Bad Dog? Bark Busters Says Just Say BAHHH!

The Lansing City Pulse
November 05, 2003
Written By: Elaine Yaw

Look out all you misbehavin' dogs that can read this newspaper or that have an owner who can: There's a new trainer in town, and she's ready to bust your bark and more.

The trainer is Kendra LM Tycocki, a dog behavior therapist and trainer for Bark Busters, a franchise that started in 1989 in Australia and spread around the world, breaking into the U.S. market in 2000. Tycocki covers the Lansing area.

A couple of things that make Bark Busters different from other dog obedience training I've dragged my dog to is that Bark Busters comes to you, and the therapist/trainer who comes doesn't use treats to motivate your dog. (I always wondered how I would wean my dog off of treats, but we never got that far.) Don't get the wrong idea: The trainer doesn't come to your house, send you to the corner and train your dog for you. No way. Bark Busters says you'll see results within two hours. But the owner, likely you, has to do the work.

Here's what happens: The trainer, in this case Tycocki, does a phone conference with the pet owner and gets a full report about the dog's issues and what the owner wants to see change. When Tycocki comes to your house, she already knows your dog's name and what behavior to note as soon as she pulls up in her cool Bark Buster-covered P.T. Cruiser and comes in your house. You'll sit down for a recap. Then you get started. How do I know this? Because Scott and Kay Van Gilder invited me to their house one afternoon when Tycocki came to train them to train their dogs Zoe and Sage. Zoe is a jumper and extreme licker. She jumped on me as soon as I walked in the door and started licking soon after. Zoe also doesn't come when she's called outside. Sage pulls on the leash, nearly dragging her owners down the street. She also whines when she's in her crate. I came with my own problem to squeeze into Tycocki's time: My puppy can crawl under the fence.

Tycocki knows the importance of convenience. In 1998 she had a serious car accident that left her unable to drive for a year. She had a Golden lab puppy that she wasn't able to take to training. She ended up finding a new home for the pup. "Too bad Bark Busters wasn't in the U.S. then," she wrote on her bio for the Bark Busters Web site. Her belief in Bark Busters and proper training grows each day. Recently her dog Hannah was attacked by another dog, and Tycocki's son was bitten as well. "It's an unfortunate testament as to why owners and dogs need to be appropriately trained," she wrote in an e-mail to us. Appropriate training can also keep a dog from going to pound and being euthanized when bad behavior makes them unappealing.

When Tycocki arrived at the VanGilders', the dogs jumped up but not on her.

Now I wasn't laughing. I had fallen for all of this with my 100-pound lab and the new puppy.

Tycocki explained what we were going to do. When the dog, at the moment it was Zoe, does something bad, you growl Bahhh! at it. Again, I wanted to laugh, but I was willing to believe anything because my puppy had driven me to desperation. Zoe began to lick my hand, and Scott quickly growled BAHHH! It worked. Her ears were back. She stopped. She was looking right at Scott.

She explained how to use body language and voice tones to keep control: praises should be light tones, commands normal tones and reprimands deep guttural bahhhs. Only use the dog's name in praise, she said. In addition to the bahhh, Tycocki demonstrated the benefit of throwing a short chain in a pan to reinforce the reprimand. That really got Zoe's attention fast, and mine.

It all seemed to be working. Zoe responded to everything Scott tried. The real test was going outside. Tycocki showed Scott how to put on a check chain, not to be confused or incorrectly called a choke chain. To me, the training was not all that different from what I'd received in other classes. Scott worked on commands, reprimands and praise. We repeated scenarios. However, what made it work was the one-on-one interaction. There were few distractions no other dogs and owners who also needed help. But my vet told me the lack of other dogs may lead to socialization issues. My dogs don't have that problem, but if it's a factor, there are group trainings available through Bark Busters.

Outside, Scott and Kay took turns walking Zoe on the leash. It took a few quick turns for Zoe to get the hint that she was to stay next to them. But she got it. Tycocki was quick to give feedback or critique. Now came a challenge: the recall. Scott put a really, really long leash on Zoe. As Zoe stood by him, Tycocki walked about 20 feet away, turned, kneeled and called Zoe. "She's doing great," she said about not being able to interest Zoe in coming to her instead of paying attention to her owners.

It's been three weeks, and Scott says things are going fine. A brief update: The licking has nearly stopped. The jumping? Well, he admits they haven't been setting up their scenarios to correct it. But he's ready to do it. On the leash, Sage walks normal, whereas she would choke herself before and try to drag Scott or Kay. Whining in the crate: Sage has not done it since the day I was there, when Scott threw the before-mentioned chain into a pan, which must have scared the whine out of her.

As for my nightmare dog who can squeeze under the fence I started standing in the back yard with him after witnessing the training session. I'd catch him in the act to growl my bahhh. (That's the key to training, Tycocki taught me, you have to catch them in the act and reprimand immediately.) It worked, as long as I was right there. The other night, it was raining and I didn't want to be out there. I saw him lurking at the fence. He made his move. He was literally half way under and I let out the deepest, loudest bahhh! I could get out. He stopped, backed up and looked at me. The challenge for me now is to be consistent.

Posted with permission from The Lansing City Pulse, 4/27/05