Victoria & Team

Victoria Stilwell, Founder & President

Victoria is a world-renowned dog trainer, TV personality, author and public speaker best known as the star of several international hit TV series including Greatest American Dog and It’s Me or the Dog, through which she reaches audiences in over 100 countries.

Victoria founded VSA with the mission of educating, engaging and empowering new dog trainers so that together we can reach more people and their pets, spreading the benefits of positive training and improving lives for generations to come.

Visit Victoria’s Website.

Faculty & Staff

VSA faculty are leaders in their fields and experts in the topics they teach. They all meet Victoria’s highest standards for teaching her program and share the same positive philosophy. During two in-person Intensives, faculty will teach you via multimedia presentations, group discussions, hands-on teaching and training activities, and real-time observation exercises and field trips. During bi-weekly Cyber-classes faculty will enrich important course topics while keeping you engaged with other students and on track with your course work. Our small class sizes ensure that you’ll work closely with VSA faculty.

Throughout your program of study, VSA Faculty will immerse you in topics and observation from their “lens” of experience, deepening and enhancing your understanding of the material in a way that simply doesn’t happen through a distance learning course.


Van Zeiler, CEO

Van serves as the Marketing and Business Development Manager for the Victoria Stilwell Positively brand in his role as Vice President of various Victoria Stilwell entities and CEO of the Victoria Stilwell Academy. Formerly a successful actor, Van oversees the ongoing development of the Victoria Stilwell brand across many platforms including products, licensing, digital, television and video.


Christina Waggoner, Enrollment Coordinator / Administration

Christina is a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy and a 500-hour certified yoga teacher. Christina has been quoted in Dog Fancy Magazine’s Popular Dog Series “Training Secrets For Siberian Huskies”, Orange Coast Magazine, Whole Dog Journal, the elephant journal, and has authored several articles for Christina has presented at Clicker Expo San Diego and Long Beach. Christina lives in Oregon with several dogs, goats, and a potbellied pig named Tofu.


Lisa Lyle Waggoner, Faculty

Lisa is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level 2, a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, a dog∗tec Certified Dog Walker/Instructor, a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and member of The Pet Professional Guild (PPG).

Lisa has many years of experience training dogs of all types and ages. A passionate advocate for humane, science-based dog training, Lisa has studied animal behavior and the latest training techniques throughout her career with dogs—and she devotes a minimum of 40 hours a year to continuing education. She has attended numerous workshops and seminars with leaders in the training and behavior field, for example Karen Pryor, Ian Dunbar, Patricia McConnell, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Pia Silvani, Karen London, Suzanne Clothier, and Ken Ramirez.

Lisa writes expert articles on dog training, is a columnist for the Cherokee Scout, a reviewer of dog training books and DVDs for The APDT Chronicle of the Dog, and a regular contributor to Whole Dog Journal. She is a frequent public speaker and conference speaker on humane education and other dog-related topics.  Lisa and her dog Willow have also earned a DockDogs National Big Air Title of Junior in the dock diving competition and a National Association of Canine Scent Work (NASCW) NW1 Title.


Brad Waggoner, Faculty

Brad Waggoner is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, a graduate of Karen Pryor Academy of Animal Training & Behavior (KPA) and a KPA Certified Training Partner (CTP), a dog∗tec Certified Dog Walker/Instructor, and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). Brad is also a Pet Tech Inc. pet First Aid and CPR instructor.

A veteran of professional dog training, Brad was awarded the prestigious B.F. Skinner scholarship to attend the Karen Pryor Academy. During his internship at Peaceable Paws, he received top honors in the practical exam, demonstrating his ability to use positive reinforcement training to get great results with dogs.

Brad keeps his knowledge and skills finely honed through classes, seminars, and workshops with such dog-training luminaries as Ian Dunbar, Kay Laurence, Patricia McConnell, Pat Miller, Kathy Sdao, Pia Silvani, Suzanne Clothier, and Ken Ramirez.


Paula Bloom, Faculty

Paula Bloom is a practicing clinical psychologist, author, TEDx speaker and frequent on-air CNN contributor. She is called on by the media to offer perspective on a wide range of events and topics including national tragedies, international events and mental health topics such as happiness, resilience and relationships. Paula is the co-author of Why Does he Do That? Why Does She Do That? and has contributed blogs to PBS’s This Emotional Life andThe Huffington Post and has been featured in Men’s Health, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day and Paula is a proud pet parent of a 5-lb chihuahua-terrier mix and a 35-lb boxer puppy.


Tia Guest, Faculty

Tia is a professional animal trainer, and a graduate of the Exotic Animal Training & Management Program at Moorpark College in California, where she gained experience training a variety of species of animals using positive reinforcement techniques. By the mid-1990s, Tia’s training practice was focused primarily on dogs, enabling her to combine her love for dogs and her passion for teaching to help foster great relationships between pet owners and their dogs. She has written numerous training articles and presented to other professional trainers on topics such as teaching pet owners and positive approaches to solving common pet behavior problems. Tia believes that learning should be fun and successful not only in the short term, but empowering for the long term – providing learners with skills and confidence they will retain for a lifetime.

Tia is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, an Associate Certified Animal Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a Level 1 TAGteacher through TAGteach International, and a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator for the American Kennel Club. Tia’s own dogs compete in agility, dabble in numerous other dog sports, and offer training demonstrations and entertainment at schools and animal events.

Nichole Smith, Faculty

J.Nichole Smith is a commercial pet photographer, marketing consultant and dog expert. In 2005 she founded dane + dane studios, a creative studio for pet businesses. In 2007 she co-founded Dog is Good, a lifestyle company for dog lovers, which is now a multi-million dollar business. In addition to championing her own brands, Nichole has spent the last decade crafting creative strategies and campaigns for the most influential individuals and brands in the pet industry, including the likes of Purina, Petco and Victoria Stilwell.

In 2012, Nichole’s coffee table book, ‘Puppyhood’ was released to critical acclaim. In 2014 Nichole graduated with Distinction from Kingston University’s MA Marketing program. In 2016, Nichole launched Working with Dog, a community based around providing petpreneuers with simple, actionable marketing strategies. Later in 2016, her book “Million Dollar Dog Brandinsights from the pet industry’s most inspiring startups” will be published. Nichole also keeps busy offering marketing courses, one-to-one consulting and keynote speeches (primarily to women) on topics relating to ‘marketing genius’ and entrepreneurship.


Irith Bloom, Faculty

Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSA, CDBC, VSPDT, KPA CTP, CBATI, certified TAGteacher, has been training animals since the 1980s, and has worked with everything from parrots and rabbits to dogs and horses – not to mention humans. A biologist by training, Irith is fascinated by the science of learning, and loves taking part in conferences and seminars. Irith has presented at a variety of venues both in the U.S. and internationally, including the VSPDT Conference, ClickerExpo, and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ Annual Educational Conference, among others. She has given webinars for the APDT and the Society for Veterinary Behavior Technicians. She has also written numerous articles for online outlets, and has been published in The APDT Chronicle of the Dog and Everydog.

Irith volunteers with National English Shepherd Rescue, and is on the Steering Committee of the Los Angeles County 2020 Healthy Pets Healthy Families Coalition, a One Health Initiative aimed at improving the health and well-being of people and their pets throughout Los Angeles County. Irith is the owner of The Sophisticated Dog, a pet training company based in Los Angeles, and shares her home with a rescued English Shepherd named Franklin and her husband Aaron.


 Joey Iversen, Faculty

With over 18 years’ experience training and showing both dogs and horses, Joey Iversen has worked with all breeds of dogs and their owners. She has taught seminars around the world, including China, Taiwan, Australia, Denmark, Tokyo, Sweden, France, Switzerland and Canada. Joey received her Certified Pet Dog Trainer title from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.  She is a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior. Joey is also TAGteach Level 2 Certified.

In 2007, Joey relocated to Washington from Iowa where she developed and co-owned a successful training, daycare, agility center and boarding facility.  There, Joey developed and taught all levels of dog and puppy obedience classes, agility, CGC, Rally-O, private lessons, and behavior counseling.  She coached competitors in all canine sports and personally holds titles in Obedience, Rally-O, and Agility.


Alex Andes, Administrative Management / Faculty

Alex works within Positively as the Director of Digital Content, and her job includes writing and managing content for the Positively website, managing website, social media and newsletter operations, working with Victoria’s VSPDT trainers, and filming and traveling with Victoria. She is the primary camera operator for Victoria’s upcoming web series, Guardians of the Night, and is one of the camera operators for Arson Dogs. She is also a regular contributor to the Positively Blog and the Dogington Post.


Lorena Patti, Information Specialist & Faculty


VSA mentors are professional trainers who share the skills and knowledge they have gained through years of experience to guide and support you as you learn and transition to a new career in dog training. You will benefit from your mentor’s feedback and the positive challenges provided to facilitate your professional growth.

You’ll experience first-hand how a professional trainer:

  • communicates with his or her clients from the point of first contact through completion of the training program
  • develops positive and cooperative relationships with clients
  • handles real world challenges with both humans and dogs
  • facilitates the human-animal bond and promotes positive training
  • runs their business including promoting and selling their services, scheduling, contracts, and more.

During VSA’s flagship Dog Trainer Course, your mentor will lead you through two Field Modules. During the first Field Module, you’ll observe and assist your mentor in group dog training classes, private lessons and other activities. In the second Field Module you’ll begin to put your knowledge and skills to work teaching and training with your mentor’s real-work clients and their dogs.

All VSA mentors follow the same program of instruction and remain in close contact with the VSA team, so no matter where you live and work, through your valuable time with your mentor you can be sure you’re having the same rich experience as other VSA students.

Advisory Board

We are proud and honored to have these thought and industry leaders serve on VSA’s Advisory Board. Each member brings a wealth of experience, unparalleled expertise, and an innovative take on the field of animal training and behavior.

Click the images below to learn more about each Advisory Board member, or click here to see them all.


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