Valerie and John Hollingsworth, the owners of Loyalty Dogs in Curryville, had a lot to contend with Saturday, July 1, when they held their first 4th of July Bash.
It was a holiday weekend and several scattered thunderstorms were rolling through the area. Not to mention Bowing Green was concluding its four-day 200th anniversary celebration.
They got the business off the ground back in January, but held off on starting their big annual tradition until July. John loves fireworks so much that they thought it would be fitting to launch the business officially with a big party complete with dog demonstrations and top it all off with a huge pyrotechnic display.
John had everything wired to go a good distance away from the audience.
“I bought $1,000 worth of fireworks,” he said.
“We built this whole thing (the annual bash) around it,” Valerie added, “so we could justify it.” Next year, they hope to have some specialty fireworks that spell their company’s name in the sky.
The grill was going, the music was playing and the dogs were ready to show their stuff.
Loyal Dogs is a dog breeding and training business that specializes in service animals. But Valerie also teaches people how to train their own dogs, not just the ones she breeds and sells. She also trains dog owners, especially the children in homes with a family pet.
As part of the business, Valerie said, she wants to be able to donate a service dog to a veteran at least once a year. There was a donation box set up for that at the party, and there’s a donation area on the company’s Facebook page to fund this effort. Valerie is a U.S. Marine veteran. While in the service, she was a helicopter mechanic. But training dogs is something she’s always wanted to do. She spent several months of intense training, learning how to not only train service animals, but how to run a successful dog breeding and training business.
Her husband, John, also went through several weeks of training to learn how to be a certified decoy. When dogs are being trained for protection, human decoys are used for bite training. John said he truly enjoys when he’s helping with the bite training.
“I had to go through a course to make sure the dog was OK,” he said. Before he started the course, the trainer told him he would have to take a bite from his dog, Hughie. “When that dog came at me, I thought I’d be scared to death,” John said. “It was the best thing ever.”
He’s also a certified diesel mechanic. That job and the family farm allowed them the opportunity to start the business.
For the day’s demonstration, Valerie had two children come out with their new puppies-in-training to show some of their skills. Then she had the two kids run and hide on the property, so she could demonstrate how her dog, Bo, was doing with his scent detection training.
The dogs had only been in training for a few weeks, she explained, and being so young and new to the program, she worried that they might not be quite ready.
She told the audience that they hope to hold a similar bash every year.
“We’re a relatively new business,” she said. They fully opened on Jan. 1 of this year.
“This is all kind of new to us,” she added. They were working with 5-month old puppies that day. She breeds German shepherds and Belgian Malinois exclusively.
“By the next event, you’ll see these dogs at their peak,” she said.
“We train dogs in protection, service work and pets,” she explained to the crowd. “We have several DIY options and groups, as well as private lessons.”
She was really excited about the “Little Trainers” program, which she was showing during the day’s program. Only puppies under six months and children between the ages of five and 15.
“We teach children to train and maintain the family pet,” she explained. “We run them through low-impact agility and basic obedience.” If the kids do well, they can also do network training, which was also part of the demonstration. The age restrictions, she said, is for the safety of everyone involved.
The two children took their dogs through some of the agility course obstacles Valerie and John had built next to the dog’s kennel.
This course, she added, is extremely beneficial in teaching important skills to the children, because it teaches them how to interact with dogs and unknown dogs.
“The No. 1 cause of bites,” she said, “is because children don’t know how to approach trained or untrained dogs.” They always cover that during the first day of class.
Valerie brought out Bo, who for the past five days had been expanding his scent training.
“He can track a person up to 300 feet,” she said. In his first week, they concentrated on discerning the scent of one person from another person. Eventually, Bo will be able to track a single person miles away.
The two young girls took off and hid out behind some obstacles in the parking area. Working one at a time, once Bo had their scent he took just a few minutes to discover where they had hidden.
According to their website, the dogs are fully screened for potential health issues. And they undergo an enrichment program before their 10-week release date. That means they work on potty, leash and crate training.
Even with so many competing events happening during the day, Valerie considered the turnout for the party/demonstration a success.
By teaching the owners how to train their own pets, she said, they can start the process on their own if they need to replace their dog.
“The person then can then train any dog from that moment forward,” she said.
Contact Loyalty Dogs at 573-975-9966 or at email@example.com.