Unique Dog Training and Play Facility Thrives in Short North

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David Roberts coaxes his 10 month old Labrador Retriever on some agility equipment at Zoom Room in the Short North.(Photo: Marilyn Smith, WOSU Radio)
David Roberts coaxes his 10 month old Labrador Retriever on some agility equipment at Zoom Room in the Short North.(Photo: Marilyn Smith, WOSU Radio)

For some people unemployment looms like an empty road to nowhere. But for others it presents an avenue to change. That was the case for one Central Ohio woman who turned adversity into a life changing opportunity.

At age 32, Becky Berger of Upper Arlington was laid off from her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. She had few prospects and was pregnant with her first child.

“It was kind of hard to interview for a job with this big belly. I just felt like it was the elephant in the room. We kind of knew we wanted to open our own business. We thought now’s the time. It’s now or never pretty much. And so we took from February until November and just dove in head first.”

On a rainy, gloomy day early last fall, Berger and her husband Brian were looking for something fun to do with their two golden retrievers. That’s when they came upon an idea for a new business venture.

“We started googling: “Is there anything we can do with our dogs?” And nothing really came up for Columbus but we kept seeing this website for this place in California, Zoom Room. And we’re like ‘Wow, what a cool concept.”

Zoom Room offers agility and obedience training, puppy pre-school, training for therapy dogs, shy dogs and rescue dogs. It also provides dog birthday parties, breed meet-ups and fundraisers for local charities, even a Doggy Disco party with music and laser lights. It also carries a variety of canine training gear, toys and puzzles.

The couple talked it over and eventually contacted the company’s founders. Once they determined what they wanted they took the next step, flew to California and signed the papers to open a franchise in Columbus. Berger says locating in the Short North was a no-brainer.

“I had been to the one in Hollywood which I guess there’s nothing in Columbus remotely like Hollywood except kind of the Short North. The neighborhood here, the people. It’s such an athletic community. There are always people out walking their dogs, jogging in the park. And it seems like there are a lot of dog owners and people who want to have fun with them.”

The only facility of its kind in Ohio, Zoom Room has been open since November. Private obedience classes start at $95 an hour. It’s $50 for a half-hour lesson or $175 for a package of four. Private gym sessions are $15 a half-hour or $90 a ten pack.

Zoom Room is attracting people and dogs from all over the area. David Roberts drives down once a week from Powell with his ten month old Black Lab, Griffin.

“I bring him here just for the socialization and the training classes. They do obedience, agility and all different kinds of different classes for dogs.”

Louie is a five year old Great Pyrenees Lab mix owned by Peter and Leah Georgiadis. They brought the well-behaved pet to Zoom Room for a Canine Good Citizen Evaluation. Louie must demonstrate his ability to stay, sit and walk off-leash. A veterinary assistant, Leah Georgiadis, sees great potential in her pet.

“I’d like to have him be a book dog. Have kids read to him as well as take him into nursing homes things like that.”

Louie breezes through the challenges posed by evaluator Larren McBride. He performs like a star and McBride recommends a level two advanced obedience class, a notch below therapy training.

Canine therapy may be in the future of five-year old Jackson, a French Bulldog. Owner Emily Rush started bringing the little dog to Zoom Room to exercise out of the winter cold. But now the OSU oncology nurse sees greater things in Jackson’s future.

“I see a lot of patients who really miss their pets and they can’t have them in the hospital. So if I can get him in an environment where he can help people, I’d really enjoy it and I know they would, too.”

Not every owner with a pet enrolled in Zoom Room shares such lofty goals. Upper Arlington resident Annie Webber’s only wants her seven year-old Wheaton Terrier, Winston, to display less aggression around strangers and other dogs. They just completed their first lesson.

“He was doing really well today, but, time will tell.”

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