For Carlsbad dog sports center, fun is the focus
by CLAIRE HARLIN | San Diego Pets
07:16 AM, Thursday, April 05
6241 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92011
6241 Yarrow Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92011
Layla is an 8-month-old, once overly hyperactive Australian Shepherd. Sunny is a blonde Standard Poodle show dog. Cosmo is a Golden Retriever who has battled fearfulness in the past. Buddy is a mixed breed with aggressive genes, who lost his brother to euthanasia and was on the same path after nipping at two people.

These dogs come from very different backgrounds and walks of life, but they have something in common — they've all come together under the training of Lyssa Noble-Dennis, owner of Whole Dog Sports Center in Carlsbad, and they are now well behaved and raking in top honors at agility training competitions.

Noble-Dennis opened the facility on Jan. 2, but she has a following of loyal clients that dates back many years. Even her classes have become close-knit, with the dogs and owners in a class forming close bonds and working together in their training.

"It's all about bonding," said Noble-Dennis, adding that dog training is not just for dogs with behavior issues. "We have services and classes for dogs from puppyhood to the senior years. All these dog sports, they keep dogs healthy mentally and physically."

Agility training is one of Noble-Dennis' specialties, however Whole Dog Sports Center offers a variety of dog-centered classes and services, from acupuncture to breed-specific meet-up groups to scent classes. She even hosts a "Meet the Vet" event on the first Friday of every month.

Noble-Dennis said most of her longtime clients keep coming back not only because they achieve the highest level of relationship building between them and their pet, but also because it's just plain fun.

"The Whole Dog Center is geared towards fun, fun, fun with your dog," she said. "The motto is 'Everything Fun For You and Your Dog.'"

While Noble-Dennis realized early on that she had a knack for communicating with dogs, her background is not just in animals. She studied clinical psychology at San Francisco State University and began working as a child therapist, but realized during the process of applying to Ph.D programs that it wasn't for her. She discovered her passion while interning for the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (SPCA) Animal Behavior Hotline.

"Anyone with a behavior problem could call in, and I would call them back and send them information on how to solve their behavior problem," she said. "We did this so the pet wouldn't end up back in the shelter."

Noble-Dennis was first mentored and trained by accomplished behaviorist Gwen Bonenkemp at the SPCA, and she moved on to work under well-known service dog trainer Martha Hoffman. For the past 18 years, she has been involved in all aspects of dog training. From obedience competition to police dog training to herding and hunting — she's trained more than 9,000 dogs.

She's put championship titles on many dogs in both local and national competitions, however she said her own students have beat her a few times.

"I don't speak any other languages, but I can speak dog pretty well," she said. "I tell people I'm a dog interpreter."

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