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Life & Work with Nicole Ellis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Ellis.

Hi Nicole, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’m an LA kid through and through, born and raised in LA. I grew up an only kid with dogs as my siblings and with two animal loving parents (and grandparents). I grew up acting and modeling and being on sets became a second home to me. I always knew my destiny was to work with animals. I grew up riding horses, bonding with family pets and I was always the fearless kid in the class who volunteered to hold the giant boa constrictor or pet the cheetah (didn’t every kid want to pet a cheetah?) But I wouldn’t be a great vet, I don’t love blood and not many jobs with animals resonated with me. So I went to college to get a depressed in what I knew a little about, film and TV.

While in college at Cal State Northridge for screenwriting, I started also taking classes in exotic animals – very normal right? After working with some tigers and bears (oh my!) I decided to see if I could train my own dog Maggie these same studio behaviors and I was hooked. Somewhere along the way, I realized that my mission as a trainer was actually to train other humans to strengthen their bonds with their pets through positive training and mutual understanding. Happier owners mean happier pets, and then hopefully fewer unwanted pets will end up on the streets and in city shelters – that was my thinking anyway. My own dog, Maggie, came from one of those shelters and became my animal training ambassador. In addition to working in commercials and movies, Maggie knows over one hundred behaviors and performs at hospitals – we’ve flown all over to volunteer even, charity fundraisers and on TV. And at the end of the day, her and Rossi truly are my best friends. Rossi is my younger boy, who has stepped into the spotlight appearing in feature films and tv shows. I’ve been so lucky to work with incredible people and animals. 

Before covid hit, I was traveling the world with Amazon Prime’s The Pack training and working with those amazing dogs. My days are filled with two of my greatest love dogs and being on set! Even my horse Cali has done some photoshoots. I also to train service dogs, therapy dogs and provide lots of free training content so everyone can create a better bond with their animals. During the Pack myself and my friend Nick Benger, a fellow trainer, trained all the teams (and some extras) work with the creative teams and hit the road on a one of a kind adventure with the dogs and their human partners. I also have a book called Working Like A Dog, a coffee table book. One of my best friends Brandise was bit by a dog pretty badly and of course, she was traumatized. I wanted to show her how amazing trained dogs can be. So her and I hit the road in her Volvo and we traveled the US photographing dogs with jobs out of our own pockets, pretty crazy idea especially considering her dog history but we made friends for lifetime and it’s safe to say Brandise loves dogs now. We are currently working on a second book with a different premise.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It wouldn’t be an adventure if it was easy, I believe. Many nights of feeling not sure if this path would work out, working multiple jobs, taking days off from a desk job to be able to get to a client’s house or work on set, fear of not being able to pay the bills that week or that month. But in the end, it’s all worth it! Every struggle made me stronger and more determined to help others. I love seeing young upcoming dog trainers that are inspired to follow in our footsteps and are making a huge difference too.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My site is Maggieandnicole.com and my social is all under @naellis. I’m known for training celebrities dogs in Los Angeles, my book Working Like A Dog which is a coffee table book diving into the world of working canines (from bed bug detecting dogs to peanut allergen dogs and everything in between), and of course for training dogs. Most recently seen on Amazon Prime’s The Pack. I’m a positive reinforcement trainer, meaning everything I do is fun and positive for the dog – which is why my dog’s favorite word is work. I love providing blogs and free videos to help others train their dogs, so no matter where you live, you can spend 5 mins strengthening your bond together and hopefully do more together.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I trained exotics before dogs, starting with bears and tigers. I’m just an LA kid that gets to play with puppies every day. I’ve been bit by a leopard, broken multiple bones on horses and still can’t wait to train every day. A lot of people know me from The Pack, what many don’t know is that my dad passed away two days before we left the country, I missed his funeral but I know he was looking down and so so proud, I just wish he could have saw the show, I know he would have loved it.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Sara DeRemer (laying down dogs with sunglases) Anabel Dfluex (main image, and dogs jumping over arms) Brandy Yi (horse one) Mark Tucker (with Maggie dog in creek) Brandise Danesewich (jumping in air)

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