Columbia K9 is owned by Certified Canine Behavior Consultant Trainer, Jenna Pellerito, CBCC-KA. Jenna is credentialed, knowledgeable, experienced, passionate, and loves dogs more than anything else in this world. Columbia K9 Training & Behavior offer a wide range of services from in-home lessons, day training, virtual training or hybrid programs.
Thank you for interviewing with us today, can you introduce yourself to us?
Thank you for having me! My name is Jenna Pellerito and I am the owner and head trainer at Columbia K9 Training & Behavior. I am a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant(CBCC-KA). I offer in home dog training in Columbia, SC, and virtual dog training worldwide! I specialize in behavior modification for behavioral problems and puppy socialization and training, though I have quite a big wheelhouse and often can help my clients and their dogs with pretty much anything they need! While dog training is an entirely unregulated industry, meaning anyone without any formal education or certifications can open a business as a dog trainer, I continue my education yearly and am in the process of earning more certifications outside of the 4 that I already have. I train dogs with force free, science based training methods and advocate against the use of aversive methods like shock and prong collars.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
Since I was a kid, I have always been drawn to animals, especially dogs. When I was 18, I had to opportunity to work in a dog boarding facility and daycare as an animal care specialist. Even after my first day was spent scooping poop and cleaning kennels, I couldn’t ever imagine myself working a job without dogs again. After a few years of working in kennels, I became fascinated with behavior and training. I decided to drop out of “normal college” and attend an online college to become a certified dog trainer. I graduated with honors, and quickly landed a full time position as a dog trainer at a humane society that I was volunteering at at the time. I worked alongside a mentor and my now dear friend, Rachel Gentz. Rachel took me under her wing and taught me more than I could ever put into words. At the humane society, I oversaw the behavioral health of each dog we had in our care, performed behavior evaluations, provided training and enrichment for our “harder-to-adopt” dogs, hosted group training classes for newly adopted dogs and the public, provided in home training for newly adopted dogs, and trained staff members on defensive handling and bite prevention.
I also worked hard to continue my education. After 2.5 years at the humane society, I sadly had to step away from my position as it was very stressful and impacting my mental health. After I left the humane society, I briefly took on a job at a private dog training facility where I continued to host group classes, provide in home training, and, my favorite, work in the facilities “Play and Learn” puppy program where I socialized and trained a group of puppies each day. Sadly, right after covid hit, this facility did close and I lost my job. On a whim, I decided to open my first business in Michigan, “Yes! Personalized Dog Training”. My first business was a great success and I serviced over 130 families and their dogs in just my first year! I then made the very scary decision to relocate and open a new business in South Carolina, something I had wanted to do for years because I hated the long cold winters in Michigan.
I opened “Columbia K9 Training & Behavior” in November of 2021 after I moved and so far it has already surpassed the level that my first business was at! Currently, you can catch me training as many dogs and their humans as I can, cspreading the message of force free dog training on my Instagram, continuing my education(I am currently enrolled in Michael Shikasio’s Master Course in Aggression), and working to improve and grow my business on the daily.
Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?
More than I could ever count! My business is always a work in progress and I am constantly modifying it as I go! Though, I think the biggest change that I have ever made is moving myself and my business across the country. It was a daunting task, but overall it paid off! My business is BOOMING in South Carolina, my clients are an absolute joy to work with, and the best part is, I don’t have to to dread working through 6 months of blistering cold Michigan weather.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?
Yes! I have had a few mentors, but the one that impacted me the most was Rachel Gentz, whom I worked alongside during my first official job as a dog trainer at a humane society. Rachel introduced me to force free, evidence based dog training. She was the first person to open my eyes to how damaging aversive dog training methods tend to be, and also how unnecessary they are. Because of her, I work hard to continue my education in canine behavior, always striving to train dogs with the least intrusive methods possible. Rachel truly planted the seed for my entire career as a force free dog trainer.
What outlets do use for marketing?
Primarily Google Ads, along with my Instagram. Google Ads tends to lead clients who are directly in Columbia, SC to me and I can offer them my in-person services, where my Instagram leads clients from all over the world to me and I offer them my virtual services. I also get quite a few clients through referrals, and from being a part of The Alliance of Force Free Animal Proffessionals, which is an amazing networking group of likeminded professionals!
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
I am currently enrolled in personal therapy! I have unfortunately struggled with my mental health since I was a child. I have been in and out of therapy my entire life, and right now I am focusing on how to improve my relationship with myself, others, and how to work through my anxieties. Needing help is never something to be ashamed of, and I believe it is important to be open about the way I struggle with my mental health. Therapy can be helpful for anyone, but especially those who struggle with a mental illness like I do.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
To take days off! Pick whatever days suit you best, and give yourself at least 2 days out of the week where you don’t work. As simple as it sounds, it is SO important. You do not have to “earn your days off”, you deserve them regardless of how far into business owning you are. When I first became a business owner, I was not taking any full days off. That did not last long and after only a few months I was feeling so burnt out. If I could go back in time to my early business owner days, I would have given myself set days off right off the bat.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
As many other business owners, I am still working on finding a better balance, but something that really helps me is having a separate phone for work and personal reasons. I do my best to not pick up my work phone outside of my set work hours! That really helps me not get slewed into answering texts/emails when I am not “on the clock”. I also have two dogs of my own and I often get caught up in their own training and enrichment, which I love, but can of course lead to burnout if that’s all that I am focusing on. Because of this, I am adamant about continuing to find new hobbies that I enjoy that are not dog related. Lately, I have been really into yoga, gardening, caring for houseplants, and solo hiking since it has been too hot to bring my dogs along anyways!
Name a seminal point in your career so far?
This is a tough one for me, because I want to say my entire career has been seminal. I think just taking the leap to open a business after losing my job due to covid was a huge point for me. Being a business owner was not something I thought I was capable of until it was really my only option. I am so proud of myself for all the work I have put in and all the success that has came with that.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Being able to improve the human-dog relationship. I often work with clients who are struggling with very challenging behavioral issues that are not only stressful on the humans, but the dogs too. It is so rewarding to see the progress that my clients make through my help and guidance, but it’s even more rewarding to see my clients relationships with their dogs bloom. Oh, and being able to receive puppy kisses pretty much every time I go into work is pretty satisfying too!
Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?
I really look up to Jenny Efimova, owner of Dogminded. I connected with Jenny through her Instagram page(@dogminded) when I was still a very new trainer. She was another person who impacted me to train dogs through force free methods, along with centering the human-dog relationship around joy, trust, and happiness. I also think highly of Julianna DeWilliams, owner of JW Dog Training & Behavior. She is a wonderful, highly educated trainer and has a whole team of amazing trainers working through her business.
How do you define your own success?
I define my own success by the impact I make on other people, trainers, clients, and the hundreds of dogs I have worked with throughout the years. It is really important to me to make a lasting impression on the people that I work with. That lasting impression on people often comes with great their success in training, and an even more cherish-able relationship with their dog(s).
Finally, What can we expect from you this year?
You can expect to see me continuing to spread the message of force free dog training any chance I get, and continuing to offer only the most humane, least intrusive methods of dog training possible!