About Us

Mission Statement:

The mission of Cape-Able Canines is enrich the relationship between owners and their dogs through better communication, and to promote responsible dog ownership through training and education. Cape-Able Canines offers puppy classes, general obedience training, and specialty classes. Cape-Able Canines also offers private services, such as hourly individual training, doggy day care, boarded training, and problem-solving consultations. Cape-Able Canine classes include lectures, demos, games, handouts socialization tools, and agility-type obstacles that are designed to increase dog confidence.

Aleita Downer - Founder

"Do What You Love and the Rest Will Follow"

I can’t sing, my children BEGGED me not to play our electronic organ, I stink at sports, and I can barely draw a stick figure….but boy can I train a dog!

Losing my high-paying computer job of ten years in 1989 was, I realize now, the best thing that ever happened to me. I hated the job so much I cried my way to work every day, but it was the only job I was trained to do… and I was devastated. But, as the saying goes, there was "no where to go but up" and being out of work allowed me to think about what I REALLY wanted to do.

When my son applied to CCI for a Service Dog for the Disabled…and was put on a five year wait list, I stumbled into the answer. I was sure I could train a dog for him; one that could open his doors and turn on his lights and perform all the usual tasks.

I read books, I watched videos, I talked to people who were partnered with Service Dogs, and I did an apprenticeship with an obedience trainer. I joined the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, close to its inception, and attended conferences (I was quite awed at meeting the big-name trainers in the field). I stood in the back yard and trained my Golden Retriever, Summer.

Summer and Joel were eventually certified as a Service Dog Team by Canine Support Teams, and in recognition of my accomplishment CST offered me a training apprenticeship. Later, I had the privilege of studying at the Assistance Dog Institute, with Bonnie Bergen, founder of CCI. I became CST’s field advisor and Puppy Raiser Liaison for San Diego County. I began offering classes – first only to puppy raisers, Service and Therapy dogs. It wasn’t long before I realized that the dog-and-user-friendly techniques used to socialize and train working dogs could be used for the benefit of pet dogs as well… and, frankly, I needed money! So Cape-Able Canines was born.

It was an incredible stroke of luck that Dog Beach Dog Wash offered me an opportunity to train at their facility, for which I will be forever grateful. Later, at the invitation of veterinarian Miguel Espinosa, I also trained at The Pet Hospital of La Mesa, and, in 2004, I finally found a storefront to call my own, allowing me, with the help of some incredible staff, to add services like daycare and boarding.

I’m particularly proud of a few accomplishments:

  • Twenty-two apprentices have successfully graduated from my eighteen-month Training to Train apprentice program. Most (19 at last count) are working in the industry now, including Jane Glickman, my replacement trainer.
  • It has been my privilege to offer dog-and-owner-friendly training to thousands. I sincerely believe that training has enriched the lives of those dogs and owners.
  • Many of my original students have referred friends and family for training and returned with their subsequent dogs.
  • I have helped many people self-train their own dogs as service dogs, many of whom, like Joel, could not have waited for a dog from traditional programs.
  • And, I have empowered many others – especially women - to start their own pet related businesses.

PS My son Joel - who was also my dear friend - passed away in May of 2006 followed by Summer-Dog (age 16 ½) a few months later. I’m in the process of retiring now to the Seattle area, but I leave with gratitude to all who have made it possible for me to "do what I loved" and to Michelle and the staff (Jane, Barb, Rosie, Judy, Cindy, Kay) who will continue to provide state-of-the-art dog-and-people-friendly care and training to dogs and their persons.

Aleita and Suede Aleita and Suede

Michelle Leone - Owner

Michelle and Megan, her chocolate Lab puppy, began as students at Cape-Able Canines with the typical complaints: my dog jumps up, drags me down the street on walks, and is destroying the house when left alone! Michelle was a great student and quickly learned how to channel Meg’s happy energy into appropriate exercise and good manners.

Impressed at the difference good training can make, Michelle (and Meg) took every class that we offered. They began volunteering to help in classes and, eventually, Michelle successfully graduated from the Cape-Able Canines Training-to-Train year-long apprenticeship program.

When Cape-Able Canines finally found a permanent home in La Mesa, Michelle put her talents to work! She left her job as a dental assistant, founded her business, 24/7, and began providing the luxury boarding services for us. Her business name is especially apropos, as Michelle lives at the facility and offers peace-of-mind to families by providing round-the-clock customized company, supervision and attention to the dogs in her care.

Michelle quickly became indispensable to Cape-Able Canines. Her deep sense of responsibility to the dogs at the facility, her expertise at accurately reading dog body-language and her commitment to dog-safety led Aleita to ask her to manage the Happy Camper’s Daycare services.

With Aleita’s retirement Michelle became the facility manager, and, in 2015, Michelle officially became the owner of Cape-Able Canines!

Michelle and Megan Michelle and Megan

Jane Glickman - Trainer

I knew Jane would make an incredible trainer even before she joined the Cape-Able Canines 18 month Apprenticeship program.

First, there was her "killer" education! Jane earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Teacher’s College, Colombia University. Not many dog trainers can add that to their resume!

Then, there’s her 20 years of elementary teaching experience. Jane is an expert at managing a classroom and multi-tasking. I’ll tell you a little trade secret; positive reinforcement works on kids (and cats and spouses) as well as it does on dogs. So, most school teachers who train with Cape-Able Canines tell me privately that they use the same techniques in their classrooms… with great success.

But, there is another unique way that life prepared Jane for her career as a dog trainer… Most good dog trainers have learned some – perhaps most – of the important lessons the hard way, through their own experiences and mistakes. The argument over adopting VS breeding rages on, and Jane has done both, with some painful results. She’s aware that neither way is always right… and those issues give her tremendous insight and empathy with other dog owners.

Jane loves to "do the research" and she has pursued continuing dog-related education through books, videos, webinars and attending seminars with the likes of Ian Dunbar. Ian’s the GURU of dog-and-people-friendly-training and my personal hero J, and founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (Jane is a member in good standing).

Probably the very best way to acquire a solid foundation in dog behavior issues and canine body language is by working in our Happy Camper’s Daycare and Bed and Biscuit Boarding programs. Jane has done both!

Jane has certification as an AKC Star Puppy Trainer and as a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. She is experienced in doing Pet Therapy Program Evaluations. She has trained breeds from Pomeranians to Mastiffs and has special expertise with training dogs with physical, visual and hearing challenges.

Jane is a caring, competent and cheerful person. She is well liked by her associates and popular with her students – human and canine!

In short, I was RIGHT! Jane’s our go-to person, a dear and trusted friend, and the trainer I have chosen to replace me as I retire.

Aleita Downer

Owner & Head trainer, Cape-Able canines

Jane Jane
© 2023 - Cape-Able Canines 619-463-DOGS (3647)