Working in Clark County: Animal Behaviorist Carmen LeBlanc

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant



Carmen LeBlanc, once a newspaper reporter, wishes she’d started her second career earlier. After she took her dog to an obedience class, she found herself learning how to teach people to train animals. That made her want to learn more, so LeBlanc went back to school and got a master’s degree in animal behavior. “It is most rewarding to bring an animal through the behavior process,” she says.


Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columb...; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

Name: Carmen LeBlanc.

Job/employer: Supervisor of animal health and behavior at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

We provide adoption counseling before an adoption. We talk about any issues the animal might have and counsel the person adopting the animal before they go out the door. We provide maintenance exercises they can do at home so there are no relapses when they get the animal home. We call them after the adoption to trouble-shoot problems.

Education: She has a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a master’s degree in animal behavior. She is certified as an associate certified applied animal behaviorist and also as a certified professional dog trainer.

Professional background: When living in Seattle, LeBlanc was a volunteer at PAWS, People Helping Animals. She became a foster parent for shelter dogs after moving to Corvallis, Ore. LeBlanc took her foster dog to obedience classes, and the class instructor asked if she wanted to train as an instructor. She said yes. That was in 1999. She went on to become an instructor at Willamette Humane Society in Salem, Ore., and then started Canine Coach in Salem.

Still, she wanted to do more. She took a six-week intensive program taught by Jean Donaldson at The Academy for Dog Trainers at the San Francisco SPCA, graduating as valedictorian. She decided to pursue further training, and went on to earn a master’s degree in animal behavior at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

Route to Vancouver: LeBlanc was living in Hood River, Ore., and wanted to move to a larger area. She liked the Vancouver area so sent an email to the shelter, saying the she would like to join their team. She was hired in January.

Residence: East county.

One word to describe yourself: Dedicated.

Most rewarding part of job: It is most rewarding to bring an animal through the behavior process. For example, it’s rewarding when a dog becomes adoptable after I complete treatment exercises for a resource guarding trait or a possession aggression trait.

Most challenging part of job: We are understaffed, so it is a challenge to find time and staff to train as many animals as we want to.

Personal/business philosophy: Completing families. We want to get animals adopted and keep them part of their new family. We get animals ready for adoption so people can imagine them as part of the family.

Something you would like to do over: I wish I would have started my second career earlier. I like the variety.

Best feature of my Vancouver/Clark County community: The people in Clark County are animal lovers. They are very supportive of the shelter and we depend so much on the community and especially the volunteers. The volunteers are the ones who do so many jobs like touching, petting and playing with animals that the animals need while waiting for a home.

What would make your community a better place: People could visit the shelter more. Many people are afraid to adopt, afraid to come to the shelter. We offer a good diversity of dogs and cats, about 75 mixed breeds. People really can get a one-of-a-kind dog or cat here. We adopt out about 90 percent of the animals.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: Mon Ami. It has a nice atmosphere and awesome crepes.

Pets and hobbies: All my hobbies are animal-related. I compete in sports with my dogs. All are shelter dogs. Competition obedience is an American Kennel Club event. Each dog has won titles. Bean, a Chihuahua, has won one title in freestyle; PJ, a Chihuahua-mix, has won two titles in rally; and Minnie, an all American, has won a title in competitive obedience. I want to continue to compete and earn more titles.

Volunteer activities: I don’t have time right now but in the future I would like to volunteer with organizations that work with the elderly.

Favorite travel destination: I want to go to Spain and England.

Most interesting book in last 12 months: “The Lost Dogs” by Jim Gorant. It is a story about Michael Vick’s dogs and their tale of rescue.

Most interesting play/movie/arts event: I have enjoyed the Vancouver Art Walk.

One thing you want to do this year: My dog PJ has two levels of titles in rally and I want to get him ready for the advanced title competition.

Something you want to do within five years: I still want to be at the Humane Society and continuing to grow the shelter and serving the community.

Person you’d most like to meet: Hillary Clinton.