Disobedient Canines Get Growl from Bark Busters

The Herald-Sun
April 13, 2004
Written By: Susan Broili

CARRBORO - That dog just won't stop barking, or jumping up on people or turning a leash into a drag-ahuman device. So who you gonna call?

Bark Busters Home Dog Training claims to provide the means to stop all of the above, plus innumerable other types of canine behavior that drive owners crazy. As new owners of the local franchise for this worldwide company, Paul Duncan, 47, and Veronica Davis, 30, go to peoples' homes to see the problem behavior first-hand. It's important to catch a dog in the act, so BarkBusters trainers like Duncan and Davis sometimes set up a situation to get the dog to misbehave, Duncan said in an interview this week. That means doing things like placing a hot dog on a kitchen counter to encourage "counter surfing" - stealing food.

When the dog chomps on the hot dog, the trainer shows what to do. The trainer growls. That's right.

Duncan demonstrated with a guttural "ba-a-ah" sound with his own dogs on Monday at his home off Dairyland Road. Even though well-behaved - none barked at or jumped up on a visitor - the family's three dogs plus a puppy they've been training needed some reminders on a rainy day when they had all gathered for an unaccustomed long stretch of time inside.

To varying degrees, Charlotte, a 6-year-old collie, Boris, a 5-year-old Pomeranian, and Tinker, a 5-year-old miniature Doberman pincher, wanted some human attention. And, Gabby, the 4-month-old Golden Retriever mix, proved pure puppy as she picked up an umbrella and a hat a visitor conveniently left on the floor.

Gabby drew a "growl" from Duncan when she started to relieve herself on the floor.

Duncan and Davis, who are engaged to be married in May, have been training Gabby in their home for three weeks since Gabby's family brought her to the Orange County Animal Shelter because of her problem behavior, which included biting, Duncan said.

But by using the Bark Busters' system, which takes into account pack law and the way dogs communicate with each other, the couple has turned Gabby into a well-behaved pup ready to go home with a new family this week, Duncan said.

Unlike other dog training methods, Bark Busters uses no treat rewards or clickers but relies primarily on body language and tone of voice.

To establish dominance, a dog will draw itself up and growl a warning. So people need to be sure they are higher than the dog and use a growling sound and, if necessary, follow it up with "teeth."

Pack law is a key to training a dog because there will be problems if a dog perceives that it's higher up in the pecking order than its human owner, Duncan said. A dog that constantly nudges its owner's hand for a pat on the head, or one that repeatedly begs to be let outside or is always jumping up on people, is simply testing to see who's in control, Duncan said.

So if the owner always pets the dog, lets it outside or shows any response to the jumping up - even kicking at the dog - the dog gets the message that it's in control, Duncan said. Bark Busters teaches owners to ignore such behavior.

Dog behavioral therapists Sylvia and Danny Wilson started Bark Busters in Australia in 1989 with an aim to save as many dogs as possible from untimely ends. Introduced to the United States in 2001, Bark Busters now has offices in 15 cities, including Charlotte and Asheville in North Carolina.

The franchise Duncan and Davis owns covers Chapel Hill, Carrboro, part of Durham and Raleigh - an area with an estimated 50,000 canines, which means plenty of potential customers, Duncan said. Duncan and Davis, who have a 2-year-old son, Ethan, had been looking for a home-based business without the long hours of a corporate career or the grind of dealing with rush-hour traffic.

She had worked in merchandizing at the Streets of Southpoint while he had helped start a RTP company that designed digital signal processors, which meant working 10 or more hours a day six days a week, he said.

In his research, Duncan said he found that Bark Busters can be a "very lucrative business" after about two years of work. Since launching their business in January, Duncan and Davis have seen about 30 dogs.

Their marketing has so far consisted mainly of going to veterinarians

After they explain Bark Busters, they offer to give a free training session. A Durham veterinarian took them up on it and was so impressed with what they did with her two Jack Russell terriers that she has been regularly recommending the service, Duncan said.

Her two dogs not only were wildly exuberant, they also very aggressively guarded the house and barked all the time, Duncan said.

Most of the time, only the one training session of two to 21/2 hours is necessary, but people have to be willing to work with their dogs for 10 to 15 minutes a day for a month to correct the bad behaviors, he said.

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Sun 04-25-05