Discovering Triple Crown All Breed Dog Academy was like happening on a dog person’s Oz. It’s a magical place, run by a Wizard, where a dog can discover his brain, his heart, or his courage, can earn a few medals, and can even, like Dorothy, relish the simple fact that there’s no place like home. The place comes with its own set of furry Munchkins, and all that are missing are the Wicked Witch and the Yellow Brick Road.
We had heard rumors about the construction of this mystical dog facility for months. But the reality didn’t set in until we arrived.
Triple Crown is located on a beautiful, 350-acre rolling ranch in Hutto, Texas. It was once used as a personal hunting preserve by a doctor, and President Lyndon Johnson was invited to hunt there several times. The place is located on the outskirts of metro Austin, about 40 minutes out from Good Dog! World Headquarters. On the way, you pass the World Headquarters of Dell Computers, which looks like another type of Oz. Triple Crown is currently out in the country, but at the rate Dell-spurred development is going in that area, little Hutto, with its grain elevator, railroad tracks and not-much-else, will be overtaken by suburbia in five years.
Triple Crown is set up to do just about everything a dog person could imagine. It’s considered the “nation’s largest, most comprehensive dog training and event center.” I wouldn’t argue the point. When Triple Crown moved from Tucson, AZ, the plan was to find a location central in the U.S., and build the biggest and best facility possible.
The heart of Triple Crown is a 32,000 square foot, lighted, heated, and air-conditioned indoor event center. The center is designed for all types of dog shows, and features Italian Mondo® sports flooring – the same type of cushioned, no-slip flooring used in the last six Olympics. With rubber mesh on the bottom, and 6 mm sports flooring vulcanized to the top, the floor absorbs energy and gives bounce-back new meaning. Group training classes are held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the indoor facility.
That’s just the start, though. There’s a 180’ x 360’, lighted, fenced outdoor sports field for European schutzhund training and for recall training. Technical ponds for retriever training. Natural areas for bird dog training. RV hookups and a bathhouse with showers for visitors and their dogs. A pro shop with Bil-Jac® and Pro Plan® foods, treats, toys, and training equipment. On-site housing for judges and special guests. A clubhouse with third-party food services, which, we’re told, includes some fine examples of famous native Texas barbecue. A 20-acre, fenced-in exercise and potty area for dogs participating in events. An outdoor vendor area with electricity and lighting. There’s parking on gravel for 800 people, with overflow parking for up to 1500 cars.
There’s also a high-tech kennel facility, featuring dual containment in case dogs try to escape. The kennel buildings use Mondo flooring so the dogs don’t have to sleep on concrete. A trench drainage system is linked to the facility’s own septic system. There are 120 indoor/outdoor runs, plus a special building with 12 extra-care units for isolating sick dogs. A puppy nursery building provides for the needs of the small German Shepherd breeding program run on premises.
Each of the six kennel buildings has 20 runs that are four, six, or eight feet long. A door handle on the people side of the run opens and closes the dog door. This controls access to the outside part of the run, which has shade from the building’s overhang. There are windows for light, and there’s music (classical and New Age are doggie favorites). There are also two HEPA air filters in each building, which average16 to 17 air exchanges per hour. This keeps the air sterile, clean, and pollen-free. A footbath at each entrance disinfects feet so other diseases aren’t spread.
Each dog has a cubbyhole where his toys and special treats are stored. Each run has a chart like at a hospital. There are flip-tabs on the run which indicate the dog’s current status: green – the dog’s in the run, yellow – in the run but out at an activity session, red – see the notation in the chart, blue – the dog is out for playtime.
There’s more: each dog has his own voicemail box. You can call in any time to check the status of your dog. That’s especially good if your dog is doing a week of personalized training – the trainers can update the voicemail from one of 25 phones located throughout the property.
Boarding guests pay $16 per night ($9 more for a second dog sharing the run). Playtime is $3.50 per session per dog, and your dog can have up to six sessions a day in one of the three play areas. Your dog is allowed to play with his siblings, or with your friends’ dogs. With your permission, your dog can play with other dogs, under a trainer’s supervision.
Training activities with a professional trainer run $165 per week, including boarding. You can drop off your dog (or ship him in on a plane, as do some customers) when you’re going away. Come back a week later and your dog has had training in agility, obedience, fieldwork, or just plain fun swimming in the retriever tanks (lakes), playing, or taking nature walks.
There’s also a grooming building, which, of course, has some high-tech features, too. There’s an invigorating Hydrosurge bath system that uses a jet action massage and special shampoos. This removes loose hair and other debris. Triple Crown also uses air-drying, and professional groomers do the hair clipping, nail trimming, and ear cleaning.
The core of Triple Crown is the training. Trainers live on the premises, and most are graduates of the Tom Rose School for professional dog trainers. As you can imagine, Triple Crown had its choice of trainers, and chose some of the best.
Training is offered in obedience, schutzhund, upland and retriever training, agility, lure coursing, tracking, herding protection (bring your own sheep to the 40 acre, fenced herding area), and police work, including narcotics detection. There’s even a small house and wooded area for training police dogs.
Eight trainers are on staff, and they use all techniques imaginable: clicker training, food reinforcement, the Gentle Leader® head halter, various training collars, and Tri-Tronics® electronic trainers. But the philosophy at Triple Crown is very telling: “It’s not the equipment, it’s the handler.”
Who’s the Wizard behind this canine Oz? Jerry Wolfe. A top graduate of the Tom Rose School of Dog Training in St. Louis, he’s trained professionally since 1992. He started the much-smaller Triple Crown in Tucson in 1994. He’s been working on the new Texas Triple Crown since September, 1996. The first phase was just finished, with the completion of a new pond with two islands and two peninsulas. In the future, he plans on building a wooded dog park. And if things really take off, Wolfe already has plans to double the size of the facility.
Wolfe says, “The biggest gratification is seeing someone coming here and interacting with their dog in a positive way. That’s the most joyful thing.”
As for the types of dogs who arrive at Triple Crown for training, Wolfe says, “We get everything from ‘gotta-dog-don’t-know-how-to-put-on-the-leash’ to the highest level of dog sports participants.” Many people are long-term clients of Triple Crown, and come for a vacation with their dog for the next level of training.
Eventwise, in the few months it’s been open, Triple Crown has hosted an AKC Hunt Test with 100 entries, Retriever Working Certificate Tests, Temperament Testing, and an AKC Agility event with 350 entries. Events scheduled for 1999 include All-Breed shows, handling workshops, a seminar by Terri Arnold, American Eskimo Dog national specialty, a USDAA Agility Show, and a UKC Hunt Test, among others. AKC cluster shows are expected to be booked for coming years.
So if your dog needs to discover his heart, his brain, or his courage, Triple Crown’s the place. For more information, call (512) 759-2275 or check their web site: www.triplecrowndogs.com