LENOX — The story of Berkshire Dogs Unleashed starts in 2010, when Lee Kohlenberger Jr. and his wife, Kaitlyn, purchased their first pair of standard poodles. The family’s small-scale hobby breeding operation, Berkshire Poodles, has since developed a reputation for producing high quality puppies that grow into successful show dogs, hunting companions, service animals and family pets.

Poodles are non-shedding and hypoallergenic, making them perfect for households — like the Kohlenbergers’ — affected by pet allergies. They’re classified as a “hair breed,” meaning their coat is made up of hair, rather than fur. It may seem like mere semantics, but it actually makes a big difference when it comes to grooming. Hair coats have their own specialized requirements to keep the hair healthy and protect the skin beneath it. For most owners, this means turning to an experienced professional.

The problem with bringing a hypoallergenic dog to an outside groomer, however, is that most salons cater to coats of all types. As any dog owner will attest, there is simply no way to rid a space of every trace of dog hair. Even with rigorous cleaning procedures, there is always the possibility that traces of allergy-aggravating fur and dander could wind up in your pup’s hair coat.

“I’d bring the dogs back from the groomer and have to bathe them again myself,” Kohlenberger explained. “They’d have the fur on them just from being in the same crates.”

It’s just one of the many obstacles Kohlenberger encountered in his first decade of dog breeding. Even in the dog-friendly Berkshires, the services he was searching for were often spread out or nonexistent.

“There was never really a place that did everything we needed,” Kohlenberger said. After ten years as a firefighter for the city of Pittsfield, he decided it was time to do something about it.

Comprehensive canine care

The Kohlenbergers designed Berkshire Dogs Unleashed to be an all-in-one canine care facility. Just about every non-medical service a dog owner could need is available under one roof, from training and grooming to daycare and boarding. There’s even a boutique, The Lenox Dog, boasting a curated collection of pet supplies.

Just as importantly, every service offered is informed by the Kohlenberger’s own experiences, with an eye on accommodating all types of dogs and dog owners. A designated hypoallergenic grooming space, for example, helps prevent allergen exposure, as do exclusive obedience classes for hypoallergenic breeds.

The dog daycare staff is able to disburse medication for dogs with special needs, and Kohlenberger has an established relationship with Hilltowns Veterinary Clinic in the event of an emergency. The facility doesn’t refuse dogs based solely on size, opting instead to take a case-by-case approach. Large breeds, often unwelcome in boarding kennels and daycare programs, have the same access to Berkshire Dogs Unleashed services as their smaller relatives, barring any safety concerns.

When behavior is an issue, for large dogs and small, Berkshire Dogs Unleashed offers both group classes and private training sessions. The facility’s full time trainer, Lindsey Kernozek, is a veteran dog handler who has trained everything from show-ring champions to working service dogs. Both she and Kohlenberger are experienced with large breeds; Kernozek is also certified to work with aggressive dogs.

This fall, Kohlenberger is excited to offer socialization sessions just for “COVID puppies” — young dogs who, due to social distancing and shutdown measures, weren’t able to get much-needed interaction with other dogs. They’re also an emphatically family-oriented facility, with children welcome to attend training classes.

With the boarding program, Kohlenberger wanted to address the needs of both locals and the out-of-towners who (in normal times, at least) flow through the Berkshires throughout the year. The county is overflowing with beautiful hotels and inns, but the vast majority of them don’t allow pets. Berkshire Dogs Unleashed aims to provide visiting dogs with the same kind of luxurious hospitality enjoyed by their humans.

Dog owners can check out their pets during the day for a hike up Mount Greylock, then return them to their cozy suite for the night. When the day’s plans are less dog-friendly, owners can set up activities just for their pet, like a one-on-one walk or a daycare session. And, just like in a human hotel, there are all sorts of add-ons available, like larger rooms and upgraded bedding.

Good dogs, good deeds

For Kohlenberger, Berkshire Dogs Unleashed isn’t just a business — it’s an opportunity to give back to his community. Kohlenberger is a longtime supporter of Balance and Service K9s (BASK), an organization that provides trained service dogs to veterans, first responders and others living with PTSD. Poodles are ideal support animals, due to their intelligence and non-shedding coat, and the Kohlenberger family has donated several of their poodle puppies to the program. They’ve also offered to give a trained service dog to any fire and police departments in Berkshire County, as a tool for managing stress and protecting the mental health of first responders.

The company will offer discounts to services for all first responders and military personnel. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they have extended that benefit to include nurses and teachers. Kohlenberger has reached out to offer the Berkshire Humane Society with free specialized grooming for all hair breed dogs that come through the BHS shelter.

Berkshire Dogs Unleashed’s 3,000 square foot facility is in the final stages of construction. Training classes begin November 7, including “The Covid Puppy Fix” on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Open Gym sessions on Sundays. To book a grooming appointment, sign up for classes, enroll in the daycare program or learn more about Berkshire Dogs Unleashed’s many specialized services, visit their website at berkshiredogsunleashed.com, email BerkshireDogsUnleashed@gmail.com or call 413-464-6384.

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