Deneen Balistere has been told by a few clients that she must be part dog. That’s a compliment to the Rochester, N.Y., native, who recently relocated to the area with her husband and has moved her dog training business here.

“I guess you could say I’ve been given a gift of understanding animals and being able to know what they’re going to do before they do it,” she said. “I so enjoy being around them. They’re never mean and never in a bad mood.”

Though Balistere said she has always loved animals, dog training wasn’t something she set out to do. While living in her hometown of Rochester, Balistere was making a good living as an inventory manager of a high-end jewelry store. She and her ex-husband decided to get a dog and chose an Akita. The dog soon became a loving part of the family, but was intolerant of other people and animals, which led to aggressive behavior and, eventually, was the reason Balistere had to have her dog euthanized.

Balistere said the experience broke her heart, especially since the dog saved her life one night during an encounter with a would-be attacker. After swearing never to repeat the experience of having a beloved pet put to sleep, when Balistere got a new dog a few months later, she took him to obedience school. It was there that the trainer told her that she was a natural at dog training.

“So I apprenticed under the woman who owned the business and trained for seven years,” she said. “Then I bought the business in 1997.”

She has a strong background in problem solving and behavior modification, and is a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College. Balistere is also a certified evaluator for the American Kennel Club and can provide canine good citizen testing and certification, she said.

As a recent transplant to Foley, Balistere is establishing her “Pet and Praise Obedience” business for customers in the Eastern Shore area. Her personalized, in-home training helps owners train their dogs using positive reinforcement. Just as important, Balistere said, is the fact that she helps clients understand how dogs communicate, which leads to a better relationship between owner and pet.

“Once I teach my clients to speak ‘dog’ it changes everything,” Balistere said. “Watching the whole dynamic change is wonderful. I love my job.”

When she’s not busy working to expand “Pet and Praise Obedience,” Balistere and her husband, Michael, enjoy spending time with their four dogs, and hiking. Getting acclimated to the warmer weather along the Alabama coast has been a welcome change, and she looks forward to lazing on the beach this summer.

“We moved here in December, so I haven’t hit the beach yet, but can’t wait to,” she said. Along with a much warmer climate, the veteran New Yorker was expecting a much different social climate in the South. “It hasn’t been as much of a shock as I thought it would be,” she laughed. “Everyone’s been so friendly.”