Owner & Head Trainer: Rebecca Golian
B.A. Degree in Psychology
15+ years dog training experience
Qualified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Professional Service Dog Trainer
Canine Behavior Specialist
Member of the IACP
Pet CPR/First Aid Certified
Licensed and insured
Rebecca grew up in Frederick County, Maryland and found her passion for working with animals at a young age. At the age of five, Rebecca began riding horses and joined the United States Pony Clubs (USPC). Rebecca trained and competed horses, taught private lessons and conducted clinics throughout high school. Rebecca also grew up working with dogs and volunteered at local rescues and shelters.
During college, Rebecca continued to compete in the equestrian sport of Three-Day Eventing, working under some of the best trainers and equestrian athletes in the world. She started her own equestrian business in 2009, offering training, competition, sport horse sales and private riding instruction in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Rebecca started professionally training dogs in college. While attending the University of Maryland, Rebecca offered private in-home training, group obedience classes, puppy development classes and board & train programs for dogs with severe behavioral problems in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Rebecca also raised and trained German Shepherds for The Seeing Eye, a Guide Dog school based in Morristown, NJ.
In 2013, Rebecca decided to pursue working with dogs full time and moved to New York City to start a professional dog training and behavior modification business. Rebecca offered advanced on and off-leash obedience training, puppy training, service/therapy dog training and certification and behavior modification for dogs with severe behavioral problems.
In 2015 Rebecca was offered a rare opportunity to enter a three year apprenticeship program to become a Qualified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) at Guide Dogs for the Blind. A GDMI trains guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired, matches trained guide dogs with clients, conducts client training and offers follow up services for guide dog users throughout the United States and Canada.
In 2019 Rebecca decided to move back to the east coast to be closer to friends and family. She moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and started Love in the Lead Canine Training, LLC. In 2020 she founded Healing Canines, Inc. which is a local non-profit that trains and places service dogs for residents of North and South Carolina.
Outside of running her business, Rebecca enjoys spending time with her personal dog Benji, spending time with her family and friends and participating in outdoor activities.
Training Manager: Meagan Karas
Meagan is from Norfolk, VA and spent most of her life with dogs- her family members were avid outdoorsmen who bred dogs and trained/competed in various dog sports. During college, Meagan got a kennel attendant job while also volunteering as a puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and it was from these experiences that she realized her passion for dogs should be developed into a career.
Over the years, she has worked or volunteered in various areas, from veterinary kennels to rescues/shelters, and has over 9 years management experience in dog daycare and boarding facilities. Overseeing playgroups of large numbers of dogs with distinctly different personalities was always a challenge for her, and Meagan enjoyed addressing the needs of dogs that had some quirks or needed extra time to
feel comfortable, as well as offering guidance to owners that always wanted the best for their dogs but sometimes weren’t sure how to handle the issues they were having. It was working with those clients that pushed Meagan to explore the idea of dog training when she moved from Richmond to Charlotte.
She worked as a trainer in Statesville, where she taught basic obedience, potty and crate training and house manners to puppies ranging from 6 weeks to 1 year old. But she was missing the challenge of working with dogs that needed more complex training and helping those dogs and their owners develop a more rewarding relationship, which led her to apply for a position at Love in the Lead. Meagan has been with Love in the Lead Canine Training, LLC since January of 2020 and is currently the Training Manager.
In her free time, Meagan and her partner spend time with their 3 dogs (a Boxer/Pitbull mix, an English Golden and a Shiba Inu), hiking or adventuring around Charlotte, Durham and Asheville. Meagan also enjoys working her personal dogs in agility, rally, dock jumping and field trials.
Assistant Trainer: Grace Mitchell
Grace started her dog training career in Reston, Virginia. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science at Michigan State University, she began working under a local trainer learning to teach dog obedience and agility. Grace also became a therapy dog handler through Pet Partners and began working with Heeling House; a nonprofit that helps children with special needs through animal assisted interaction.
She then became certified trainer, CPDT-KA, and moved to CA to continue her career. Grace began an apprenticeship with Canine Companions for Independence for the next two years learning all aspects of assistance dog training and task work for a variety of disabilities. She then moved into a management position with Dogs For Better Lives in Oregon directing their dog acquisition program.
Grace joined Love in the Lead in December 2020 and will be assisting with the Service Dog Program, Puppy Program and our non-profit Healing Canines, Inc.
With her family still on the east coast, Grace moved back to the Charlotte area with her two dogs Duncan and Nova. She enjoys exploring the area on the weekends and movie marathons.
Assistant Trainer: Mary McArdle
Mary, originally from CA, has been passionate about animals and especially dogs her entire life. Her career in the dog industry began at an independent pet food store teaching pet parents about dog and cat nutrition. After working in pet food for over a year, Mary soon decided she wanted to help more and started looking into dog training.
Soon after she found a job at Petco and fell in love with training dogs and helping their owners learn to communicate better with their pups. Shortly after she moved to a private company to get even more client and dog interaction in real world scenarios, which led her to Love in the Lead.
Outside of work Mary spends her time with her beagle mix Lacey and her tortishell cat Wednesday. She can also be found hiking and exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Assistant Trainer: Gabby Changanaqui
During this time Gabby began training her own psychiatric service dog, Schatzi. She witnessed how her own psychiatric service dog was able to improve her independence and quality of life. This drove her passion to pursue a career as a service dog trainer and help provide such life changing dogs for others.
In 2019 Gabby began volunteering at Project to Heal, a local service dog breeding organization, helping with the care of the puppies. In June of 2020 Gabby began apprenticing under Rebecca at Love in the Lead to learn more about obedience training and training service dogs. Gabby joined the training team at Love in the Lead in September 2020.
In her free time, Gabby enjoys spending time with Schatzi (a miniature dachshund) and her partner exploring the outdoors of North Carolina.
Gabby grew up local to Charlotte, NC and has been savvy to caring for and working with animals from a young age. Her passion for working with animals has been cultivated through a variety of experiences including volunteering locally with rescues, veterinary summer camps/workshops, and raising several species of exotic animals.
In highschool Gabby was accepted into an exclusive 3-year program and veterinary assistant internship at Mathews Animal Clinic to earn her veterinary assistant certification. While in college she became a kennel attendant at a local doggy daycare, eventually growing into a bathing/grooming position and assisting in training.
Situated on almost 4 acres, our home facility offers a peaceful and safe training environment. One of the unique aspects of our program is the type of environment that we provide the dogs during their training. Instead of a noisy and stressful kennel environment, the dogs stay in a quiet, tranquil home environment.
The dogs are housed in a large section of the home, equipped with large wire crates, crate pads and individual water pails. The area is temperature controlled, with air filtration and is cleaned daily. We play relaxing music and create a calm and welcoming environment.
Due to our home training environment we are able to simulate more “real world” training scenarios. All the things that your dog would experience in your home, we simulate in our home facility.
We utilize the entire property for training, with over a half acre of fenced in grass areas which we utilize for training and play time. The dogs receive individual and group training sessions throughout the day and plenty of off-leash play time!