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Our Mission

The Devoted Dog is dedicated to helping improve the lives of dogs and other domestic pets through training, rehabilitation, and education. We seek to strengthen the human-animal bond using current, scientifically proven, purpose driven enrichment and training.

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Training The Devoted Dog

Founded April 2021 - Located in Columbia, MO

Kai Murphey founded The Devoted Dog as a sole proprietorship while completing a graduate program in neurobiology and animal behavior at The University of Missouri - Columbia. While the direction of Kai's life was not always clear, a love for dogs, other animals, and for education has always been at the core of his identity. He started working with foster dogs as a teen, targeting those that were feral, fearful or aggressive and working to build a bond that would help those dogs recover from their trauma and learn to trust people. And not only foster dogs. Kai fostered an orphaned squirrel, raccoon, rabbits, birds and other wildlife species and started learning about wildlife rehabilitation and conservation early.

He started his undergraduate education at The University of Minnesota, volunteering with The Raptor Center and learning about clicker training. At first, Kai intended to go on to veterinary school but ended up changing their degree plan to Environmental Education after taking an interest in opportunities to work at zoos, nature centers, and other outdoor recreation centers teaching the public about wildlife and nature. They completed an internship working with special needs youth at Peaceable Kingdom Retreat in Killeen, TX, developing an entire environmental education curriculum for the retreat, but... did not complete a Bachelor's degree at that time.

Life took Kai a different direction, raising an autistic child as a single parent and seeking therapy for a PTSD diagnosis. For about five years, Kai was just focused on survival. But it was during this time that Kai returned to working with dogs, taking what he'd learned of clicker training and starting to train a service dog so that they could return to school and complete that unfinished degree. With the help of Kai's self-trained service dog, Schmutziger (now retired), a Bachelor's in Wildlife Conservation was completed at Murray State University.

In deciding where to go from there, Kai fell back on his love for dogs, animals, and education, coming to Columbia, MO for their graduate program, pursuing a PhD in animal behavior and neurobiology. Here, Kai was truly on his own, and here Kai struggled with the realization that a PhD... while raising an autistic child, battling PTSD, and surviving a pandemic was too much to handle. With two newly adopted dogs, service dog candidates for himself and his child, Kai returned to training and found a community of dog lovers who could benefit from his knowledge and expertise. And thus was born, The Devoted Dog.

Kai has completed a certification in Animal First Aid, the AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator certification, and is set to complete the Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional certification program December 2023. They plan to continue to pursue certifications in Fear Free Training, Dog Aggression, and Canine Behavior Modification.

Kai is dedicated to training with positive training methods and with helping owners and handlers understand their dogs. The Devoted Dog will never advise the use of aversive training methods for quick results as these methods, while potentially effective in getting the desired behaviors, can cause long term damage. And they are not at all necessary! Positive reinforcement training techniques are used when working with wildlife in zoos, nature centers, and even in the wild, providing enrichment and less stressful veterinary examinations as animals learn behaviors that allow them to opt-in to those exams. Positive reinforcement training is also used in the service dog industry, encouraging confidence, ingenuity, curiosity, and creativity all necessary when shaping complex behaviors for tasks.

We work with dogs (and other animals) of all kinds! Whether you need help training a puppy, are considering a service dog candidate, want to train your cat or other small animal to do tricks, or have a dog struggling with anxiety, aggression, or reactivity. We are here to help! And with our partnership with Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue, we seek to help dogs in need of rehabilitation find placement in homes that are prepared to meet their training needs.

Interested in Joining Our Team?

The Devoted Dog is a sole proprietorship, but we work with volunteers interested in dog training through our partnership with Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue. As we expand and grow, we'll be looking to take on employees, but for now apply to volunteer with UMDR and specify that you'd like to help with training if you want to work with us!

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