WANTED: Service Dog Trainers & Assistants!

An interview with our co-founder Charli King—A Remarkable Woman

Date April 5, 2024

by Jean Gertmenian

Charli King, with co-founder, Carol Davis, and one golden retriever puppy, launched Pawsitive Teams in 1997. Since that modest beginning more than a quarter of a century ago, it would be impossible to calculate how many thousands of lives in San Diego County have been touched by Charli’s work.


Charli recounted always having various animals throughout her life prior to Pawsitive Teams and enjoyed sharing an interactive experience with pets for her friends and neighbors. She saw how pleasurable it was for them, and it gave her joy to see this positive dynamic between animal and human. Years later she made friends with a person who happened to have a service dog. She say,s “I was amazed at what this dog could do and how it changed my friend’s life. I immediately wanted to learn more about service dogs.”

Along with Carol, Charli began volunteering at service dog organizations in San Diego.  They became puppy raisers. What they gleaned from those volunteer positions led to an idea of a more effective training model. They had seen these puppies raised in a home environment for a year and then moved to a kennel-based training center. The question came easily: “Wouldn’t it be better and healthier for the dog to go from a home—where they were not only raised but also trained—straight to their destination home, without the trauma of a kenneling situation in between?” The foundation of the  Pawsitive Teams model was in place.

Charli’s interest in the learning process of just how puppies were trained to become service dogs, which she didn’t experience as a puppy raiser, began her passionate learning process. She went beyond teaching a dog how to open doors and cabinets, turn lights switches on and off, and pick up dropped items, to name only a few behaviors. What Charli would do is put herself in the disabled or challenged person’s position. She explains, “I would suddenly turn off all the lights as if there was a power failure. I’d think, ‘Now what do I need as a disabled person in this situation’?” That answer would be the next behavior Charli taught her service dog in training.

The results speak for themselves. Pawsitive Teams, with its home-to-home training placement and operant conditioning model, has a successful placement rate of nearly 70% while the national average for similar organizations falls below 50%. Plus, in 2000, Pawsitive Teams received accreditation from Assistance Dogs International, which has been earned by only 135 top-quality programs worldwide as of a few years ago.

In addition to starting the Pawsitive Teams quarterly newsletter and serving as photographer and videographer for decades, Charli developed and coordinated an educational outreach program speaking and giving training demonstrations to groups — young and old — throughout San Diego County. A highlight of this program she spearheaded was the day she was asked to give an educational dog demonstration on the deck of an aircraft carrier!

Co-creating and implementing Pawsitive Teams’ successful service, therapy and facility dog training model wasn’t enough for Charli as she has never stopped expanding her training knowledge.  She says, “I learn something from every dog-owner team that comes through our center. They teach us and I’m still learning.”

Ask Charli what Pawsitive Teams means to her, she will tell you, “Family.” She doesn’t just place a dog, close that file and move on to the next. She explains, “That owner and dog are our responsibility for the rest of their lives. That’s what we do at Pawsitive Teams.  We are always there for them.”

“I think I have made a difference.  I’m no longer young, but I wish I could do it all over again.  It has been wonderful.”

Yes, Charli King is a remarkable woman!