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These black labradors are puppies from two Penn Vet Working Dog graduates.

What WDC Interns Say About Their Experiences


Our internship program is designed for students with a serious interest in working dogs to gain practical experience while helping the Penn Vet Working Dog Center achieve our mission of developing a detection dog breeding/training program that will implement, test, and disseminate the knowledge gained.

A great way to understand what an internship experience is like at Penn Vet's Working Dog Center is to read what previous interns say about their experiences here. 

Dr. Judi Berke – with many thanks and good wishes

Dr. Judi Berke, Penn Vet Working Dog CenterWe are both sad and happy to be making the announcement that Dr. Judi Berke, our Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator is retiring! Judi has been a part of the WDC for 7 years now, since 2014 when she accepted the position of Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator.

Since becoming part of the WDC Team, Judi has brought in over 400 interns, over 200 volunteers and worked with 40+ universities during her time with the WDC. She developed our Drexel co-op program from 1 co-op student in 2014 to over 120 co-op students total in 7 years.

Today, because of Judi's dedication and belief in our program and mission, we have students who travel both nationally and internationally to work with us. Our volunteers are consistent, dedicated and dependable because of the time and effort that Judi has put into our Volunteer program. Judi makes sure each volunteer is appropriately matched up with a trainer or a project where they can improve their skills, learn, and most importantly feel valued. We will miss Judi greatly, but wish her the upmost happiness in her retirement. Thank you Judi, for all you have done for the WDC!!!

One of the best summers I've ever had

Barrie Solomon, V'24, Working Dog Center Intern"In the summer of 2018 I came as a volunteer to the Working Dog Center per recommendation of a family friend. Judi warmly welcomed me into the center and was very kind in explaining my duties as a volunteer and showing me around when I first arrived.

"I only remained a month as a volunteer that year because that was how long I was at UPenn taking a summer course. But Judi emphatically recommended that I apply to the internship program for the next year, which I wasn’t aware about until she mentioned it to me.

"Feeling motivated and enthusiastic about the work the center was doing, I applied and in the summer of 2019 I came back to the center as an intern. It was one of the best summers I've ever had. I learned so much, and had fun while doing so and I am so grateful for Judi encouraging me to apply for the internship.

"Currently I am a first-year veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Working Dog Center was a huge factor in what brought me here."

Sofia Zayas, V'24

Fitness Training-Bo-Penn Vet Working Dog

Solidified my choice to become a veterinarian

Michaela Cirone WDC Intern"My six-month internship at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center left an impact on me, both professionally and personally.

"As a fourth-year biology major on a pre-veterinary track, choosing an unconventional internship that introduced me to the world of working dogs allowed me to gain experience and knowledge not everyone on my career path has.

"The relationships I developed with the dogs I got to help train, hide for, and handle further solidified my choice to pursue a career as a veterinarian. Shadowing the veterinarians and vet externs on site allowed me to learn, inquire, and even practice some medical stuff, all while networking with those accomplished in my career field.

"The opportunities here are endless and I learned a great deal of knowledge regarding scent detection, search and rescue, police K9’s, canine obedience training, agility work, veterinary medicine, and more."

Michaela Cirone

Breeding and Training

Something inherently special and genuine

"“here is something inherently special and genuine about the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Whether it is the people, the canines, or the centers’ mission overall, you can’t help but feel a sense of admiration for what is being accomplished their each day. I was lucky enough to be selected for my first coop at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and I am forever grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I was able to take part of in my time there.

"Since my time away from the Center, I have taken two additional coop jobs at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Although seemingly different areas of work, there is no question that the translatable skills I learned at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, such as data management, data analysis, and cancer research have proven invaluable to my current and future endeavors.

"The Penn Vet Working Dog Center will always hold a special place in my heart. The beauty about the Center is that everyone that walks through the door has a chance to make an impact and the team has worked hard to convey that motto and establish a collaborative atmosphere. The Penn Vet Working Dog Center thrives on a team effort, and I am so grateful to have gotten a chance to be a part of that!"

Dylan Scholes

Learn to take a deep breath and to be okay waiting

Megan Perez, Intern, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

"I think one of the main things I learned at the working dog center is operant conditioning. This helped me in a few aspects of life. It certainly made my Psychology of Learning class significantly easier, since I had already had years of practice using classical and operant conditioning.

"However, I think that practicing operant conditioning with the dogs also helped me to communicate better with people. I now try to make a point of praising people when they work hard and try to make it clear to others that they are appreciated.

"That brings me to another big take away from the center. Volunteering in a place with so many people and so much going on at once teaches you both how to work in a team setting and how to take initiative. During tours, events, and field trips, it is important to work as a team with others, and do exactly what you are told.

"There are also times where it was important to show initiative, such as taking a new group of interns on practice potty walks or teaching new interns fit to work.

"Furthermore, the working dog center also fostered an environment where it was important to step in and help with unpleasant or simple tasks, such as picking up poop or folding laundry. At any workplace, there is going to be grunt work that has to be done. It shows a lot to your superiors if you volunteer and excel at these tasks, demonstrating that you are willing to do a task for the good of the environment and the good of the team. The Working Dog Center both helped me to be a good follower, but also a good leader. I think these are both important skills for anyone to learn in any work setting.

"Another big lesson I learned at the center is patience. I am usually a very 'type-A,' fast-paced person. So, patience does not come naturally to me. Working with the dogs, especially the stubborn ones, taught me to take a deep breath and to be okay waiting. Working with difficult dogs teaches interns to keep their cool in a sometimes frustrating situation, which again, is a skill that can be applied anywhere.

"I am now cramming in all of my pre-med classes, and am planning on applying to medical school in about a year and a half. Everything I practiced at the Working Dog Center, from communication skills, working well with others, patience, and leadership will be put to good use in the medical field. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to co-op at the Working Dog Center, and I cannot thank every at the center enough for all the opportunities and lessons they have taught me."

Megan Perez

No two days were the same

Clara Wilson, Penn Vet Working Dog Center“Doing an internship at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center was a fantastic opportunity to improve a vast array of skills, from practical work with dogs to teamwork, time management, and data input and interpretation. Every day something new and exciting is taking place, with different activities to be working on - no two days were the same during my internship! There is a real sense of teamwork at the Center and it feels more like a family than a workplace. Watching the dogs develop and helping them to progress into capable and successful working dogs with serious responsibilities is so rewarding. I couldn't have had a better time and highly recommend the programme!

"The unique combination of practical skills and behavioral research taking place at the WDC has been integral in the progression of my career path as an animal behavior researcher. While previously my understanding of canine behavior was primarily research-based (e.g. behind the computer!) the WDC demonstrated these theories in practice. By handling and training young dogs myself I learnt a variety of skills and watching the dogs learn specific skill sets first hand has been invaluable in understanding aspects of canine learning. This practical knowledge is important for researchers who otherwise can remain somewhat removed from the animals themselves, and having access to not only practical training work but also ongoing research projects such as the Red-Arch Antiquities Project and Ovarian Cancer Research is a fantastic opportunity." "

Clara Wilson

The sky is the limit

"The WDC combines education, teamwork and dedication, making it the ultimate experience. It is one of the most rewarding environments I have worked in, challenging me to work hard and advance my skill set. The staff, interns, fosters and volunteers all have the same goal: to contribute to the research of molding the best possible working dog.

"The camaraderie is unlike any other facility I have experienced and the sky is the limit with this facility. The WDC gave me the freedom to explore the working dog industry and encouraged me to find my niche in dog training. Collectively, the members of the WDC were eager to share ideas and training methods, preparing me for the variety of challenges each puppy presents during the development phases.

"Teaching a dog is relatively easy if you know what to do and are consistent doing so. It’s teaching the human to teach the dog that is the challenge. The WDC has, without a doubt, redefined this challenge and that is what motivates me to be more than just a dog trainer. I know I always have the support system with the WDC no matter where my career takes me."

Meaghan DeCorso

Living my dream

Kathryn Porter, V24, WDC Intern"Thank you for all that you have done for the WDC. I was a summer intern in 2019. I am grateful for your mentorship not only for the summer internship program but also for veterinary school. I am now living my dream as first-year student at PennVet."

Kathryn Porter, V'24

A life-changing experience

Jordan Albom, WDC intern "My internship sparked my love of working with dogs and it was definitely a life changing experience."

Jordan Albom

A unique, unconventional internship

"PVWDC encouraged me to look at a career in forensics by realizing there were so many aspects of law enforcement and the criminal justice system that I was unaware of - I knew I had to dig a little deeper behind it all. I experienced firsthand how dogs can track down evidence or suspect apprehension. I wondered what the next steps were in the process after the dog finds drugs, bombs, suspects, etc. and stumbled across forensic biology that could combine what I saw at PVWDC with my biology background. Being such a unique, unconventional internship made it possible for me to realize that everything I wanted to do was interconnected at a fundamental level."

Sarah Mihalich

training-at-the-working-dog-center

I could not have felt more supported in trying new things

""Being an intern at the WDC has been a tremendous part of my experience as a college student! As an Animal Science major with an interest in nonprofit management, I am still exploring my post-graduate options and I could not have felt more supported in trying new things as I did at the WDC. The staff have always been happy to teach me new skills (some training-related and others geared more toward nonprofit management or research) and let me take on new roles that I found interesting.

"I also got lots of hands-on opportunities to work the dogs in obedience, agility, and searching. The trainer I was working with often had her team do group agility and obedience with her, which provided the challenge of multiple dogs and distractions, and also allowed us to get instant feedback from our trainer and ask questions as we worked our dogs. I definitely came out of the internship with a better understanding of dog behavior and body language, as well as training techniques like shaping and clicker-training.

"The most rewarding part of it all has been watching the dogs progress, building some incredible bonds, and feeling that the dogs on your team trust you. And they really do remember you when you come back to visit! I would highly recommend an internship at the WDC to anyone with an interest in animal training or animal-related nonprofit work. Not only will you learn a lot about dog training, but you will also have the chance to broaden your horizons by contributing to the organization in more ways than you would expect."

Alisa Rubenstein

Louie, Penn Vet Working Puppy

Penn Vet opened me up to a whole new world

"Penn Vet opened me up to a whole new world in terms of a passion and a job. With Penn Vet I experienced so much in terms of law enforcement K-9, training, and research. This all being done while working with knowledgeable and passionate interns, volunteers, trainers, and administration. The internship was something I anticipated enjoying because I love working with dogs. In the end, I gained so much more from the experience than I could ever imagine. Penn Vet led me to pursuing a job in Law Enforcement and I could not be happier with my choice to do so. I am so thankful to Penn Vet and all of the people involved with the center. It felt like family and every day led to learning something new. I will not ever forget the experiences I had and I am thankful for the whole world that Penn Vet opened up for me.

"As for where I am now, I am currently finishing up the last weeks of my training for Capitol Police. I graduated from my program in Georgia a few weeks ago and I am expected to graduate from my Maryland training program on December 21, 2018 and I am looking forward for all of the opportunities that lie ahead."

Alex Sims

About Us

Everything you do at the PVWDC has meaning and purpose

"My summer internship at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center was transformational for me in many ways. I thought traveling so many miles away from home to spend the summer working at the WDC would be difficult, but the minute I stepped through the doors, I felt right at home. Everyone is so welcoming (including the dogs) and is so excited for you to be there. I was constantly told how valued I was as an intern, and the way I was treated every day was an example of that. The environment cultivates an attitude of education and learning as they continually pushed me out of my comfort zone because they knew through that, I could learn and do so much more. Bonding with the dogs was an unforgettable experience, and while saying goodbye to them at the end of my internship was difficult, I knew I had been part of a bigger plan to help those dogs one day find careers and help other people. Everything you do at the PVWDC has meaning and purpose, and never does a day go by that feels like its been wasted.

"My internship at the WDC was also extremely beneficial for my future career. I had known I wanted to research canine behavior in graduate school after I finished my bachelor's degree, and just voicing my desire to gain experience in research opened so many doors for me at the WDC. The research team welcomed me with open arms, patiently taught me everything I needed to know, and Jenny provided opportunities beyond my internship to help further my education. They went above and beyond what they were required to do, and I know without my internship at the PVWDC, I would not have been able to make near as many connections for grad school as I already have been able to.

"Throughout my three month internship, I continually got to work with people who had been helping at the WDC for years, and I tried to figure out why they kept coming back to volunteer after all that time. By the end of my internship, I understood. The excitement of the WDC is irresistible. Once you start, you can't stop. In fact, I'm already planning my trip back."

Jordan Gillespie