Kelley McAtee has spent the last two decades of her life studying, living, and bonding with her own dogs as well as her clients’ dogs to understand their needs. Her passion for animals was sparked in college, where she focused her studies on animals in society. After graduation, Kelley volunteered with local animal rescue groups and started her own non-profit. At the end of a six-year pet sitting career, she “felt something was missing and wanted to help animals on a larger level”. Having struggled with behavior issues in her own dogs, Kelley decided to figure out how to deal dog aggression, in-pack fighting, sibling rivalry, guarding issues, and other serious behaviors for which dogs are often euthanized. I appreciate her taking time to answer questions about Dharma’s Dog Training.
ALLISON: What sparked your interest in college in animals?
KELLEY: I had taken an anthropology course that asked me to study a primate in captivity for 45 minutes at the zoo and a psychology class that where I learned about animal testing in laboratories. I also learned about factory farming and pet overpopulation and I became angry about all these things that were happening to animals in our society.
I have been through some serious struggle, frustration and heartache on my journey with dogs. But that has also been balanced out with some of the best, most joyful, loving, peaceful moments of my life.
ALLISON: Why did you pick dogs as your first pet? And for training?
KELLEY: I had dogs growing up and always felt a connection to them deeper than other animals. It was not until I grew up that I realized I could feel what animals were feeling. I had a dog walking and pet sitting business for six years before I started training. Through them, I mastered 10,000 hours of leash work.
ALLISON: What mistakes did you make when you first started?
KELLEY: I have made so many mistakes in life and business but as long as we learn from our mistakes then we can continue to grow and improve at our craft, trade or art; which is what I consider a dog training to be.
I was left feeling hopeless and frustrated. Those dogs were failed by a system and because I did not have the tools to help them.
ALLISON: What is a funny memory?
KELLEY: I can’t think of one specific funny memory, but we try to laugh daily because the work we do can very emotionally and physically exhausting. We try to find the humor in situations!
ALLISON: What is an embarrassing moment?
KELLEY: I don’t get embarrassed easily; we are all humans and imperfect. We are all works in progress and, so if we, our clients, or our dogs make mistakes, they are all learning moments and ways that we can learn from each other.
ALLISON: Why do you think your business has expanded?
KELLEY: I think our business has expanded because we are so passionate about the work we do. We truly care about our clients and their dogs and will do everything in our power to help them as long as they are just as committed to their success.
ALLISON: What lessons have you learned in the business?
KELLEY: There are so many lessons I have learned in this business, too many to list. I have learned to be a better leader, to set rules and boundaries for not only dogs, but humans in my life. I have learned what healthy relationships look like and that no matter what relationships we are dealing with they take work. And this is hard work, mentally, physically and spiritually.
ALLISON: If I visited your business, what would I expect to see?
KELLEY: You would see people and dogs working to improve themselves every day. Training as a way of life, exercising, and enjoying downtime when we can. Helping people and their dogs, the best way we can.
Yes, our dogs may come with baggage, but so do we, and our dogs can bring our issues to light so that we may just become better people for having the courage to work through those issues, and help ourselves while helping our dogs. Until the end of my days, I plan to learn, teach and advocate for these animals around the world.
ALLISON: Give a tip to anyone who might work in the pet business.
KELLEY: Find a mentor and plan to study with them for many years if you truly want to be great at what you do. I;d also recommend that you always keep their goal at the forefront. If your goal is helping animals, always do what is best for the animals, and the money will follow.
KELLEY: I have been studying pets in society for 17 years and every job that I have has led me to what I am doing now. There it’s so much more to training dogs than people think and I have been in business for over 10 years, much of which I have had to learn as I went along.
ALLISON: In what ways, do you give back to the community?
KELLEY: We give back to the community in many ways. We donate our time to local shelters such as Midlands Humane Society, Junction City Kansas and Saunders County, and many other animal rescues to teach their volunteers our training methods that will help homeless dogs get into home.
ALLISON: What inspired you to work with Second Chance Pups?
KELLEY: I’m inspired by programs that understand the dogs have so much to offer humans. Programs that show that people and dogs can change with the right tools and guidance.