The Underdog Story
Hello! Molly here. Thank you for visiting the Underdog site! If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already figured out that I love dogs. I love ’em all—always have, you know the drill. I’ve been working with the “tough” dogs (you know, THOSE dogs) in various capacities for the past ten years.
In 2010, I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in philosophy, specializing in epistemology. A degree in what now? you ask? Just trust me when I say that my degree gave me perspective on what’s important in life. It led me here, doing what I love. (It’s also a good paperweight, and makes me look smart when people see it on my wall during Zoom meetings.)
Back to dogs. After graduating, I began volunteering at the local shelter and pet sitting. I was already drawn to the tough cases. The dogs who’d been hurt, who were stressed, who lashed out. These were the dogs that would come to define my career.
In 2013, I started a pet sitting business specializing in rescues with behavior needs. I wanted to help those challenging dogs stay in their homes, but I also found joy in helping the humans who’d taken a chance on them. Helping owners cultivate compassion with their dogs became my fuel. By 2016, the business had two full time sitters and seven additional part-time sitters. Turns out, I’d stumbled upon a huge need for pet care professionals with skills in dog behavior!
All the while, I was becoming very interested in learning all I could about dog behavior. (And by “very interested” I mean “utterly obsessed.”) I read anything I could get my hands on. I picked the brain of every trainer I came in contact with. And I was applying it all to my own pups and my clients as well. It was obvious. I needed to go into behavior. I was fortunate to find a mentor in the incredible Cathie Lee at K9 Wisdom and Training, and in 2017 I began training and teaching some of her classes. I was inspired by Cat’s ability to address not only the dog’s behavior but also the needs and abilities of the human, always with compassion and grace.
Another mentor of mine had spent 20 years working in shelters, focusing on animal welfare and behavior. Seeing the potential in me (or perhaps just getting sick of my constant questions and musings), she encouraged me to turn my behavior obsession into a career, and get an education. With my pet-sitting business in full swing, I started taking private training clients via referral as I considered my options for a career in behavior. I could go the route of many a Caesar and simply print some cards, spout some gibberish and fake it till I make it.
(Fun fact: you need a certification to paint someone’s toenails in a salon. Yet you do not need certification, or any education at all, to advise people on how to interact with animals that have the potential to kill. The dog training profession is totally unregulated in the U.S.)
Don't get me wrong, I’ve learned much from colleagues who’ve been working with dogs for years with no formal education. In no way do not intend to diminish their contributions. But I was fascinated by the why and how of animal behavior, I wanted to really know my s**t. I wanted to be sure I was up to date on what science had to say so that I’d have every tool available to help these pups be successful.
As I was diving into books about animal behavior, one prolific author quickly became my favorite: Jean Donaldson. Her heady, witty writing style was backed by her undeniable knowledge of animal behavior, applied behavior analysis, evolutionary biology and animal learning. She inspired me immensely.
Jean and a few of her peers lead the charge in identifying and articulating the problems with traditional pain-and fear-based training methods. Imagine my delight upon discovering that she had put together a course for dog trainers (aptly called the Academy for Dog Trainers) that offered the most comprehensive, rigorous and highly respected education available for our industry. I was determined to get in.
All the while, my business was still growing. I was taking on more and more difficult cases while my sitters handled your run of the mill barkers and snarkers. I was stretching myself thin. I couldn’t focus on school, train for K9 Wisdom, and run the business. Heartbroken at the thought of leaving my clients, some of whom I’d been working with for seven years, I decided I wouldn’t sell until I found the perfect person. Much to my delight, I found three of them! At the end of 2017, I sold the business to another one of my mentors and her two partners. Now I was ready to fully dive into behavior.
Gearing up to apply for the Academy, I began volunteering with a shelter in southern Colorado that was overrun with behavior cases. I was part of a small crew working on giving these dogs the best chance for safe, healthy outcomes, and we started a 501c3 nonprofit to support our efforts. Although we ultimately parted ways with the shelter, I’m incredibly proud of the work we did while there: in-kennel enrichment, play groups, training and decompression walks for the dogs, behavior and basic training programs for the staff and volunteers, and post-adoption support. While heading up these programs, I also worked one-on-one with the most at-need dogs, both in the shelter and my home.
In 2018, I was thrilled to be accepted into the Academy for Dog Trainers. During my studies, I was volunteering, teaching classes, working with rescues and shelters on behavior cases, and guiding fosters and volunteers. I officially received my CTC in March of 2019.
In January of 2019, I consolidated much of this work under the umbrella of Underdog Behavior and Consulting. The work has been going on for years, the website has been a long time in the making, and I thank you for taking the time to visit and get to know a bit more about Underdog.
Now I want to learn more about you! Please click to contact me.