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Dispatch Home & Garden Show

Trainer offers 'luxury bodyguard' family dogs

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Don't let Alli's calm exterior and playful demeanor fool you.

With just one word from Wade Morrell, her owner and trainer, the Dutch shepherd becomes a snarling mass of teeth-gnashing fury, ready to confront any form of danger.

In other words, a criminal's worst nightmare.

Wade and Lori Morrell, the owners of Priority 1 Canine, will be among 360 exhibitors at this year's Columbus Dispatch Home & Garden Show, presented by Scioto Valley. The 58th annual event, spread across four stages, will be held Saturday, Feb. 23, through March 2 at the Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th St.

The couple will bring Priority 1's trained dogs to demonstrate their friendliness around people and ferociousness when their owners or family members are threatened.

Mr. Morrell, a reserve officer for the Columbus Division of Police, said he has been professionally training guard dogs for more than a decade.

He started the business about six months ago and hand-selects dogs from countries throughout the world, specializing in German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian malinois -- all breeds that have the genetic drive to do the work, he said.

All receive intensive training for at least two years before they're handed off to their owners. Each dog lives with the Morrells, including their children, Morgan, 12, and Maddie, 11, during that time.

"These dogs have to live in a home environment so they learn how to behave around a family," he said. "We have to put them through every possible scenario."

Morrell said the rigorous instruction, which has four levels, comes at a price: $15,000, $25,000, $35,000 and $45,000.

"It's a luxury bodyguard item," he said.

Owners also have to demonstrate their worthiness. All are given extensive background checks and those with animal-abuse, domestic violence or drug offenses, among other charges, are immediately disqualified, Morrell said.

When you consider that the average police response time is 8 minutes, the dogs are an effective deterrent to criminals and can never be used against their owner, he said.

"You become a hard target instead of an easy target," said Mr. Morrell, who soon will appear on National Geographic Wild's Alpha Dogs TV show.

Steve Zonars, general manager of Dispatch Consumer Shows, said Priority 1 Canine is one of many new and exciting additions to this year's Home & Garden Show.

"We've tried to add more energy," Zonars said. "We've tried to add a diversity of things so people can come and see the unexpected. Every part of the house you'd want to think about and improve, we've got somebody to speak about it."

HGTV's Property Brothers, featuring Drew and Jonathan Scott, will take to the stage on at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 2. Following their appearance, the Scotts will be available for a brief meet-and-greet.

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Scioto Valley will present a major tag sale, where merchandise will be marked down as much as 70 percent. Anywhere from 10 to 15 vendors will offer deep discounts on outdoor items such as pergolas, grills and spas.

A diversity of food, from savory to sweet, will be offered at the show, along with daily $2 wine tastings.

This year's theme is "outdoor living," and will show how people have created elaborate, comfortable living spaces outside.

"People are moving the indoors outdoors," Zonars said.

There also will be an interactive component to the event where attendees can vote on their favorite of 10 gardens designed by Central Ohio's top landscapers. There will be a container by each garden where people can donate spare change. The garden that generates the most money wins. All proceeds will be directed to Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Advance tickets are $11 and can be purchased at area Kroger locations. Admission the day of event is $12 for adults and free for children 12 and younger.

Parking is $5. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays and noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The show is closed on Monday, Feb. 25.

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