Freeport farm raises 'socialized' dogs

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FREEPORT — Jenny Yasi has long been devoted to studying the environment’s effect on animal behavior.

She was raised on a farm, and has owned and worked with all types of animals – including dogs – her entire life. She and her husband, Albert, now run Whole Dog Camp from the comfort of their home on Bliss Woods Farm.

In February, Yasi will offer “Tea Time” on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. for small classes of four dogs or fewer to practice “polite behaviors,” including introducing clicker training and teaching dogs to relax and ignore each other.

It wasn’t until her daughters, Sophi and Echo, were born, that Yasi realized how important training was after adopting an aggressive 1-year-old German shepherd rescue named Lady. 

“It was like living in a war zone,” Yasi said. “She would attack our older German shepherd, Lassie, to kill. … This was a dog I couldn’t keep, so I ended up bringing her back to the rescue agency.”

She then began researching and studying behavior science and eventually completed her undergraduate degree at Vermont College with a self-designed major in behavior science and character development.

Throughout her studies, Yasi observed the training of seals, dolphins, horses, and other livestock. 

The idea for Whole Dog Camp came after Yasi adopted her dog Tigerlilly 13 years ago. The mixed breed was the runt of the litter and timid from the start. 

“I couldn’t send her to doggy day care to socialize. That would be like throwing her in a shark tank,” Yasi said. “I needed to control the environment to make her feel safe.”

So she did.

“That’s really how my business started,” Yasi said. “I wanted to socialize my own dogs my own way, so I controlled the environment.” 

Jenny and Albert opened Whole Dog Camp in 2004 when they were living on Peaks Island, but later realized for it to really take off and be accessible, they needed to make the move to the mainland. 

“(Bliss Woods Farm) going on the market was a dream come true for us, really,” Yasi said. 

Now three years later, the couple’s 3-acre farm on South Freeport Road is an elaborate network of fencing and open lawn space. Covered in mid-January snow, it doesn’t look like much, but Yasi said during the farm’s busy summer months, she’ll typically have at least one client a day walking through training, agility, and socializing courses with their dog. 

When she began losing her hearing as a young mother, Yasi trained Tigerlilly and Bee in hearing service behavior. Tigerlilly is losing her hearing as well, so Yasi is planning to train a new German shepherd puppy in hearing services this spring. She hopes to help others in similar situations train service dogs, too.

Yasi has worked with more than 350 board and train clients, conditioning dogs with generalized anxiety, escape-avoidance behaviors, or other difficulties in adapting to their human’s condition.

She offers evaluations where she’ll observe a dog and provide a training plan based on their behaviors.

This winter, with an open schedule, the Yasis took Tigerlilly and Bee on their boat and sailed to the Bahamas to teach humane education at seven island schools. They even clicker-trained a problematic goat to cooperate when being milked.

“My goal really is to make an environment and build a training community where, once you’re a member, you can come and go through the training courses as they please,” Yasi said. “That’s really what dog trainers do … we break big problems into smaller ones and deal with them one by one.” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Jenny and Albert Yasi and their dogs, Bee and Tigerlilly, outside their home on Bliss Woods Farm in Freeport, where Jenny Yasi runs Whole Dog Camp.