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Meet the Staff

Kathy Benner

Founder, Training Director

Kathy Benner, CPDT-KSA (Certified Pet Dog Trainer, Knowledge & Skills Assessed) is the founder, executive director and training director of Heeling House. She has a formal education in animal behavior, and 24 years of hands-on experience working in the industry. She has a BS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University and a Certificate in Exotic Animal Training and Management from Moorpark College.


Kathy spent five years training marine mammals at Sea Life Park in Hawaii, and started her first dog obedience company, Clever Canines, in 1996. She moved to Virginia in 2000, worked as a technician at a busy animal hospital, and then opened The Animals' House, a successful dog daycare and training center, in 2001.


Kathy has designed and implemented behavior modification and training programs for dolphins, sea lions, seals, penguins, primates, hyenas, mountain lions, Bengal tigers, parrots, llamas, horses and dogs. For the last seven years, Kathy has worked full time training therapy dogs, teaching therapy dog training classes, and collaborating with Physical, Occupational and Speech and Language therapists to provide animal assisted therapy to hundreds of children in our community. She is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a part of four Pet Partners registered therapy animal teams, and a registered AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Kathy currently owns three Labrador Retrievers, a hound mix, a blue front amazon parrot, two quarter horses, and a shetland pony.

Ashlyn Cohill

Executive Director

Ashlyn has been with Heeling House since 2018 as a volunteer and part time trainer. In 2021, Ashlyn moved into the role of Executive Director where she is responsible for business and program development. She has a B.S. from Salisbury University, with a degree in Biology. After college, Ashlyn worked in the biotechnology field for many years before discovering dog training. She has always loved dogs and animals, but when her own fearful reactive dog joined her family, Ashlyn discovered the importance of socialization and training. Ashlyn continues to educate herself on emerging dog training movements for reactivity and dog sports.

Currently, Ashlyn’s duties as the Executive Director involve oversight of the business plan, development of the service dog programs, and implementing innovations across programs. She teaches private lessons and group classes for CGC prep, Rally Obedience, Scentwork, and Agility. Ashlyn is a certified dog trainer through Animal Behavior College and a registered AKC evaluator. She is married to her very understanding partner and currently has two dogs – a Cockapoo named Saga and an Italian Greyhound named Bandit who is a titled Advanced Trick Dog.

Monica Chiu

Office Manager

Monica has been with Heeling House since 2014 and is responsible for the general management of the office as well as primary communication. She has a B.S. from the University of Mary Washington, with a degree in Chemistry. After college, Monica held several different managerial positions before joining Heeling House. She has always had a passion for animals and loves interacting with children, and has spent many hours volunteering with both animal rescues and children’s programs throughout the area.

Currently, Monica’s duties as the Training Coordinator involve designing and implementing different training programs with the assistance of the Training Director. Monica is both a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed through CCPDT and a registered AKC evaluator. She is happily married with a precocious toddler and currently has two dogs – a Yorkshire Terrier mix named Pretzel and a rescued Maltese mix named Pika, who is a registered therapy dog with Pet Partners. 

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