Introducing canine behaviour specialist and author Holly Drage

Holly Drage is a young Mandurah millennial on a mission to change the lives of as many dogs as possible.

The canine behaviour specialist has dedicated her life and career to protecting and rehabilitating furry friends, educating dog owners and fundraising for animal welfare charities.

Describing herself as "the dog girl", her love for canines big and small has her travelling the world advocating for animals that can't speak up for themselves.

She has not only turned her passion into her own business, but is also putting all her knowledge down on paper as she writes her very first book.

Holly is the sixth profile in the new Mandurah Millennials on a Mission series, as we meet the young people from around the region helping to shape a new narrative.

The series aims to provide an insight into some of the fresh new talent who have grown up in our great city, and are just getting started making a name for themselves.

Introducing Holly Drage

Holly is as passionate as they come.

From the moment she walks into the Mandurah Mail office for our interview, I can feel her positive energy and good vibes.

She is so thankful for the opportunity to be featured as a Mandurah Millennial on a Mission and even more excited to talk about her career and the thing she loves most - dogs.

Holly's love affair with animals started after she brought home her dog, Boston. Photo: Supplied.

Holly's love affair with animals started after she brought home her dog, Boston. Photo: Supplied.

I also love my furry friend so the two of us gush over pictures and cute anecdotes about our pooches that instantly bonds us.

Despite not knowing Holly personally, it's just minutes before we feel like old friends.

Her face lights up as we discuss how she ended up on her journey to making every dog's life the best that it can possibly be.

After our interview, I spent the day trying to think of even a handful of people I knew that were as driven about anything as Holly is about animal welfare.

I lost count of the amount of times I had to look up synonyms for 'passionate' online while writing this, because that really is the best way to describe Holly.

Her love for dogs, her desire to want to learn more, do more, be better - it is hard to find and it is beyond inspiring.

'I've been here forever'

As with any profile, Holly and I start at the beginning of her life in Mandurah - which she tells me quite literally takes her back to the beginning of her life.

"I've been here forever," she laughed.

"I've lived in Mandurah my whole life, went to Frederick Irwin for school and graduated in 2009.

"It was good growing up here. I noticed when I graduated that a lot of people left to go to Perth but I just never left. I didn't want to, it's too good."

So she never did and still lives in Falcon now with her partner.

"It's such a nice easy, cruisy beach lifestyle surrounded by the water," she said.

Faced with the daunting decision of what to do for the rest of your life, Holly tells me she initially turned down an entrepreneurial career following in her mum's footsteps.

"When I left school, I was pretty much just doing what my mum was doing but I was never really into it," she said.

"I was very lost for a few years after school."

That was until Boston came along.

Boston

Holly's entire career is fueled by a love for her rescue pup and the light of her life - Boston.

A 'bitsa' dog, Boston is part Shepherd, Ridgeback, Pitbull - a little bit of everything.

He was challenging but he changed Holly's life.

"I actually went with a friend to get her dog and he was there. I never went out looking for a dog - he came to me," she said.

"It was very hard to figure out why he was doing a lot of the things he was doing but I wanted to help him, I wanted to know what was going on.

"I reached out to people but they all had mixed opinions so I was studying myself to try and learn along the way.

"But I fell in love with my dog and that's where my love affair with all dogs started.

"I never had that love beforehand. I mean I loved animals growing up, but not like this."

In an effort to develop her knowledge and embrace a career in helping animals, Holly headed to TAFE in 2014 and became a qualified vet nurse.

But after a few years in the industry, she said she realised it wasn't quite right for her.

"I got out of vet nursing because it was so hard on my soul," she said.

"So many cases are caused by neglect and they can be tough. It's also so hard for me to see a dog get put down.

"I just wanted something more so I left to do my own thing with dogs.

"This was when my passion for animals and dogs was getting bigger and bigger - it became an obsession."

Holly and Boston. Photo: Supplied.

Holly and Boston. Photo: Supplied.

Holly describes the moment she decided to turn her doggy devotion into a business as a "lightbulb switching on" in her head.

"I was actually on a plane on the way home from a holiday with my partner, and I was reading and then it just clicked with me," she said.

"I said 'this is what I'm going to do, this is what I will be forever'.

"I went from having a dog that was challenging to turning that into a business - if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have discovered this passion and I wouldn't be here.

"You always hear people say 'it's meant to be' but it really is the case with me. I never thought I would be on this path, It's so weird how it works out."

Read more:

'I threw myself into everything'

Holly said, once she had the vision for her business and her career, she took hold of it with both hands and dedicated every ounce of her energy to it.

"I was throwing myself into study and helping local trainers and I did a unique diploma in canine behaviour, science and technology," she said.

"I was into the obedience training at the start but I always wanted to do more of the harder stuff.

The harder it is, the better I find it - I'm driven by seeing a dog that is hard to figure out.

"There are a lot of behavioural and aggression problems around and that's what I wanted to get stuck into - I really want to understand what's going on in their heads

"The harder it is, the better I find it - I'm driven by seeing a dog that is hard to figure out."

And she said she was blown away by the support of the Mandurah community, who were quick to get help from Holly for their troubled pooches.

"I think people have really supported me because they can see how abnormally passionate about this I am," she laughed.

"They know I want to help them with the hard stuff."

Teaching old dogs new tricks​

"Can you teach an old dog new tricks?" I asked her, thinking of my spoilt little Shih Tzu at home who is full of attitude.

"Of course you can," she assured me.

"Age is not a barrier to training a dog."

Time for me to get training, I think to myself.

"Dogs need to be taught good behaviour and it's all psychological," Holly said.

"A lot of trainers will use physical touch to train a dog but that's not what it's about - you don't need to put your hand on a dog to train it.

"It's more than just teaching sit, stay, come."

Holly loves all canines, big and small. Photo: Supplied.

Holly loves all canines, big and small. Photo: Supplied.

But it all starts with educating dog owners.

The Mandurah Mail has done previous articles with Holly, who has been very vocal about her desire to address the lack of understanding from dog owners.

She has even called on the state government to implement mandatory dog training legislation to help owners control their animals and avoid attacks.

"It doesn't happen like that," she said as she clicks her fingers.

"Aggression can be trained out of [the dogs] but it takes a lot of training and persistence from the owners - they have to put in the time and the effort and that's hard.

"I've found a lot of my job is educating people, which is not what I came into this thinking would be the case. I'm in it for dogs, my concern is with the animal.

"I'm constantly at my clients and checking in on them and I've taken dogs in if I have to, sometimes for six to eight weeks at a time to show people that it can be done."

Read more about Holly in the Mandurah Mail:

On a less serious note, there's not many weird and wacky cases Holly hasn't been exposed to.

She starts giggling just thinking about it, and mentions that she should've kept a list to tell me about them all.

She calls them "funky dogs", which also sends me into a fit of laughter.

"I've seen it all," she said.

"There are some really strange things out there - eating or biting themselves, jumping fences over two metres tall.

"I've had cases where a dog will just spin and chase its own tail all day long or run around a room over and over.

"It's deep and confusing and hard but I love it, I thrive off it."

Advocating for change

One of Holly's greatest achievements is the work she does for animal welfare charities and challenging the unethical treatment of dogs.

Just last year, she raised thousands of dollars to protest a controversial Chinese festival where over 10,000 dogs are eaten each year.

Animal welfare organisations have been fighting to stop the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival held in the Chinese province of Guangxi.

Since Holly learned about the event a number of years ago, she has used her influence to try and educate people about the festival.

"I know it's brutal, it's disgusting but people need to be aware of what's going on around them," she said.

"It's inhumane how they are treated, the dogs are traumatised.

"For me, it's about raising awareness - if we don't talk about it, how can we help? They need funds to help save the dogs."

Holly also travels to Bali frequently to volunteer in dog rescue centres - an experience she describes as "traumatic but rewarding".

"I've been a couple of times in the last few years and it's crazy to see how much the dogs have improved even in a short amount of time," she said.

"Their fur grows back, they can tolerate people - it just shows what a bit of love can do.

"I like to travel overseas to see what the behaviour of animals is like in other places but I definitely plan to go to Bali again."

The next chapter

'You've done so much, what could possibly be next?" I ask Holly.

But, boy, does she have a lot planned! The girl never stops, constantly looking for ways to improve and learn more.

"I'm really passionate about holistic healing now and I think that will grow further," she said.

"I'm learning so much about nutrition and I've seen huge behavioural changes even in changing a diet so I want to do a lot more in educating pet owners to feed your dog right.

"I want to implement that into the rescue centres and universities to educate people about it."

But that isn't all.

She's also writing a book - putting pen to paper to get down all of her knowledge and observations in the world of canine behaviour.

She continues to volunteer at rescue centres.

Plus, she's still seeing her own clients and running her own business.

Lucky she loves dogs.

"I live for dogs - they wake me up every day," she said.

"I don't know why or how but I just love dogs. I have a very deep connection to them.

"I honestly wish I could explain it - a lot of people say to me that when I speak about dogs, they see my face light up."

I honestly wish I could explain it - a lot of people say to me that when I speak about dogs, they see my face light up.

I couldn't agree more. Holly's passion is inspiring and makes me want to do more - which she argues is just a characteristic of our generation.

"A lot of this younger generation are just turning their passions into a business and helping to make a difference in the world," she said.

"If I can turn my love for dogs into something that makes their welfare better, I think that's a win-win and I think that's what it's all about.

"At the end of the day, my number one focus is dogs and I want to make sure that every dog lives the best life possible."

To keep up with all the latest from Holly Drage, or to learn more about her business, follow her on Instagram.

The next Mandurah Millennials on a Mission profile will explore the life of a fun and quirky videographer who turned his love for making weekend wakeboarding clips into getting paid to travel the world making videos for big time companies.