On the road to Westminster

Local dog trainer headed to famed dog show in New York City Feb. 12-13

Ashley Bolen runs K9 Trust and Obey, located at 507 W. Pine St. in Marshalltown, where she trained an English Mastiff named Winter, while she was a puppy. The dog will soon compete at the upcoming Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


The 142nd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be held in New York City Feb. 12-13. Ashley Bolen, a resident of the Tama/Toledo area, will be attending the ceremonies as a dog trainer to an English Mastiff named Winter, who already holds the title of being a Grand Champion.

Bolen’s involvement with the care of canines began several years ago when she started serving as a foster for Diamond in the Ruff rescue.

“Taking in the dogs made me decide what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I started looking into how to take courses in dog obedience,” Bolen said.

She attended a six-week program at the National K-9 Learning Center of Columbus, Ohio in late 2015.

“I quit my full-time job and became a certified dog trainer,” she said.

Bolen launched her business, K9 Trust and Obey, located at 507 W. Pine St. in Marshalltown, in February 2016, which is located in the same strip mall as Animal Clinic-The Vet, where she is also employed. While the dogs she trains are primarily pets, she does work with a few breeders. Bolen first became acquainted with Winter, a two-year-old female English Mastiff, through the dog’s breeder, Stephanie Dowdy, who runs Dowdy Farms in Albia.

“Six years ago, I was looking for an English Mastiff puppy, and got one from her, and kept in touch with her about my business. She later told me she needed help training her dog Winter,” Bolen said.

The dog, whose full competition name is “Grand Champion Champion Dowdy Farms Winter’s Blossom on Fire Salem Moon’s”, spent three months working one-on-one with Bolen a little over a year ago.

“I had her from age eight months to over a year old,” Bolen said.

Bolen caters her dog training program to an animal’s particular needs.

“When I found out Winter would be going into the show ring, I worked with her to automatically stand, not sit,” Bolen explained. “This led her to need minimal adjustments when she’s with her handler.”

Winter has lived with her handler, Andrea Elliott-Casterline, in Florida, since June 2017, participating in shows. Soon, Winter and Bolen will reunite so the trainer can “work the dog” to make sure she is ready for Westminster.

“My goal is to refocus her obedience for the show,” Bolen said. “All dogs have personalities, which is a good thing when they’re pets, but show judges want dogs to be reserved and aloof, so I work on that too.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without Ashley,” Dowdy said. “She thinks outside the box, and the things she’s implemented with Winter have worked so well, I’ve passed [the tips] on to my customers. I can’t say enough good about what Ashley does for dogs and training them.”

Winter, who competes in the “working” category, has already obtained the title of Grand Champion in three other dog shows, following in her father Sarge’s footsteps as a show dog.

The American Kennel Club requires a dog to obtain a total of 15 points with two major wins (a major win is worth three points or higher) to become a champion. To become a Grand Champion, a dog must secure a total of 25 points with three major wins.

Bolen and Dowdy have faith in Winter’s ability to not only win in the “working” group, but become top dog, or Grand Champion of the entire show.

“Winter is just a stunning dog. She’s got everything you would want and then some,” Dowdy said.

For more information about how to tune in to watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, visit: www.westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/tv-schedule/


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com