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Kehaulani Matsumoto, owner of Aloha Pet Services, helps dogs do the best they can

Ciara Parizek/MDN Kehaulani Matsumoto is shown with her three dogs, from the left, Hanalei, Kalei, and Roxy.

A very large portion of the United States has dogs in their families, and they can all be little stinkers. Sometimes a little help is needed in getting rid of those undesirable behaviors, and Kehaulani Matsumoto knows how to give her pet parents who needed help with her business Aloha Pet Services in Minot.

She’s from the Hilo side of the Big Island, Hawaii, and moved to Minot to get an education and learn more of the skills she would need to help dogs be the best they can be.

She had worked with dogs where she’s from, but she wanted to gain a lot more experience. When PetCo opened here in 2013, Matsumoto took a dog training position, moving up to head dog trainer a year later. The pet parents and dogs she met “from different walks of life” while working there made progress together, learning that it’s not polite to jump on people and not to nip at little fingers when treats are given.

The experience she gained working for PetCo was helpful, and she wanted to branch out and do more. She got a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing and entrepeneurship from Minot State University, graduating in May. Her education helped her to market her business and get the word out.

“Brian Boppre from Boppre Law Firm also helped me get started,” she said, “and it’s kinda nice that I made those connections through PetCo and PetCo opened the door for (her) to meet all these people.”

Ciara Parizek/MDN Kehaulani Matsumoto teaches Kalei to lay down.

Aloha Pet Services’ dog training consists of home visits to train the dog in the environment where she/he would spend most of her/his time. Matsumoto said she begins with a free consult with her clients to find out which behaviors their beloved pet needs to work on and they come up with a game plan together to make sure they get the best results.

Most of her training is done in Minot, but she also goes to Velva and as far out as Devils Lake if it is needed. She works on basic behaviors, such as sit, lay down and stay, and is wanting to branch out into training service and therapy dogs. The Australian Shepherd pup she is currently working with, named Kalei, is already into doing pressure therapy, where he will lay on his human’s chest to calm them down if they are in the middle of a panic attack. He is being trained to be a psychiatric service dog. For being such a young pup, he is already learning so fast.

One thing that separates Matsumoto from other dog trainers in this area is she can bring her two dogs with on outings to train service dogs. That is an important aspect in service dog training: working with the pup on leaving other dogs alone and to focus on their human. When they have their vests on, it is time to work, not to play. Taking her dogs Roxy and Hanalei with assists in that and makes a great difference in the progress a pup can make in training.

Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a program that a dog will go through to learn how to be polite and stay for long periods of time while the owner is out of sight. Matsumoto is certified to give dogs that pass the program a CGC certification, showing they have become a good citizen. Being able to certify therapy dogs is on her list of things to do.

Matsumoto also offers dog sitting. Dogs are able to stay from a day to a week to a month if the pet parents will be out of town for a while. She has two dogs of her own that the guests will be around, so they will also be socialized with other dogs. While the dogs stay with Aloha Pet Services, they can be in-board trained, but Matsumoto said she prefers to work with the pet parents present so the dog learns to listen to their parent, not the trainer.

The progress that she sees with her pet parents and their dogs is what keeps her going. All she wants to do is give back to her community and do what she can to make others’ lives better. Matsumoto said she’s not in it for the money, and that she’s in it to help her pet parents, whether it be with training, dog sitting or just giving them advice.

“I have a big place in my heart for kids with disabilities” and for soldiers who served who may have PTSD, so those are major motivators for her in her drive to train service dogs, Matsumoto said. Helping others is her passion, and she shares that with others through their mutual love of dogs.

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