Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA


Nicole’s professional animal training career began in college where she taught horseback riding lessons. After graduating from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh with a double-major in marketing and advertising, she worked at a large training facility as a head trainer and obedience instructor. There she earned her CPDT-KA title.

In 2005, Nicole decided to move into the world of Animal Sheltering. Her introduction to shelter work was with Animal Friends, a no-kill animal shelter and companion animal resource center in Pittsburgh.

In 2008, The Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia recruited Nicole for the position of Director of Animal Behavior and Training; where she built a program to enrich the lives of the animals during their stay in the shelter, and to educate the public in an effort to find permanent homes for shelter animals. In this role, Nicole gained extensive experience working with the most vulnerable populations of animals including those affected by extreme cruelty and neglect. Nicole’s specialty in this role was retraining and rehabilitating fighting pit bulls and helping them to acclimate to life as family companions.  Nicole continues to work in the field of animal rescue by contracting with shelters to speak about best practices.

Nicole also created behavior programming and served as the Director of Behavior for New Leash on Life-USA, a prison dog training program; working hands on with the inmates and their dogs. Nicole’s efforts in animal rescue have been documented on television shows including Animal Cops: Philadelphia; Animal Planet’s: Dogfighting Exposed; National Geographic Network’s show ‘What Breed Am I?” and on local television and radio programming.

Nicole’s business, Philly Unleashed is currently ranked “Best of Philadelphia” by Philadelphia Magazine and provides group and private dog training  and behavior modification to the Philadelphia metro area.  In 2013, Nicole was elected to the Board of Directors for the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers (ccpdt).

Nicole also instructs the shelter behavior residency for the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, is a sought after speaker both locally and nationally, has produced numerous training DVD’s and is under contract to produce her first dog training book.

In her spare time, Nicole loves to travel, and has successfully meshed vacations and animal behavior through working to rehabilitate wild parrots in Belize, and baby elephants in Kenya. Nicole resides on a small farm in the Philadelphia area with her husband and a whole menagerie that includes; an Australian Cattle Dog named Uluru, a Border Collie mix named Porterhouse, two donkeys, four goats, and a flock of chickens.

Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA

What People Are Saying

“We have had our Double Doodle in puppy class and it was great. Sophie also has had private classes to work on her specific issues. Nicole is brilliant in finding solutions and tweaking our behavior for an obedient dog. Successful training from a very skilled and understanding group.”

—Nancy S. & Sophie

“We have been taking agility class with Nicole and Philly Unleashed for just about a year now. Our dog is a rescue border collie mix with some fear issues, and doing agility is an awesome way to build up his confidence. We had taken agility lessons for many years before we moved to Philadelphia, and we were anxious to get started again.

Nicole was wonderfully welcoming, and zeroed in on our dog’s skill level and training style in about two seconds. She manages to find the delicate balance between challenging our nervous guy while making sure he doesn’t get too stressed. For example, he was never able to do the full-height teeter totter obstacle before (it moves and makes loud noises). We had been working on it for ages before we came here. Nicole had him fearlessly zooming over it in no time! She is also really understanding of his fear of other dogs (which can make him a little reactive), and is great about making sure we structure class when other dogs are there so that they don’t have to interact. And when they do see one another, it’s highly controlled and is used as a training situation to help him see other dogs without barking. The extra steps she takes to give us and our dog a stress-free and enjoyable experience are evidence to us of how much she cares about each individual dog and his/her needs.”

–Morgan E. & Hoth

“So happy to have a great trainer like Nicole. When we adopted a nervous reactive dog we didn’t know how to train her. What Nicole taught us was valuable. Our dog was super smart, we were the ones who had to be trained to understand her. 5 years latter . . . Kirin is every dog sitter’s favorite, her favorite game is tricks and treats especially with kids who will give her treats for any trick. She is so good we bring her everywhere, on planes, trains and automobiles all across US and Canada. Thank you for helping us understand Kirin.”

Ange B. & Kirin


  • Obedience & Manners
  • Puppy Development & Behavior
  • Leash Reactivity & Dog Aggression
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Fears, Phobias & Anxious Behavior
  • Aggression Towards People
  • Intra-household Aggression
  • Cat Behavior
  • Dog Sports, Tricks & Agility

Certifications & Affiliations

Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers – Board Member

New Leash on Life – Director of Animal Training and Programming

Chester County SPCA – Development of Behavior Programming

Animal Behavior College-Dog Training Mentor and Instructor

CATCH Canine Trainers Academy – Training Mentor

Pennsylvania SPCA- Director of Animal Behavior and Training

American College of Applied Sciences-Animal Behavior Residency Instructor

Yale School-Developed curriculum for an Animal Assisted Therapy Programming

Humane Society of the United States-Campaign to End Dogfighting Trainer

Jersey Mike’s Subs-Selected, trained, and implemented a service dog for a young boy

University Of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine- Development and teaching of shelter behavior rotation

American Kennel Club-Canine Good Citizen Evaluator

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Kelsey Rich, CPDT-KA

Jessica Kochmer, CPDT-KA

Christine Cuvo

Kate Lowe, CPDT-KA

Kat Kelly

Alicia Harantshuck

Lindsay Root, CPDT-KA

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