Meet Our Trainers

Since 2008, Polite Pooches has been helping dogs and their owners live harmoniously through the use of positive reinforcement training and behavior modification. Our expert and experienced trainers make the difference.


Kathy Forthman, Owner & Lead Trainer

MS, CPDT-KA, Certified Fear Free Trainer

Kathy is a Harford County resident involved in and enjoying pet dog obedience for the past 15 years. Kathy holds a BS in Psychology from Bloomsburg University of PA and MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Baltimore. After spending 30 years in corporate Human Resources Kathy decided dog training was so much fun she needed to make a career change. In 2014, Kathy became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) through the Certification for Professional Dog Trainers. Kathy is also a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator and a Certified Fear Free Trainer. She owns three Standard Poodles, Lacey, Marley and Hershey, who completed intermediate level obedience, have their CGC certification, and were visiting dogs at a local nursing home for 10 years.



Erin Welsh, Trainer


Erin’s introduction to Polite Pooches began when she brought her puppy, Brody, to Puppy class. After taking Brody through Basic and Intermediate Obedience, where he earned his AKC CGC, Erin joined the Polite Pooches dog training team. Erin has a degree from Towson University in Animal Behavior. Most of her training experience has been with exotic animals, including training and working with the chimps and lemurs at the Maryland Zoo as a zoo keeper, and a year long internship at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL. She utilized positive reinforcement training methods with the primates and big cats, just like we do when working with our dogs! In addition to assisting our clients with private training and behavior problems, Erin works as a trainer for the Maryland SPCA and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer (PMCT) through Pat Miller’s Peaceable Paws Training Academy in Fairplay, MD. Erin is available for in-home, private training in and near Harford County, MD. She is also a very skilled cat/kitten trainer & behavior consultant!


Jo Belcher, Assistant Trainer

Assisting with Polite Pooches group classes since 2016, Jo began as a dog loving volunteer who quickly became a vital part of the dog training team. Jo attends Harford Community College and enjoys helping with group obedience training classes. She hopes to train service and therapy dogs one day. Jo lives with her 10 year old Labrador mix and 2 year old cat, along with her family.


Sharon Wagner, Assistant Trainer

Sharon is a proud dog Momma of three Labrador Retrievers: Oakley, Cedar and Finley which all participated in Puppy Right Start and completed Basic Obedience with Polite Pooches. Sharon graduated from Villa Julie with a degree in Teacher Education, and Towson University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Most days you will find her walking her dogs; she often makes home-made doggie treats and toys. Sharon has had the pleasure of sharing her life with many “wigglebutts” and couldn’t imagine life without their unconditional love and companionship. Sharon began assisting with classes in 2019.


Jody Sheckells, Assistant Trainer and Photographer

Jody was introduced to Polite Pooches when she enrolled her newest four legged family member, Echo, in Basic Obedience. Jody is a banker by day, amazing photographer by night (Captured Jems LLC). She has been taking amazing photographs of our class participants since 2018. She also assists with many Puppy Right Start and Basic Obedience classes. Jody has two Labrador mixes, Storm and Echo, and is involved with fundraising for rescue groups and police working dog safety.