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Doggie Boot Camp spells success for trainer

A wall painted by a local artist Jenny Stott gives a comical look at Elmquist's canine clients. Photos by Margaret Ontl1 / 3
Fun exercises are also part of the learning process at For The Love of Dogs. Stumpy is working toward having all four feet in the balance pads. Photo by Margaret Ontl2 / 3
Kristin Elmquist, the owner of For the Love of Dogs, sits with two of her three dogs; on the left are an Australian shepherd and an Australian stumpy tail cattle dog. Elmquist offers companion animal training at her town of Hudson facility. Photos by Margaret A. Ontl3 / 3

For the Love of Dogs is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. Over 700 dogs have been trained through the programs, offered by owner Kristin Elmquist.

The companion dog training school is located on Tanney Lane in the town of Hudson. Even though Elmquist herself competes at the highest level in both obedience and agility, her business is for companion animals.

"There is a real need for people's pets to have basic skills," said Elmquist, who has been around dogs and computers her whole life. The Blaine, Minn., native started training her dog at the age of 10 when she was in 4-H. For a science project in first grade, she wrote a computer program to make a Snoopy calendar.

Competition was part of the equation as well, with both her dog, a cocker spaniel, and horses.

Her love of horses led her to study horse management at the University of Minnesota-Waseca, where she graduated with a degree in animal science. Soon after graduation, she took a summer position with Fairview Hospital as a receptionist, which quickly led to becoming a computer software trainer.

"Working with computers comes easy for me," said Elmquist, whose dad is a computer programmer. "My first computer had a tape deck." She stayed with Fairview for 15 years. During that time, Elmquist pursued her passion for dogs by learning how to train them. She also continued to compete in obedience, herding and the sport of agility.

In 1989, she began to teach agility classes at Animal Inn Training School in Lake Elmo, Minn., where she continues today, teaching the highest level competitors.

In 2004 she retired from Fairview to raise her son. Kristin and her husband moved to Hudson in 2000. When they started planning the idea of her starting a training center, the idea developed of having a Doggie Boot Camp, where people would leave their animals to be trained by Kristin.

"I was flabbergasted that someone would want me to train their dog," said Kristin. "It floors me that they wouldn't want to train their own dogs."

"My husband had to talk me into doing this," said Elmquist, who opened For the Love of Dogs training school in May 2005. "As soon as we opened I immediately had clients for Doggie Boot Camp. The classes were a little slower to fill. My clientele is pet-based."

Boot Camp requires owners to leave their dogs with Kristin for a minimum of 14 days; some stay as long as two months.

"It depends on what the owners want," said Elmquist, whose whole career had been focused on competitive obedience. "In all those years I really didn't realize there was this whole market out there of folks who just want their dogs to behave."

Elmquist uses positive reinforcement training methods, which may include using a clicker, food and praise for rewards and a "Gentle Leader" head harness for initial control.

The transition from working at Fairview to running For the Love of Dogs was an easy one for Elmquist.

"After 15 years of teaching doctors and nurses how to use computers I was well-equipped to teach people how to train their dogs," said Elmquist. "It is like a foreign language to both."

Fortunately Elmquist is exceptionally fluid in both.

In addition to Doggie Boot Camp, Elmquist offers three levels of classes in obedience and a foundation agility class as well as private lessons.

In all, 235 dogs have graduated from boot camp and 485 dogs have gone through the group classes. The newest addition is Doggie Playtime, which is from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays. A small group of 12 to 15 dogs can romp around a two-acre fenced area and owners can practice their obedience training as well. There is a fee for playtime.

Canine Sports Massage

While competing in agility - a sport in which dogs are jumping, going through tunnels, climbing ramps and twisting through weave poles, all at a high rate of speed - Elmquist was introduced to Canine Sports Massage.

Seeing how this benefited her canine athlete, who recovered from a spinal cord injury to compete again, she set out to become a certified canine sports massage therapist. Today, she has completed 300 hours of training and has received her second-level certification.

She offers two levels of therapy. One for the competitor, which includes a conditioning plan, nutritional, structural and gait assessment; and the other is for geriatric dogs who are stiff and sore.

For more information, go to or call (715) 377-1324.