As a student at the University of Iowa, becoming a dog trainer was the furthest thing from Chelsey Montgomery’s mind. “I was actually studying orthodontistry,” Ms. Montgomery said. “A complete 180, right?” Dog trainers don’t necessarily have a typical career path. For Ms. Montgomery, the journey began when she purchased a German shepherd from a […]
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As a student at the University of Iowa, becoming a dog trainer was the furthest thing from Chelsey Montgomery’s mind. “I was actually studying orthodontistry,” Ms. Montgomery said. “A complete 180, right?” Dog trainers don’t necessarily have a typical career path. For Ms. Montgomery, the journey began when she purchased a German shepherd from a breeder in Georgia, who “took me under her wing” as an intern. “I started training and competing, and I fell in love with training,” she said. “And when I was doing my internship, the breeder said, ‘Chelsey, what are you doing with your life?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to be an orthodontist.’ And she said, ‘you need to be a dog trainer.’ At the time, I said, ‘No, that’s OK. I’m just doing this for fun.’ And then I came back (to Iowa City), changed my major to veterinary sciences, and thought I was going to be a vet. Didn’t like that. And then I got into dog training.” Ms. Montgomery gained additional experience at the Bounding Hound kennel and training school in Coralville. “Annette in Georgia was more of a compulsion-only trainer, and Loren Prottsman (at Bounding Hound) is a positive reinforcement-only trainer. So, I took both programs, merged them into my own, liked some pieces and didn’t like others, and I now have my own program.” That program is the Knellhart Academy, a training and breeding program and dog kennel that opened in Iowa City in January 2017. Ms. Montgomery offers training for both service animals and family pets, including socialization visits to local venues such as Scheel’s Sporting Goods at the Coral Ridge Mall. Ms. Montgomery, the daughter of former University of Iowa running back Lew Montgomery, admits she experienced a few challenges launching her sole-proprietor venture. “Being young, a woman and a minority-owned business encompassed in one, trying to get working capital financing, people don’t take you very seriously,” she said. “When I would ask, ‘hey, Dad, can you come to this meeting with me?’ I felt people took me a little more seriously when I had that male presence with me versus if I was by myself. Now that I know what I’m about and I have that history, I don’t suffer as much. But there’s still times where I feel like if I have my father-in-law, or my father, or even my husband, come with me to different meetings, it gives that different presence. I think that’s been the hardest thing, just being taken seriously as a business owner.” But make no mistake, the Knellhart Academy is a serious, full-fledged business. Unlike many other companies, demand for Ms. Montgomery’s services has soared during the pandemic as families rushed to purchase dogs for home companionship. The business has been so successful that Ms. Montgomery and her husband are building an expansive new home and kennel facility near Riverside. “I’m putting everything I’ve ever made toward this project,” she said. “I can easily say I’m self-made. I didn’t have Mom and Dad handouts or a bunch of grant money. It was all hard work and dedication and everything else. And now we’re ready to rock and roll.”