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Meet the trainers


Meaghan Tower

Co-owner / Head Trainer

Meaghan is the co-owner of Unleashed Academy. She has been a trainer with Unleashed in Evanston since 2011. She studied canine social behavior and theory of mind in puppies at the University of Michigan and received her B.S. in 2010. Meaghan has worked with several experienced canine behaviorists including Dr. Barbara Smuts, Dr. Camille Ward, Maggie Fahner and Jeff Millman. She currently teaches a number of group classes and offers in-home private lessons for a variety of behavioral issues specializing in leash reactivity and aggression toward people entering the home. Meg has her aussie, Layne, to thank for constant learning (from scentwork to reactivity to managing kids and dogs) and continuous improvement as a pet parent. 


Brian Huebner

Head Trainer

For as long as Brian can remember, he has loved dogs and cannot imagine a life without them. That love led him to FetchFind Academy for dog training, where he spent two years learning positive reinforcement training and dog behavior. After a couple of years working with private clients, Brian began an apprenticeship at Unleashed in January of 2019 where he learned how to use his training expertise to lead group classes. Brian is now one of the head trainers at Unleashed, offers private lessons and teaches a variety of group classes including his very popular Adolescence class. 

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Julie Thomas


We met Julie several years ago when her Sheltie puppy, Kona, joined our puppy class. Since then we have seen Julie and her son Kieran every Saturday in FUNgility class with their dogs Kona & Maui. It didn't take long for Julie and Kieran to become part of the Unleashed family and we are thrilled that she has joined our training team. After apprenticing under Meg and learning from Hawk City K9's Stacey Hawk,  Julie now teaches a variety of classes including puppy classes, basic obedience, urban herding and all of our FUNgility levels. 


Claire Derning


Claire has been training at Unleashed since 2017. She graduated from North Park University with B.A. in Psychology and interned at PAWS Chicago for a year before apprenticing under Meg. Claire teaches a variety of classes at Unleashed including Basic Obedience, Fungility and Puppy Classes. Her family's sheepadoodle, Porthos, keeps Claire on her toes and has given her plenty of experience working with very intelligent (but stubborn) dogs! She also has a special place in her heart for big, slobbery hounds like Roscoe (pictured). 


Mick Schwartz


Mick has had a love of dogs since an early age when he would bring strays home. His love never wavered and as an adult his passion for dogs become an avocation. Mick has been certified in TTouch and Nosework and has attended many workshops in obedience, agility and scent work over the past 20 years, which has fueled his interest in passing his knowledge onto others. He has experience instructing obedience, agility and scent work at various clubs as well as working independently. In his spare time, Mick enjoys competing with his dogs in obedience, rally, agility and scent work. His biggest passion is instructing and he looks forward to working with Unleashed clients. We are so excited to have Mick joining us for our Sniff and Seek classes!


Vanessa Batista


Right out of high school, Vanessa began working with animals. She spent many years working as a vet assistant and volunteering at Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut. Soon after, life took a different turn, and she became a Construction Project Manager, working for companies like Whole Foods, Amazon, and Parachute Home. In the meantime, she volunteered at shelters and fostered many dogs.

During Covid, she started to train dogs for friends and neighbors, and having found her calling, she never looked back. Since then, Vanessa has completed many animal behavior programs including Animal Behavior College and Michael Shakisho’s Aggressive Dog Master Class. She is currently studying both Karen Pryor’s Dog Trainer Foundation Immersion and Enrichment Framework for Behavior Modification Master Class with Emily Strong and Allie Bender. Vanessa loves learning and her passion for continuing education has set her up with many different training and behavior modification paths to help you and your dog as individuals.


Madeleine Naylor

Manager & Trainer

Maddie is Unleashed's general manager and one of the FUNgility trainers at Unleashed. She studied animal behavior and hormones in graduate school and earned her Zoology PhD in 2017 from Oklahoma State University. Maddie and her dog, Haymitch, started taking FUNgility classes with Meg in 2019 and decided quickly that she would love to work at Unleashed. Her passion for observing and understanding animal behavior has only grown while working with the Unleashed daycare and training dogs and she seems to learn something new every day. You can find Maddie and her dog Haymitch running agility courses every week at Unleashed!

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