Bark Busters speaks ‘dog,’ helps owners become pack leaders

The Stradley home is bilingual: Andrea and Gary both speak English and dog, and Andrea speaks horse, as well.

The Stradleys own the Boulder County franchise of Bark Busters, buying it in 2008 after discovering its philosophy was similar to the one Andrea uses to train horses – to speak their language.

“I was originally a horse trainer and I learned a training style called natural horsemanship,” she says.

That style of training taught her to see things from a horse’s point of view and train horses in a language they could better understand and to which they would respond.

“In 2004, my husband and I adopted two shelter dogs and we knew they needed training – both of them were under 1 year old,” Andrea says. “We found Bark Busters and when we saw it uses the same method I used for horses, we hired Bark Busters. We fell in love with it!

“When the trainer told us in 2008 she was selling the franchise, we bought it.”

Bark Busters was founded in 1989 in Australia; it is now in 10 countries, making it the largest dog-training business in the world.

“We had to go through a very intense three-week class, Monday through Friday, eight hours a day, tests every day,” Andrea says of the training she and Gary went through to become Bark Busters franchise owners. “That was hard; you’ve been out of school for so long, you have to learn how to take notes and take tests.”

While working in animal shelters in Australia, Bark Buster founders Danny and Sylvia Wilson saw dogs surrendered and often euthanized for issues that could be corrected and came up came up with the nonphysical philosophy now used at Bark Busters.

“It’s based on the dog’s point of view,” Andrea explains. “They’re really simple creatures and we humans are really complicated. We expect them to think like we do and they can’t. At Bark Busters, we figure out what they’re thinking and we guide them toward making better decisions.”

She says Bark Busters helps develop a closer bond to their dogs using natural responses to their behavior – not treats or physical correction – and giving owners opportunities to earn their dogs’ respect.

“We never get physical,” Andrea says, noting correction comes from distracting dogs from their focus using forms of canine communication, but never from touch.

Most dogs do not want to engage in aggressive behavior but may think they have to because no one else in the pack is doing it, she says. They would much rather that the leader or someone else in the pack takes over the role of protector.

“Aggression is not a temperament; it’s a strategy,” Andrea says.

Dog owners can make many small changes – such as ignoring dogs’ request for affection or to play, and then offering it to them later, or not allowing dogs to lead when on a walk – in how they relate to their dogs on a daily basis to show them who’s the leader, she explains.

And moving isn’t just hard on people; dogs also stress out, Andrea says, noting solid leadership and training can help a dog through the transition.

“When the pack leader is ‘OK’ and can demonstrate that to the dog, then the dog has less to worry about,” she says.

In the Stradley household, Andrea insists she and Gary are leaders of their pack although most of their activities revolve around the dogs, such as taking hikes on the many trails available around the Boulder area.

While Gary moved to the Boulder area from Wheatridge, Andrea was born in Horseheads, New York, with her family moving to Boulder when she was 3. The couple now live in Lafayette and the Boulder area is home.

“I guess it never occurred to me to leave,” she says.

Gary, a driver for UPS, met Andrea while making deliveries to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at the Pearl Street Mall. They will celebrate 18 years of marriage in September and have been to Disney World every year since they spent their honeymoon there, though this year they’re thinking about changing things up a bit with a trip to Disneyland, instead.

While Andrea has a degree in advertising and design from the Colorado Institute of Art, she always knew she wanted a career with animals. In fact, of the 20 years she spent in retail, half of that time was spent managing horse tack shops.

Now with the Bark Busters franchise, the couple have something they can do together when Gary retires from UPS that will provide a good income and that they both love, Andrea says.

“Most everything we do is based around animals,” she says.

Contact Bark Busters at (877) 500-BARK (2275); e-mail boulder@barkbusters.com; or visit http://www.DogTrainingDenverColorado.com or  http://www.BarkBusters.com.

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