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Schooling for a School Dog

Dog owner turns to Dogwoods Lodge Board ’n’ Train program to reform dog

Amy Ondler drove three hours one way to Dogwoods Lodge with Toby, her 8 month old, 70 pound goldendoodle in the car, being his normal obnoxious self.


At 2960 Southeast Grimes Boulevard, she opened the car door, and Toby yanked her into a reception area of pine paneling, an antler chandelier and a double-decker dog bed that rivaled the comfort of the sofa next to it. She pulled him to the counter, as he impishly bit at his leash and barked for attention.


Alice, a red and white speckled cattledog, and Libby, a calf-high tan mutt, trotted out with wagging tails to greet the pair. Behind her followed Jessica Lohry, owner and trainer, with a smile on her face and her hand extended — to take Toby’s leash. With it, she took his fate…


Toby had been gifted to Seasons Center Behavioral Health for students with special needs as a young pup. However, he was not allowed to step paw into the facility, because of his constant frazzled naughtiness. Caretaker Ondler brought Toby to Dogwoods Lodge hoping he would be fit to come back with her after he finished the four-week-long Board ’n’ Train program.


“The story of Toby and the Board ’n’ Train is kind of a unique one. He was a goldendoodle gifted to a mental health agency that needed to transform into a well-mannered, not so hyper therapeutic dog. Before going to Board ’n’ Train Toby was nipping, jumping, barking and dominant over all things,” Ondler says.


Toby was nowhere near ready to spread his joy to the children at Seasons Center.
“Continuous unruliness is the best way to sum it up,” Lohry says. “He would bark, jump on everyone and the counters, bite at everyone’s hands and clothes, bite at his leash, talk back — the list goes on and on. If he were a human, I would call him an ADHD bully.”


Though Toby’s “rap sheet” included a long list of common problem areas (and a few not-so-common), Lohry was confident her program could rid him of the bad behaviors. Lohry has had plenty of experience with all types of problem behaviors and training challenges. Eight years ago, Lohry earned professional training certification, behavioral specialist certification and e-collar training certification, and she has practiced all disciplines since.


The Board ’n’ Train program was developed by Lohry from those years of experience and her training philosophy.


“Of all of the programs we offer, Board ’n’ Train is by far the best one for so many types of dogs. Fearful. Stubborn. Challenging. Bull-headed. The dog learns at an incredibly fast rate in the program compared to in the home. And the four-week time span away from their current way of life gives them enough time to get out of the bad habits and into the new good habits, which is key,” Lohry says.


After the first week, Jessica had trained Toby how to come, sit, stay, walk on the leash and other basic obedience. The second week, she continued his obedience training with distractions, like other dogs, squirrels, outdoor noises and other people. In the last two weeks, she solidified his training by walking around public venues and past a yard full of dogs. So Toby could play fetch with the children back at the school, which doesn’t have a fence, Lohry also remote-collar trained him with the “come” command.


Ondler returned four weeks after her first visit to pick up the dog. Toby tested his owner momentarily by jumping on her and refusing to listen to her commands. Lohry spent time with Ondler, training her on how to get Toby to mind. And within minutes, Toby was responding to Ondler as he would Lohry.


“After coming home from Board ’n’ Train, he is remote collar trained, is able to go to the office setting, relaxes with kids while they pet him and is an all-around great dog. Not only did he behaviorally benefit from the Board ’n’ Train program, he also learned how to interact, play with and enjoy other dogs, which has been a great benefit for him as now he loves doggy play time,” Ondler says.


Since the program, Toby visits the facility nearly every weekday. He lies in his bed calmly without needing constant attention. He greets the children without mauling them. He plays fetch off his leash without trying to run away. He puts smiles on the students’ faces.


“Four weeks sounds long to be away from your dog,” Lohry says. “But I like to remind owners that it’s a very short amount of time in the whole scheme of things, and it is so worth it in the end. People almost always ask, ‘Why didn’t I do it sooner?’.”





About Dogwoods Lodge

Jessica Lohry opened Dogwoods Lodge in 2013 with the belief that dogs and dog owners of Des Moines deserve better. The full-service dog facility offers lodging, daycamp, grooming and training, as well as additional amenities to make dogs’ stays safer, engaging and more enjoyable — so their owners can have peace-of-mind while they’re away. For more information, visit DogwoodsLodge.com.

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