Published on July 1st, 2020 | by AberdeenMagazine
Tails are Wagging for Kelly’s Pet Training
If your pet’s behavior is disrupting your life, Kelly Pulis has solutions for restoring the peace in your home.
The Carda family includes Beau, a four-year-old cocker spaniel with the sweetest brown eyes and a soft spot for curling up next to you on the couch. Beau is also fiercely protective of his people. So, when visitors would show up at the Carda home, he would voice his concerns. Rhonda explains, “He was really aggressive with strangers. My son couldn’t even have his friends over because Beau would go ballistic if someone outside of the family came to the front door.”
Feeling at a loss for what they could do, the family decided a professional pet trainer was worth a shot. After just one session with Kelly Pulis, they were able to understand Beau’s triggers and find solutions for how they could help him feel comfortable with having strangers in the house. Four sessions later, and they have seen a huge improvement in Beau’s behavior and are continuing to practice everything they’ve learned. “I totally recommend Kelly working with your pet. She very quickly picked up on why Beau was having anxiety toward guests and has taught us so many tricks and techniques we can use to help him get over this hurdle,” Rhonda says.
Going All-In After The Dream Career
The Cardas aren’t the only family in Aberdeen celebrating a happily-ever-after with their fur baby thanks to Kelly’s Pet Training. It’s client stories like these that make Kelly’s career feel full-circle. While growing up, she dreamed of becoming a marine animal trainer and working with dolphins. But living in the very landlocked Midwest, that dream didn’t seem real when it came time for college. Instead, she earned a degree in Wildlife Biology and found a job doing research. It involved spending eight hours a day at a computer and not interacting with animals at all. “So, I went back to school, this time for what I really wanted to do,” she explains.
Kelly’s search for a career working hands-on with animals took her to Moorpark, California, where she attended the exotic animal training and management program at Moorpark College. The school is a zoo and college in one. Students earn grades both in the classroom and by training animals at public shows for zoo-goers. After graduation, she and her husband moved to Mississipi and worked at a conservation-focused aquarium for the next nine years. Here, her childhood dream of marine animal training was brought to life. She hosted countless animals shows, took care of a number of stranded dolphins, and rehabbed hundreds upon hundreds of sea turtles. During her experience, she noticed how a one-on-one interaction with people made the most impact. “For the majority of people who come to an aquarium, that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is something they take home and remember. I noticed that when we got to talk one-on-one with people that we could really answer their questions and concerns and make real connections with them,” she says.
From Dream Career to Business Owner
When Kelly and her husband moved to Aberdeen two years ago for his job as a professor of biology at NSU, she knew it would mean a huge pivot for her career. “There are no dolphins here,” she jokes. But what she also noticed was that while there are group dog obedience classes in town, no one was offering private, in-home pet training. Remembering the difference of that one-on-one connection with people from her time at the aquarium, she felt inspired to start Kelly’s Pet Training after that model.
Kelly now helps individual families by coming to their homes and teaching them how to correct whatever issues they are having with their pets. She trains all animals but has been called mostly to help dogs in the Hub City. “It is so important to do the training at the pet’s home because that’s where they are the most comfortable, and it allows us to take in the layout and the family environment. So, we look at things like who lives here, where does the pet sleep, what door are they using, who are they jumping on or barking at, etc. This way, we can really hone in and see what will be the most effective in correcting the behavior,” she says.
As part of these personal sessions, Kelly answers questions and goes over scenarios with clients, giving them tools to continue the pet training after she leaves. She says positive reinforcement is key. “I always teach through positivity and teach clients to do the same for their pets. This means using something that motivates the pet toward good behavior—usually, with dogs, this means food and offering treats for the behavior we want to see.” Most clients start with a half-hour or hour session and add on if needed.
Kelly has experience in spades when it comes to animal training, but starting a business was a completely new challenge. To get her name out there and find those first clients, she offered group training classes at the Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center and hung flyers around town to advertise. Eventually, she partnered with other businesses, like her collaboration with Pinned Workshop to promote dog training and make a leash holder, and local vet clinics. “Our vets in town have been so gracious in telling pet owners about me when they have animals come in who are nervous or fearful or have other behavior issues the owner is looking for guidance on.”
For now, Kelly meets with her pet training clients on nights and weekends. During the day, she works full time as the biology lab manager at NSU. When she isn’t working, she and her family love getting outside, hiking, and boating. True, there aren’t any dolphins in Aberdeen. But Kelly has built her own niche here to serve the animals that do live in her new community. She says being a business owner feels right. “I know it can be so frustrating when you have a pet that is having a problem at home and you have no idea what to do and nothing is working. I love helping people find solutions in those situations so they can feel happy at home with their pets.” // –Jenny Roth
To reach Kelly Pulis with Kelly’s Pet Training, call 605-622-0428, visit kellyspettraining.com, or find her on Facebook @kellyspettraining.
5 Tips for a Happier Home with Your Pet
by Kelly Pulis
Reward behavior you like with food, praise, and love, and ignore the rest.
It’s proven that positive training happens faster and is retained longer than punishment. Let’s be positive!
Make training a fun game and not a chore.
Training should be energizing, not something that makes you feel like you have to drag your feet and force yourself to do. If it’s not fun, take a break and come back to it another time.
Keep it simple.
Breaking each task into small, achievable steps instead of one large one will make your training more successful.
Bring the best treats broken into small pieces.
Using many small, pea-size treats of your dog’s favorite thing instead of one big treat creates more opportunities to learn.
Read your dog’s body language to know if you are on the right track.
It’s hard for dogs to learn when they are nervous or uncertain, so make sure the time and place are right for happy, positive learning.