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The Most Elite Dog Trainers in Knoxville, TN

Ridgeside K9 Knoxville (RSKTN) was established as a result of a lifelong passion and dedication to training dogs and bridging the gap of miscommunication between them and their owners. We have over 20+ years of experience training farm and working dogs, police canines, and thousands of pet dogs.  Our head trainer, Mike Lilley, is committed to providing a comprehensive level of training that will last you the lifetime of your dog. Every training package is customized based on your needs and goals to build a stable, confident bond between you and your dog.

Meet Our Team of Dedicated Dog Lovers

Are you a pet parent looking for the best puppy training classes or pup programs for potty training? Are you hoping to enjoy loose leash walking with your pooch but have an extremely busy schedule? You may be looking for a pup training program that includes a training collar. Whatever the case, at Ridgeside K9, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, we offer a wide range of pet training solutions. We can train your dog to obey basic cues, such as sit, roll-over, bark, and more.

Mike Lilley, owner

At a very early age, Mike developed a deeply ingrained love for dogs and the training that went into making them operational.  His father would have 15 to 20 hunting dogs in their kennels at any given time along with multiple litters of puppies.  Mike and his younger brother were tasked with taking care of the dogs everyday which taught him early on how to properly tend to the needs of the animals.  As Mike grew older, his love for raising and training dogs flooded over into his own line of dogs.  Throughout the years, Mike has worked with many talented trainers where he gained a wealth of knowledge which he put into training countless working dogs. 

Mike became a State Law Enforcement Officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at the age of 24.  During his career with FWC, he was voted Officer of the Year for his region and also the NWTF Officer of the Year.  He was a member of the FWC Special Operations Group (SOG) as well as a founding member of FWC’s Resource Protection Unit (RPU).  After a few years, Mike went through FWC’s interview and rigorous physical assessment in order to become a member of the FWC K9 program.  He was ultimately selected where he was partnered with his first K9 partner, K9 Roscoe.  After completing a seven-month K9 school, Mike and K9 Roscoe went back to their respective region certified in tracking, article recovery and fish and game detection through NAPWDA.  Mike and K9 Roscoe were responsible for countless arrests along with assisting other agencies in the recovery of crucial pieces of evidence that would have otherwise gone undetected allowing dangerous criminals to walk the streets. 

After a couple of years, Mike decided to capitalize on an opportunity to work a dual-purpose patrol dog with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).  Mike travelled to Royal Police Dogs in Tallahassee where he tested several candidates but ultimately selected a 10-month-old Belgian Malinois named “Neko”.  Mike and K9 Neko attended their patrol school with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit (PBSO.)  After completing over 800 hours of training, Mike and K9 Neko certified in Patrol, Tracking and Narcotics detection through FLECA.  Mike was invited back to PBSO where he assisted with instructing a large K9 school with teams from multiple agencies.  After completing almost two years training, he was given his Police K9 Trainer’s certification.

Mike officially became a professional dog trainer in 2016 and was promoted to Sargent over the K9 Unit.  Soon after, he had successfully trained multiple police K9’s for his agency along with assisting other agencies with problem solving issues in order to take their K9 Unit to the next level.  Mike and his wife, Suzi, opened their pet training business, New Age K-9 Services, where they helped many pet dog owners restore their relationship with their furry family members.  Mike and Suzi moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and opened a dog training business, MLK9, to better serve clients with the best training possible.  Mike works with pet dogs in basic and advanced obedience along with civilian scent detection and law enforcement K9s.  He also is an instructor for K9s United providing modern training techniques to LE agencies in need across the United States.  Mike has been involved in working with Military Special Forces K9 teams in Australia and in Colorado.  He has traveled the world working hand and hand with Police and Military K9 teams, providing modern, balanced training to make them more effective and ultimately safer.  Additionally, Mike is a Silver and Gold school graduate under the teaching of Bart and Michael Bellon in the world renowned trademarked training method known as NePoPo.  This training gives Mike the ability to utilize remote training collars in a modern and professional manner to better communicate with the dogs in his care.  The training techniques that Mike uses are ever evolving which gives the client and their dogs a plethora of tools and techniques to make their relationship rock solid for a lifetime.  

Lizzy Ratliff, dog trainer

Meet our trainer, Lizzy Ratliff!

I joined the Coast Guard in Florida in 1998.  I got a yellow lab and named Dallas when I was 21, he traveled with me from the East coast to the west coast and back, literally.  I had an incredible career for 20 years and in 2018 it was time to retire.  Our family landed here in east Tennessee and it has felt like home ever since. 

I live with my husband, Curt, our energetic 6-year-old daughter and our 2 dogs.  Chaos, a 1 ½ year old German Shepard currently learning AKC scent work for sport dogs, and Moose our now 8-year-old Labrador retriever with the best rabbit chasing recall I have ever seen thanks to Mike!

We were among Mike’s first Tennessee clients and after experiencing the amazing results I just had to know how he did it!  I wanted him to teach me everything he knew.  Well, 3 years later the micro behaviors and body language of dogs as they learn in their own ways is still absolutely fascinating to me.  I look forward to the challenges each new dog brings and to adding that lesson to my training toolbox. 

Tanner Mathis, dog trainer

Hello, my name is Tanner Mathis. I was born and raised in a small town in South Florida right on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. I grew up around primarily hunting dogs, as well as raising and training show pigs with my family. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2019 and moved to Tennessee to start working as a large animal vet tech. Soon after, a small animal tech position became available at my clinic and I moved into that role. That is when I realized that I loved working with dogs more than horses. One day, a 9 month old Doberman puppy was surrendered to the clinic coming from a very tough situation, it took some time for me to gain his trust, but I eventually decided to take him home with me. It was with him that I learned I had a passion for dog training. My veterinarian recommended a local dog trainer to contact to get some extra help and pointers. I called Mike Lilley and while talking with him found out that we are from neighboring towns in South Florida. Shortly after he asked my boss if she had anyone who would be interested in coming on the weekends to help with the cleaning and care for the kennel and dogs, I jumped at the opportunity and have been a part of Ridgeside K9 team ever since.  I am ecstatic to be a part of the RSK9 team and to help all dog’s and Owner’s with any issues they may be experiencing with their furry companions.  

Megan Cheney, dog trainer

I was first hooked on training when I was just a young kid and watched a neighbor of mine bring his very well trained, off-leash German shepherd everywhere with him and it was perfect in my eyes; I wanted to be just like them! In 2019 I decided to sign myself up for obedience training, I took Sage, my  “heart dog” still to this day, for one on one lessons, so I could learn the process of the work! Months later, I began working part time as a trainer, starting with one board and train at a time, from my house, and training after I got home from work. 

Eventually I realized that my job as a pipe welder was getting in the way from me devoting the time I would rather spend training and working with dogs, so I began training full time in my home around the beginning of 2021, and once I met the qualifications, I certified as an AKC canine good citizen or CGC, and trick dog evaluator to help people put all of their dogs hard work to the test, as well as an AKC fit dog instructor in hopes to, one day, build a group of like minded active dog owners looking for a way to build a relationship with their dogs through daily physical activity most importantly, but also network and get to know other dog owners with a similar mindset and well trained dogs! Working from home taught me a lot of independence and problem solving skills working with very different dogs all coming from different lives with separate issues and motivations to come to training, and figuring it out as I went, primarily on my own. Joining the MLK9 (ridge side)  team I am able to brainstorm with other trainers daily, a luxury I will never take for granted, asking advice as well as giving my own when necessary. Everyday I can learn something new just from watching other trainers solve issues, or connect with a dog in a way that I may not have tried before! 

At home I have ;Sage, a pit/mix who is a canine good citizen and has trick titles! , Beanie, a sweet old English mastiff, and Rodger, a Belgian Malinios, who is training to be a cadaver k9 for search and rescue! Dash, the Great Dane is the youngest and unmistakably the biggest and goofiest in my pack. 

All of my dogs were adopted, or re-homed to me from less than ideal situations, most already in adult age. This definitely isn’t a coincidence, as I am a huge advocate for giving great dogs a second chance at having the life they always deserved! 

I can think of a million reasons why I know I am exactly where I should be in life, but my main driving factor to love this career is watching the relationship between a person and their best friend become stronger, and that the rest of their life’s will be changed for the better the day they get to go back home. Nothing feels better than that!