Getting To Know Me

A brief glimpse into my personal and professional experiences.

My goal is to help owners and others speak dog to reach their goals and to create a safer environment for both animals and their human companions.

I am a Behavior Consultant.

What does that mean exactly? In technical terms, this means that I apply biological knowledge with observation and data of individual dogs to help owners work through their behavioral quandaries. This is a method that combines both a subjective and objective approach to decipher why certain behaviors are exhibited in individual animals, and using that information for the betterment of the canine-human relationship.

In more simple terms – I help owners and other professionals figure out why certain behaviors occur and help develop treatment plans to alleviate stress leading to undesirable behaviors in canine companions.

You can visit my Methodology page to learn more about my approach to behavior and modification.

A few other helpful things to know about me:

  • I am a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
  • I practice a Least Invasive Minimally Aversive strategy in my approach to behavior modification
  • I am a Certified Service Dog Trainer
  • I am an AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator
  • I am an AKC Temperament Test (ATT) Evaluator

I have been a Veterinary Nurse on and off for over 20 years working in private practice, emergency and critical care, surgery, and an occasional rotation through specialty. My Continuing Education focus has always been primarily on animal behavior since my very first veterinary conference in 1998 . I was a biology major in college and took every behavior course I could get a seat in to learn from as many different species on this planet as possible.

In 2004 I began working hands-on with rescued dogs through training to improve their adoptability. From there I started working one-on-one with owners to help them solve behavioral problems to avoid surrendering or euthanizing their pets.

Through the years I’ve not only attended countless seminars to build on my experience and skill, but also hosted a national behavior seminar with Dr. Sophia Yin for trainers, veterinarians, behaviorists, dog owners and veterinary technicians to improve their handling and communication skills.

I began learning various methodologies on training service dogs in 2015 through organizations such as Paws4People, This Able Veteran, and Project 2 Heal. I now train service dogs for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress for my nonprofit organization, the American Pit Bull Foundation, through their program Operation Sidekick.

I’ve presented at businesses, in lecture, at private hospitals, and to nonprofit organizations on a multitude of behavior topics ranging from safe handling techniques, shelter enrichment, and reading the language of dogs.

Every dog is an individual and should be treated as such. This philosophy drives my successes in both behavior modification and training. Though there are similar techniques and go-to actions in preventing, shaping, or re-shaping behaviors, ultimately each approach to each dog is an independent one.

Relationship building (or rebuilding) starts with effective communication, timing, consistency, and compassion. These are the core teachings I offer to my clients to give them the knowledge needed to tackle behavioral challenges and raise well-mannered canine companions.

As a Navy brat with scattered family, I primarily claim Philadelphia, PA as where I “grew up”. I was always the kid that brought some random animal home; a lost kitten, an abandoned baby bird, a cold lizard, you name it. My Christmas wish lists to Santa as a young child always included unconventional animals such as baby raccoons and river otters.

My father was a falconer so I was accustomed to being around birds of prey at a young age and even “rescued” some of the pigeons he’d captured – I didn’t like that he caught them to feed to his birds of prey so sometimes he let me keep a few. I trained them how to do various skills such as landing on a specific perch when they were stressed.

At 12, I became the youngest volunteer ever brought on board at a local zoo in Norristown, PA. While other kids spent their weekends playing video games and shooting hoops I helped the keepers and led educational classes about the animals at our zoo.

In high school my family moved to Michigan. I joined the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and raised 50 pheasants from chicks for a project to help repopulate the area with dwindling native birds. I also had horses, worked on a dairy farm milking cows and began pursuing my childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian.

My first year in college I visited a pet store one day and after feeling very troubled about the way they housed their snakes and tarantulas in unnatural ways for display, immediately applied for a job, (I also took the displayed tarantula home with me for good). They hired me and allowed me to not only redesign the display cages for the animals but also to teach other employees handling skills so that they didn’t resort to putting the animals in tiny containers out of fear.

I am a mother of four children and wife to Nick Ondrako. I currently have two dogs, Boada Bear (#boadabear) and Blue Ivy (@os_blueivy). In my “free-time” (when everyone is sleeping) I enjoy reading, learning, and writing.

An ideal relaxing day involves sand, clear blue ocean water and the warm sun. I love to travel and am a sucker for the occasional adrenaline rush.

I enjoy CrossFit, horse-back-riding, and over-consumption of coffee.

In 2010, I founded the American Pit Bull Foundation, which is an organization designed to promote responsible dog ownership through education, programming, and assistance. We launched our flagship program in 2015, Operation Sidekick, which trains rescued pit bulls as service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD.

In 2016, I placed 3rd in the Seed20 on-stage pitch competition, which awarded my program Operation Sidekick $7,500 from local investors.

I was recognized as one of the top Women in Animal Welfare in 2017 from the Humane Society of Charlotte during their annual Women in Animal Welfare Luncheon.

  • 2003 Carolina Raptor Center Volunteer (Current)
  • 2004 Founded Nana’s Rescue, a private rescue in Charlotte, NC
  • 2006 American Pet Cross Board Member (End Dog Fighting Project)
  • 2010 Founded the American Pit Bull Foundation, a 501(c)3
  • 2013 Helped lifting of pit bull adoption ban with CharMeck AC&C
  • 2014 Began volunteering with Team Rubicon
  • 2015 Launched the program Operation Sidekick
  • 2016 Partnership for Pets Board Member (2016-2017)
  • 2017 Received an award in recognition of being one of Charlotte’s Most Influential Women in Animal Welfare

My “Best Owner Possible” Emails

Sara Ondrako Newsletter

Every month, I send out an exclusive email with relevant things that I believe help you to be the best pet parent. It could include exclusive giveaways or chances to interact with me, books, toys, articles, health, videos, and random weird things I discovered to keep you updated on all things pets.

These “Best Owner Possible” emails are only available to subscribers of this list.

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No spam, ever. Emails are never shared.