Meet the Pittsburgh Dog Training Office Team 

The Pittsburgh Dog Training office team works to help ensure that every client or potential client is well informed of the training methods used here at Pivotal Dog Training. Our goal is to keep dogs in their homes and out of shelters and rescues. Change is Possible!

John Van Olden – President/CEO

John Van Olden’s latest and greatest venture in the world of canine professionalism is Canine Trade Group, a company that specializes in connecting overwhelmed dog owners with exceptional in-home trainers. CTG serves dog owners across the country, and each trainer shares John’s training philosophy of commitment-based dog training that takes place within the home.

What makes John so qualified to pick and choose these trainers? He’s been training dogs since he was seventeen years old—first in the military, then as the president of the very first dog training franchise in the world, K-9 Advantage, and then as the president of PAWSitive Solutions, the largest in-home training company in the U.S. He even helped found the International Association of Canine Professionals.

Cristin Ellis – Operations Manager

Cristin works alongside John as Canine Trade Group’s Operations Manager, but she’s as savvy when it comes to canine behavior as she is with keeping the office organized and clients happy.

Cristin trained and competed in dog agility for over twelve years, earning two Master Agility Championship (MACH) titles on her Golden Retrievers, Rocky and Hunter, and various other titles in the agility competition circuit. Since working at CTG, her knowledge of canine behavior has grown to include knowledge of handling aggressive, anxious, and just plain ornery dogs. This knowledge has served her well in handling her toughest dog, Sike!, a Border Collie. Now, using the same methods practiced by CTG trainers, Sike! is well-behaved and Cristin can tell clients from personal experience how effective the CTG training is.

Cristin currently owns three Border Collies, Sike!, Elsa and Phineas.

Nicole Zulkowski – Veterinary Relationship Manager

Nicole knew ever since she was a young girl that she wanted dogs to be part of her life and career. Throughout high school and college, she worked different jobs that involved animals. Graduating with a BS in Biology from Ursinus College, Nicole began to look for work within the animal care field, and was employed as a veterinary technician and also a dog daycare technician/handler. After working with many dogs with a wide range of behaviors, Nicole was inspired to learn more about how these behaviors form, and also how to treat them.

Canine Trade Group is thrilled to have hired Nicole into the office staff. Along with her extensive knowledge on canine behavior and psychology, she also shows great care toward dog owners who are looking for ways to solve their dog’s behavioral issues. Nicole undertook the same trainer course that Canine Trade Group’s trainers did so that she could better address client questions, dog issues, and guide everyone to the right training protocol that would suit their needs and goals.

When she’s not busy helping other people and their dogs, she likes to hang out at home with her two dogs, Willow (a Pitbull mix) and Brooklyn (a Boston Terrier/Pug).

Dr. Karen Usselman V.M.D. – On Staff Veterinarian Consultant

Dr. Usselman is originally from western New York, attended Cornell University and then the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia.  She graduated in 1996 and joined Brenford Animal Hospital in May 1996.  She is currently a partner with the practice. 

Dr. Usselman enjoys working with dogs and cats.  She is particularly interested in internal medicine, ultrasonography, behavior and dentistry.  She serves as the treasurer of the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association and has taught in the Delaware Technical College Vet Tech program.  Dr. Usselman is married to Dr. Jeff Booth and has two children, three dogs and a cat to keep her busy at home.