I cannot afford training school.  And unfortunately rarely even get a day off.  But I want to learn to be a trainer and be able to make a difference.  Like you do.