Bark Busters: Promoting Facts or Myths?

When I first published this piece in 2014, I had no idea of the firestorm it would create. I thought (and still think) it was a pretty mild critique. It’s an analysis of what Bark Busters’ own written materials say about their training philosophy. They weren’t pleased, though. But it’s still here, and draws a fair amount of traffic. I’ve edited it for clarity and hope it is helpful. —Eileen Anderson, September 2019

A friend recently shared a flyer from Bark Busters, a franchise dog training business. It is called “Barking: The Facts” and can be seen at this link. 

The flyer made me interested so I set out to investigate the methods of this franchise.

The main pages on the Bark Busters website have wording that appeals to the many people who want to get their dogs to behave without hurting or scaring them. Some of the phrases are: 

  • “Positive relationship”
  • “Lasting emotional bond”
  • “Communicate effectively”
  • “Consistency and natural techniques”
  • “Reinforce and strengthen the bond”
  • “Develop pleasant, obedient nature”
  • “Happy lifelong buddy”

But is this consistent with the training methods they use? If we look harder, there are some red flags:

  • “Pack leader”
  • “Transform a problem dog…often in only a matter of hours”
  • “All without treats or the need for harsh punishment”

Hmm, the analyses on how to judge dog trainers by their own business descriptions show that we actually have quite a bit to worry about here.

  • Pack leader is an indicator that most problems will be addressed by rank reduction, usually by the use of harsh aversives. In this kind of “hammer” mindset, even normal puppy annoyances are often treated like nails.
  • Any bragging about short training times with magical transformations is also a big warning. It generally indicates suppression and punishment as well. Trainers who are educated in behavior science know there are many factors out of their control when working with a dog and her family. They don’t make guarantees of magical transformations. They know that success is affected by the dog’s history and the client’s buy-in. This kind of guarantee is almost always made by trainers who will suppress the dog’s behavior through pressure and startling techniques, if not outright painful punishment. This can have the appearance of immediate success, especially in a first visit when the trainer has novelty on his side. Methods for suppressing behavior are conceptually familiar to most of us since we live in a punishment-based culture. They can show immediate, although temporary, results.
  • Without treats? Oh-oh. Food is the main primary reinforcer we have at our disposal. If there are no food or toys in use, behavior change depends on the use of aversives. Don’t get distracted by the red herring of “praise.” Sure, some dogs like praise. Most won’t work nearly as hard for it as they will for a hot dog, though. The focus on praise masks what methods are actually changing behavior: aversive ones. (See the photo below.)
  • Finally, “no harsh punishment” leaves “moderate punishment” on the table. And of course the company is the one defining what constitutes “harsh” punishment. The dog’s opinion might be different.

So don’t be surprised at the tools this franchise teaches people to use. They aren’t tools that help create a lasting emotional bond with a happy lifelong buddy after all. Airhorns, spray bottles, penny cans, and special bags with chains in them to throw. Bark Busters also teaches a special growly way to yell at one’s dog, using the word “Bah!”. This is another red flag, the idea that a particular word or sound has some intrinsic magical power to communicate. And the false idea that yelling is a good way to change behavior to begin with!

Note: the round things are not disc toys

The items in the photo above were all collected by a trainer friend who was called to help families who had previously hired Bark Busters.

The disc-shaped things (throwing bags) and the spray bottle have Bark Busters’ logo on them and appear to be provided by the company. The air horns were purchased by Bark Busters’ clients on the advice of Bark Busters’ trainers, and the penny cans were created by the clients on their advice. 

The preceding was a little overview of what we can glean about their methods. But what I’m most interested in is the mixture of information and mythology about barking in the flyer.  

Bark Busters’ Flyer about Barking

The flyer starts out all right, saying that barking can be a sign the dog is stressed. But then in the first bullet point, it says that dogs who bark at “birds, dogs, people, falling leaves, or clouds” are “nuisance barkers.” How very sad for the dogs who are scared of any of those things and are barking out of fear. Especially given the tools above, whose main functions are to startle and scare.

You can be pretty sure that a company bragging about using no treats does not use desensitization/counter conditioning as a training technique. This is the established and most widely accepted treatment for fear in dogs.

There is an interesting subtext to the flyer. It is the idea that dogs can come to distinguish and alert you to true threats to your family. You just have to get rid of the “nuisance” barking first. The flyer includes the following:

As they reach maturity, most dogs will naturally protect their owners when needed and where necessary…

Why, oh why can’t they join the 21st century and learn about dog behavior?

So when the problem behaviors have been removed, you supposedly have a dog who will guard your family. It doesn’t explain how the dog, if he has been punished for barking, will magically know that in a stranger danger situation (and only then), he should bark.

The idea that all dogs can intuitively recognize a threatening human dies hard. I have no doubt there are some dogs who can perceive a real threat from a human. They are way more perceptive than we are in so many ways. And of course, some breeds have been selectively bred for protection.

But that probably isn’t true for Susie the noisy sheltie or Boomer the baying beagle. And any undersocialized dog (and there are tons of them) is going to see threats everywhere. Undersocialized dogs may be as likely to attack a toddler, a man with a beard and hat, or somebody on crutches as they are someone who is threatening actual violence. It’s scary that Bark Busters is promulgating the idea that we should leave it to dogs to decide when aggression might be acceptable.

This is quite amazing, the idea that your dog can learn to be quiet all the time except when a criminal comes to your home. All by your throwing stuff and yelling when he barks.

Another problem is the inclusion of “demand barking,” in the list of problems. Bark Busters fails to point out that demand barking is maintained by the humans who reinforce it. It’s a problem we usually create, whether we know it or not. Dogs do what works. One of the first things I successfully trained my rat terrier Cricket was to stop barking for her meals. After I learned some basics about behavior science, I stopped reinforcing the barking (which was being reinforced by her whole meal!) and started reinforcing her for being quiet. I, a novice trainer, did this in a few sessions over a week’s time. No more demand barking after four years of it. But the idea that we humans need to change our behavior doesn’t fit into the rank reduction model. The result is especially sad. As long as humans don’t become aware of the ways they reinforce barking, the dog will likely receive reinforcement and punishment alternately for the same behavior.

The Biggest Myth

But the biggest myth is the idea that the training methods Bark Busters focus on are benign ones. They are not benign. Using some basic premises about behavior science, one can state some of the likely effects of this casual use of aversives.

If you startle your dog with a throw chain, an air horn, a penny can, or by yelling, “Bah!” as Bark Busters instructs:

  • Your dog may become scared of you;
  • Or (more) scared of the thing they were barking at in the first place;
  • Or scared of the area in which this happened;
  • Or scared of some other random thing that was present when scary things started to happen.
  • Your dog may shut down in general, as you suppress behaviors without teaching alternatives.
  • Your dog may redirect aggression, i.e. bite you or another vulnerable member of your household: a child, a cat, another dog.
  • Your dog may develop a “punishment callus.” This is common. Since very few people really want to hurt or startle their dogs, people usually start out lightly when they use an aversive method. The result is that the aversive must be escalated over time to get the same result. You will eventually reach a limit, either with what you can physically do, or what you are emotionally willing to do, to scare or hurt your dog. Then what? I do have to wonder how many times those throw bags have been thrown at the dogs instead of near them,  no matter what the instructions are.

References on fallout from aversives. 

Oh, and by the way, it’s not just the dog who can get ill effects. If the actions you take successfully interrupt the barking (note that I didn’t say solve it; just interrupt it momentarily):

  • You will be reinforced for using aversives, becoming more likely to do so again;
  • You will likely increase the severity of the interruption as time passes (see above about the punishment callus). Barking is a natural dog behavior and difficult to suppress successfully.

Our best friends deserve better than this.

Note: This post is based on what Bark Busters say about themselves in their promotional materials. You can view the flyer and website yourself. It’s about the tools they promote, and includes information (based on principles of behavior science) about the general, known effects of such tools. I haven’t directly experienced training from Bark Busters and make no claim that I have. 

Related Posts

Copyright 2014 Eileen Anderson

89 thoughts on “Bark Busters: Promoting Facts or Myths?

  1. That bit about the “not being a watchdog” if they bark at everything makes me laugh. I have Icelandic Sheepdogs which are described as a “hardy, agile herding dog that barks.” They are considered watch dogs NOT guard dogs, and there is a difference. It has been bred into them to bark at everything because their original purpose was hanging out with sheep in the middle of nowhere in Iceland… in that case, if you see something moving near the sheep, it’s great to bark at everything! I also find they are frequently used in combination with guard dogs like Great Pyrenees – the Icies will bark to warn intruders away but if the intruders (animals usually) are not scared off the LGDs will take care of it. Obviously you can teach a “quiet” command to an Icelandic but as far as they’re concerned, bark first, ask questions later. On a farm where they are watching their sheep, dogs, people and birds ARE real threats so barking at them is perfectly reasonable. So yes, barking IS a normal behavior and it drives me nuts when people get a sheltie or a beagle and then punish them for barking. Well.. yeah, that’s what they’re supposed to do. Thanks for this informative post!

    1. Really good point about the difference between watching (alerting) and guarding. Very different, aren’t they! And yes, so many dogs have been bred to bark. I do understand that barking can be a problem–I’ve got dogs, for goodness sake! But it’s sad that so many people still don’t know about more humane methods to address the barking.

      A friend of mine who is a professional trainer says that a lot of her job consists in helping humans who want dogs not to be dogs.

      Thanks for the comment. Icelandics are cool!

  2. I tried to post a comment but it was too difficult to send – I couldn’t figure it out! Sorry. 

    Great article!

    I have spoken with BB folks at dog fairs and walked away, not knowing how they do what they seem to be able to do. I found them talking in circles (using circular logic).

    I also have a dogsitting client who used them after realizing she, a stay home mom, didn’t have the time to take their dog to training classes once a week. The perhaps most upsetting thing was their little girl who realized the green-thing tossed near the dog would stop the barking and would often ask, “Where’s the green thing?” Hopefully she never tossed the green thing and missed, hitting the dog instead.

    I believe BB still uses a geographical territory in that the first question they ask is where you live so they don’t talk to a prospective client in someone else’s territory (much like Avon used to be). / credentials can be used.  

    Skye Anderson, MS APDT #69334 CGC Evaluator #88459 Canine Correspondent for Yankee Dog News Everything Dog Blog ( ) Family Dog Training, Puppy Parties, and Canine Massage Workshops Howard County, Maryland Supporting cold noses, warm hearts and happily wagging tails!

    Heroes don’t wear capes – they wear dog tags!

    Some angels have wings, others have tails.  (Reisfeld) There is only one smartest dog in the world and every boy has it! (Anon.) You don’t have to be perfect for your dog. You just have to be.

    A combat-ready unit is not inspection-ready and an inspection-ready unit is not combat-ready.

    1. How sad about the little girl. And anybody who has to rely on “the green thing.” And most of all, the dogs of course. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Eileen – Once again, your analysis is spot-on. Thank you, thank you for this post. Of the many important issues and problems with the “Bark Busters” franchise (yuck, SO HATE that name) that you address, one that I think is of particular import, simply because it is not talked about enough even among trainers, is the idea that a “good” dog should protect his owner, and that dogs can (should!) somehow intuitively be able to determine who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Ugh. This ridiculous self-absorbed and self-serving mythology continues to be pervasive amongst dog owners (thanks in no small part to sensationalist media who seem to just love posting the “John Smith’s dog saved his life!!!!” stories) and sadly is also perpetuated by some trainers who tell owners that their dog will “know” when a threat is real. How is this possible, given that most humans, who have the power of spoken language, get this wrong a lot of the time. Such unrealistic and fantasy-based expectations sets dogs up not only to wrong (and then for punishment, naturally, thank you Bark Busters), but also to be put into situations of potential risk. Why do humans seem so in need of having their egos stroked (“my dog loves me SO much that he will risk his life for me!”) that they are willing to put their dog into harms way, maybe even leading to his death. Proponents of the “my dog protects me” line of bulls–t must consider that if the threat truly is real, that your dog will probably be killed by whoever is issuing the threat, The obvious solution for people who are so worried about threats to their home or their person that they want their dog to be their savior is for them to forego the dog and invest in good locks and an electronic home security system. Oh yeah, and don’t walk in unsafe areas, get in shape and learn to run fast. Leave your poor dog out of it – he did not voluntarily sign up to be your body guard. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, Eileen. 🙂 And, thanks again for an amazing post – will be sharing this one far and wide. Keep on writing – you rock!

    1. Now tell us how you really feel! Seriously, the myth of the all-knowing, all-protecting dog is so damaging, as you say. Dogs and people both can suffer from that. But mostly dogs. Thanks for the comment and your kind words!

  4. PS – it is obvious this is a very emotional subject for you. I had never detected grammatical errors in your blogs before!

    Thanks for writing this!   Skye Anderson, MS APDT #69334 CGC Evaluator #88459 Canine Correspondent for Yankee Dog News Everything Dog Blog ( ) Family Dog Training, Puppy Parties, and Canine Massage Workshops Howard County, Maryland Supporting cold noses, warm hearts and happily wagging tails!

    Heroes don’t wear capes – they wear dog tags!

    Some angels have wings, others have tails.  (Reisfeld) There is only one smartest dog in the world and every boy has it! (Anon.) You don’t have to be perfect for your dog. You just have to be.

    A combat-ready unit is not inspection-ready and an inspection-ready unit is not combat-ready.

  5. Interesing post Eileen. I first came into contact with Bark Busters over seven years ago when I first got my dog Taffy. She was growling and barking at everyone who came in the house and I had never delt with a dog like that before. At the time Bark Busters was new in our area and advertised as the new best fix for problem dogs. The lady that came to visit me was very nice and really believed in what she recommended. For my fearful little dog she recommended I not let her follow me from room to room and that I should growl at her to prevent this. She also recommened throwing the bag of chains on the floor to get her to stop barking. I can’t really remember what else she recommened at the time, but I do remember closing the door after her visit, looking at my little dog and having a pit in my stomach. After the shock wore off I called her and told her that I was not prepared to use her methods and that I didn’t think they were appropiate. At the time I didn’t know what was appropiate, but I did know in my gut that these methods were not going to help ease fear and build a relationship. I did get my money back and I threw those bags of chains in the garbage. Eventually, I found a positive and compassionate trainer. I’m surprised that Bark Busters is still around.

    1. Thanks for telling that story, Marjorie. I’m so glad you opted for a different way with Taffy. And you make a good point–these trainers are not demonic. We have to live with that cognitive dissonance. Many are, as Susan Friedman says, people like you and me who just don’t yet have all the information about how learning works.

  6. Wonderful. I hope very much that now you’ll turn your attention to the Sit Means Sit franchises.

  7. A rescue I volunteer with had reached out to me because a new adopter was having behavior challenges with the dog they’d adopted. The adopter’s vet referred them to a Bark Busters trainer. Having never heard of them I did some cursory research and the only good stuff I could find came from the Bark Busters website. An immediate red flag for me was the “lifetime guarantee” they make to prospective clients – as making guarantees on a living breathing creature is not something you’ll find ethical trainers doing. Some further research gave me pause about their methods and business practices overall, and my gut told me that this poor woman needed to go elsewhere. Fortunately, she was conveniently located between two very good trainers with stellar reputations and commitments to humane practices, which made an alternate referral easy. It’s terribly troubling when veterinarians refer their clients to trainers whose practices are questionable at best, since they are depended on for sound guidance. Still, I was actually looking for an article of this nature in my research and frustrated not to find one that added some sound science to my gut suspicions…thanks for writing it!

    1. Thanks for writing. Yes, the guarantee thing is pretty amazing. I think I read that it is void if you use another trainer (not positive–maybe someone can let us know).

  8. Nice work, as always, Eileen to lay out your information and deductions to empower people to draw their own conclusions and make informed decisions about what they will do with their pets. When people get stuck on the idea of the dog “protecting,” I usually suggest that the defining factor for your dog should be how YOU are responding to the situation. A dog that reacts to someone new to the dog but clearly being welcomed by you doesn’t have anything to protect you from. Really, unless you are regularly being attacked, there isn’t much opportunity for most dogs to ever show overt “protective” behavior.

  9. Hi Eileen. I went with a Bark Busters franchisee years ago to see what they do. First of all, she had never had a dog, but came across Bark Busters at a franchise fair. It obviously sounded more interesting than franchising a fast food place.

    At the beginning of the appointment, she had a spiral, vertical notebook that she held in front of her and flipped, like a flip chart. The notebook had pretty good information in it. The problem was when she worked with the dog. I don’t remember what they were working on, but I do remember her throwing something near what was an extremely fearful dog. That’s what she had been taught to do. So, that’s what she did. She didn’t know anything about dog behavior, body language, breed tendencies, etc.

    Since Bark Busters is a franchise, the franchisees also have slick looking brochures and cards that they leave EVERYWHERE. Either they’re free or they don’t have to pay much, since the material is liberally sprinkled all over vets’ offices and pet supply stores. I think there is also a lifetime guarantee that appeals to people who are looking for a quick fix.

    Debra Ekman, ABCDT *Your Dog’s Friend* * * Top Rated Nonprofit 2013 by Great Nonprofits Follow us on Facebook and Twitter Review us on Yelp or Angie’s List

    On Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 10:33 AM, eileenanddogs

  10. I’ve had former clients of Bark Buster’s call me. They are very torn because according to them, they have a guarantee. They can keep calling in the expert again and again.
    If they seek help elsewhere or use other techniques, the guarantee is voided. They felt trapped because once they make the move to getting any other advice, that guarantee is null and void and they lose it.

      1. If they are calling me, then they aren’t happy with the results they’ve gotten thus far. While no trainer will get 100% satisfaction rates, I’m pointing out that a guarantee can be a double edged sword.
        People don’t like losing things, like the guarantee. Especially since it’s an expensive program. When you buy into a program with a written guarantee of success (something that many trainers feel is unethical for a variety of reasons), you are also buying into the conditions. And you become hesitant to look to other professionals for help when things aren’t working for you if that is written into the guarantee.

    1. Ah yes, thanks for the information about the guarantee. That would be a big motivator not to switch. People (I’m including myself in this) can be loss-averse to an amazing degree sometimes.

  11. It really all comes down to marketing and marketing savvy words, and stretching the truth or meaning behind the word. I have found the more aversive based training companies, have nicer language, and play to a persons emotions of control, no problems, and affection.

    Unfortunately I think it is only people within the industry that see right through that.

    Our local ‘special slice of hell trainer’ calls himself “non reward based affection based training” and it’s cheap cheap cheap, so people gobble it up. There is no affection, it is simply a release from pressure or torture…

    In the past two years I have worked with more than my fair share of dogs that no longer trust strangers, men in particular. And have learned that ‘training’ is dangerous. I have had to apologize for the human race more than I would like too, to more dogs that is necessary. It is heart breaking really.

    But then I have to stop myself, and look at owners with dogs, and I do believe that we are all capable of putting 2+2 together if we really want to. And when you see the words, look at the actions, something inside of you would have to say, WFT. At some point, from the get go, or a bit later, you would have to stop and really questions what is going on. I just think a lot of folks don’t want to believe they can put 2+2 together…

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nancy. I so agree. And I am all for putting 2 + 2 together. It can be incredibly hard sometimes. I know I had a lot of cognitive dissonance when I crossed over. I can only assume it would have been even worse, had I been more invested in those methods.

  12. Thank you so much for exposing this group. I am pretty sure shock collars are used!

    Marie Jackson Whippets, Vizslas, and Gordons of Memory


    1. I have had a great experience with bark busters Canada and I now have well balanced dogs, I have continuous support with them ( husband and wife team) they say from day one you never put your hands on your dogs unless it is affection. Just like any franchise there are the good, the bad & the ugly.. I really like that they come in your home and help you work with specific concerns in your home and neighbourhood and not puppy school where there are 20 dogs sitting in a circle. They are the only people we will leave our dogs with besides family and they love going there. I would strongly recommend you get your facts right and form your own opinions before publicly slamming a company that you may have little to no contact with..
      My 2 cents

      1. Thanks for your 2 cents. I do admire your loyalty to your trainers and willingness to speak up in an environment dominated by an opposing point of view.

        You know what I think would be cool? The trainer Jean Donaldson has suggested that all dog trainers offering professional services provide their potential clients with informed consent forms that describe the methods that will be used, and be required to mention alternatives. Such a form from Company X (a hypothetical example) might propose to solve your dog’s behavior problems by yelling at and startling the dog, or using a special collar. They would also be required to include that the behavior problems could alternatively be solved with positive reinforcement using food, toys, play, and praise. That way the consumer would know that there was more than one way to solve the problem and could make an informed choice. They could also delineate the advantages, and sometimes necessity of working with the dog in the home, which you have mentioned. But they would also give information on the importance of socialization of puppies and dogs, which could include meeting in small, well supervised groups. These two environments dovetail nicely for some dogs.

        In any case, I’m in favor of information up front about the contents, consequences, and available alternatives of any training methods.

    2. Thanks for the comment, Marie. I don’t know if shock collars are or aren’t used. I saw a YouTube video of a BB trainer quite proudly using one on his own dog once, but I don’t know if it’s part of their training package.

    3. Marie Jackson, this is FALSE. Bark Busters do not and have not ever used shock collars. Please don’t spread damaging information to further someone else’s agenda.

        1. So you should not be saying things that are not true.. Amateur at best? Yes, that pretty much sums it up. Why, do you not even list a telephone number or contact information, with all your expertise. Obviously you should not be publishing information, when you do not have your facts straight. That can and probably will get you into a heap of trouble.

  13. It is amazing to me that Bark Buster is able to make the claims in the fine print “…most trusted dog training company.” I would like to see the statistics and proof for some of these claims.

    And some others like, “Sit means Sit”, the dog abuse company and most other big box stores, employ the same abusive, regressive, outdated, antiquated, cultural fog that is perpetuated by reality TV hosts CM and other fools. Shame

  14. Wow! I have been left wondering about their methods or practices for a long time. Never have been able to get any clear answers. Thank you for this and your investigative work!

      1. Transparency? What are you talking about Eileen.. you don’t even list a phone number or address, or any contact information. You are hiding behind your Blogs, and you are basing your story on what you are being told, not actual fact.

        1. Aah, transparency.

          I write about the training I do. You can see a video of my amateur training (and its results) any day of the week. There are lots. No secrets. I don’t show just the flashy successes, although I have them. I show mistakes to help people. I have a whole page of videos that are regularly used by teachers to show problems and fixes.

          I am honest about the methods I use with my dogs. When I have used aversives, I have talked about it. If I have asked too much of my dogs, I have shown the video. I have no secrets, don’t claim any magic. I have phenomenal teachers.

          But it seems your definition of transparency is my phone number.

          I have published 5 comments from you, and not one of them has addressed one specific thing that I wrote. That is technically against my own policy, but I thought it important that your comments see the light of day.

          I won’t publish any more from you unless you want to discuss training methods civilly. That’s what we do here.

          1. You don’t publish your contact information???…… but you publish things that are not true. I do hope that this organization takes you to task for publishing things that are not true for your own Blogging gain.

    1. What investigative work are you referring to? I only see groundless deductions made and NO research. My and my pup’s experience with Bark Busters has been nothing but loving and positive training. Your pups are rewarded with additional praise and hugs.

  15. Hard to believe someone could make the “analyses” she did from the erroneous deductions she made. She really ought to do real research before publishing such drivel.

    1. Sorry you didn’t think my research was good enough. I quoted from the company’s own materials and showed their tools. I made some statements about punishment based training based on science that has been out there for 50 years. If punishment (or negative reinforcement) is being used, those side effects are likely. There’s really nothing at all controversial here.

      1. Publishing things that are untrue, will get you into trouble Eileen. I hope this big company get’s their lawyers after you.

        1. FYI, BB have been made aware of this blog post and will be dealing with it appropriately.

          You’ve clearly twisted the facts in your post and tried to make a reputable company that’s been around for a long time look like animal abusers. This is a very uncool thing to do and does nothing for your own reputation. It just make you look vindictive. Next time, please don’t try to boost yourself up by tearing someone else down. It’s childish and dull. It’s also turned me off wanting to read your blog any further.

          People need to be nicer. If you don’t like/agree with someone’s opinion/methods then that’s your prerogative but please don’t try to paint them as wrong-doers simply because their methods differ from yours.

          Here’s a video supporting Bark Busters techniques, proving they work.

          This is one of many success videos I found on YouTube.

          1. And still, no specific points in my post have been singled out as incorrect except for the tools, which I have addressed.

            About the video: I’m really curious about what happened during the part edited out just before 2:34. From then on, Dino’s body language totally changes. Does anyone else see this? As long as he had the long line, he looked pretty happy. Exploring, typical bouncy stuff, coming back and forth to the trainer. But after 2:34 when he was brought in close to the trainer, everything changed. His tail is down, almost tucked. His ears are back. No more happy trotting. He is generally holding his head in an unnatural position. Just my observation and opinion. I’m not an expert in dog body language by any means, but I’m always trying to learn. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a before and after video or what.

            1. Oh, yes, definitely something happened–the dog is completely different after that edit cut….! I also noticed the other dog has a similar ‘expression’. I’m curious to know what happened in that break and why they don’t want to show what ‘training’ went on during that time.

          2. I’m sorry, perhaps I’m missing something. But I don’t understand the flow of this video.
            It starts on grass (terrier!) so highly distracting environment.
            Video then moves to pavement. The dog seems less engaged with the human at the end of the video. Just seems confusing to me. Shouldn’t distractions increase from start to finish?

        2. I’m not sure that publishing things that are untrue gets people in trouble. It’s pretty common for retractions to happen when writers make an error. Of course, no one would expect a writer to change things without evidence. I’m not sure why anyone would expect a writer to be perfect. There are no perfect people. Admitting to mistakes if they happen are a sign of quality. Mad respect for those that will do that.

          If those products are components of a Bark Buster’s training tool kit, then it is what it is. If certain products are not sanctioned by Bark Buster’s then perhaps the lawyers would be better served go after Bark Buster trainers that are using tools that are not sanctioned.

  16. Having had some experience with Bark Busters trainers I find most of what you’re saying to be exaggerated or outright nonsense. Just because you’re a dog trainer doesn’t give you the right to attack another company or their methods. The dogs I have seen trained by Bark Busters are not damaged or traumatized in any way. They simply respect their owner (yes, you are their pack leader) and know that certain behavior is not to be tolerated. The training methods are NOT inhumane. The chain pillows are a refocus technique to get the dog to pay attention to you. They are only used when the dog is resistant to other methods. Air horns and “penny cans” are definitely not used, nor are any kind of shock collars.

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but spreading misinformation about a company to further your own agenda is puerile. And, no, I am not a Bark Busters trainer. I’ve simply been exposed to their training methods and they DO work. Check their website. 25 years and over 1 million dogs trained. They must be doing something right.

    1. “Pillows?” Those things are called pillows? Wow. The “chain pillows” and spray bottles in my photo have BB logos on them (on the reverse side). The air horns were purchased, and the penny cans were created, on the advice of Bark Busters trainers. So I stand by my statement that these are tools used by Bark Busters. I did not mention shock collars in the blog, did not include them in the picture, and I don’t think BB uses them.

      I think it would be great if companies used more accurate descriptions of their tools. I’m afraid I find the terms “pillow” to be pretty misleading if it is actually a container to be filled with noisy metal pieces.

      To other readers: a great way to teach a dog to pay attention is by using what’s called a “positive interrupter.” Emily Larlham has a great video about that, and you don’t have to throw anything. When you do reward-based training, many people find that it is hard to get the dog to _stop_ paying attention to you.

      1. It’s obvious you have your own agenda here Eileen… and yes you are an amateur at best. Perhaps you should consult a professional, instead of writing blogs to make yourself appear professional. Why do you not list any phone contact information or email address in all your credentials? That is the biggest red flag of all. You may not agree with certain training methods, but writing things that are not true, will get you in a heap of trouble.

    2. The fact that you still think you need to be a dog’s ‘pack leader’ shows, in my opinion, that you’ve been given outdated information (from whom, Bark Busters?). In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has instructed veterinarians that they should not refer clients to trainers who use a ‘dominance theory’ philosophy. If you want to know why there is no ‘alpha’ among dogs, see David Mech’s YouTube video in which he explains that the captive wolf studies on which the theory was based were flawed. He ought to know – he’s the man who coined the term and now wishes he hadn’t.
      As a force free trainer, I know that you do NOT need shake cans, air horns, chains, loud voices, rank reduction strategies, or intimidation to train or effect behavior modification, and that coercion of this nature has fallout that could be dangerous. An intimidated dog can still LOOK obedient (Google ‘learned helplessness’ to see why), but if triggers build up to the point where the intimidation factor is overridden, the same dog can become dangerous. Thus, a more permanent, lower risk strategy is the smarter way to train.

  17. Would you mind posting the link of the YouTube video of a BB trainer quite proudly using one on his own dog once?

      1. If you are mistaken, then you should be sure of your information, before you publish materials.

        1. Shirley, do you work for BB? If so, have you ever read The Culture Clash? Don’t Shoot the Dog? The Fallout of Coercion? Dog Sense? Lindsay’s three volume set?

          1. No I don’t work for BB, but I have had them train our family’s dog years ago. I just would think a legitimate person would not hide behind a BLOG, and sit in front of her computer, writing things she knows nothing about. How many dogs have you trained Eileen? and why do you not publish your contact information? What is up with that? What are you hiding from Eileen?

  18. I agree, we also avoid recommending this franchise for the very reasons you described. I have to be very careful to tell owners at their first visit to make sure to ask us for recommendations for trainers before hiring someone. I’ve definitely seen some trainers make pet worse, which can be life threatening for pets who then get sent to shelters or euthanized for biting.

  19. Thanks, Eileen. I don’t believe we have a BB in my neck of the woods (Florida Panhandle) but i am surrounded by trainers with ZERO undertanding of behavioral theory. There are too many “voodoo” trainers that get results through fear, pain and intimidation, that talk in circles about pack and energy and alpha, all the while creating less confident, more unstable dogs. My saddest case was being called in to consult on a seven pound yorkie that a local “trainer” had advised the owners to shock with a shock collar everytime it growled at the toddler children. Guess what happened? The dog started attacking and biting ALL the family members and was so aggressive by the time I saw it that not all the kings horses and all the kings men could make that poor yorkie safe again.

    I would say to Kim’s comment that not ALL franchise dog training is scary. The DogSmith is a dedicated force-free pet care and training franchise of which I am proud to be a part of.

    Thanks for the hard work, Eileen. Love your blog!

  20. Agree with this response wholeheartedly! [Note from Eileen: this comment didn’t come in as a reply to any specific post, but from context I think Iris is referring to the post from “Uglytreatment” above. If that’s incorrect, Iris, please let me know.]

  21. On December 31 of 2013, I adopted a beautiful rescue dog. My 2 year old boxer- lab mix was so charming on the day that I met him that I knew I had to take him home. However, once I got him home, he became extremely aggressive. After a few weeks of reading blogs and books on dog training, I decided to call Bark Busters. I am so glad that I did! Within moments of arriving at my house, the trainer calmly pinpointed a number of behavioral patterns that I was clueless about. Within about thirty minutes of training (without air horns, shock collars, or throwing anything at my dog,) he completely changed his attitude. My dog has not tried to bite me since. All we did was a series of exercises in my living room, to teach the dog that jumping and biting is not okay. Since then, I have worked with my Bark Busters trainer a number of times. My dog’s behavior only continues to improve with this work. I find it incredible how subtle body language, tone of voice, and timing can be for communicating with a dog. The skills I have learned through Bark Busters have been invaluable. I don’t think you should publicly write lengthy criticisms about things you don’t have experience with. Clearly, you are reacting negatively to their marketing style, not the skills they have to offer.

    1. Georgia, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you are happy with your training method. Would you please tell us in more detail what the behavioral exercises were? Or better yet, do you have any videos? Of you and the Bark Busters trainer and your dog, or just you alone doing the exercises? Thanks.

  22. So Eileen How many dogs have you trained? What are your credentials, as an amateur other than you write blogs?

      1. So you are Blogging to build traffic for your own purposes.. How obvious is that? And writing about things you know nothing about. My question remains.. what is your contact information, or do you think it’s reputable to hide behind a blog. What is the location of your business? Do you even have a business license? I would be concerned with someone that doesn’t list their contact information. Why is that? What is up with that?

        1. I am oddly concerned about these repeated requests for contact information. It is not required nor common for writers to expose their home life to possible retribution or hate crimes. Many writers pen pieces that discuss heated and controversial topics. Not just the pet training industry.
          As a writer, I have had readers who took it upon themselves to seek our my home address and show up unexpectedly. Some because they feel it’s within their right to drop by and demand a free consult/introduce their dog to me/ or tell me off. It is not cool.
          The repeated requests for contact information are bordering on stalker-ish demands and I’m not really feeling comfortable about it.
          Writers don’t actually have to write sunshine and rainbow reviews for everyone. While we might live in an age where bloggers will write nice things for free swag – it’s not a requirement to give a good review of any book, business, video, protocol…anything.
          What we should IMO be required to do is due diligence.

    1. Georgia: I have actually been generous in extending my normal comments policy. There are only two comments that I haven’t published, other than your duplicate post. I assumed you didn’t want me to publish it twice; usually that happens if someone thinks it didn’t go through the first time.

      One comment I didn’t publish was where somebody gave me his phone number. I don’t think it was intended for publication. The other was a 7th comment from Shirley (about BB materials being in vet’s offices). I didn’t see it before I finished talking with him or her. If I had published it, I would have answered with this link:

      A major theme of this blog is discussion. Making mistakes, being human, learning together. Read the comments. People have corrected me, I have thanked them and gone back and fixed what I wrote, with credit to the person who educated me. I publish things with which I disagree, although as I mention in my policy, if I publish a post advocating using aversive methods, I make a counter response.

      I do stand by my comments policy in reminding everyone that my time is my own. I decide what to write about. I think this discussion has probably been valuable to my readers, so I am continuing to publish comments, but at some time I may close them. The time I am spending here could be spent writing something else, and at some point that’s probably where I will choose to direct my time.

  23. I have had numerous encounters with people who have used Bark Busters in the past. For the most part, the training was, at best, ineffective (usually the issue has been barking). In the worst case, a door barker stopped barking at the door and starting biting people coming through the door. I’ve seen dogs become seriously noise reactive and reactive to sudden movements. In every case, the owners used the “pillows”, air horns, penny cans and the loud ‘BAAAAAHHHH’ noise.
    I will say that in three instances, the owner reported that BB did not or would not return phone calls or emails when the clients called asking for help due the escalation of the problems.
    As a franchise operation, I’m sure the range of skills their employees have may vary quite a bit so it is entirely possible that they do have some skilled people, knowledgeable about science based training and up to date with current research into canid behaviour and learning. However, I don’t see the results of those people. I see the owners whose dog has gone from barking to biting.
    And in every case I’ve dealt with, owners showed me the pillows and air horns with the BB logo on them as well as the hand made penny cans.
    I suppose it’s remotely possible that all of this is an enormous coincidence (all of the clients had all of the same tools and all talked about the “BAAAAH” noise), but it stretches credulity a bit.

  24. I have been in this business since 2000, i am considered a professional dog trainer and dog behavior consultant. I am also familiar with Bark Busters as a franchise and as a company. I have a copy of the “Aussie Way” training book, which was recommended to me by Bark Busters when i asked about their training methods. . Here are some direct quotes.

    Page 5
    BAH spoken in a normal tone with the correct body language, it will probably be ignored by a dog. but if you say it in a deep guttural tone at exactly the same time the dog is doing something you want it to stop, you will almost always get the desired response”

    Page 79
    The Six Step Gliding Scale of Correction
    1. A low growl BAH
    2. A louder growl BAH
    3. A low growl BAH in unison with a firm clap of the hands or if on lead a quick check of the collar
    4.A louder growl BAH in unison with a firm clap of the hands or if on lead a quick check of the collar
    5. A low growl BAH coupled with a squirt of water from a spray bottle or dropping a water bomb or the bark Busters training pillow
    6. A louder growl BAH coupled with a squirt of water from a spray bottle or dropping a waer bomr or the bark Busters training pillow

    Page 113
    If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior toward other people or animals …. ask some friends to help….. As soon as your dog begins to act aggressively, have the person in hiding pop into sight and correct your dog by growling the BAH word and using a recommended training aid….. Do not allow your dog to retreat after being corrected. The new response should also be corrected using the BAH word and if necessary the water spray bottle or a training pillow…

    page 118 To deal with Kleptomania
    If your dog becomes aggressive when you try to retrieve the item, a cure must be implemented. To control this type of problem, you need to show the dog that you are dominant. Start with the conditioning methods described in section Three. With your dog on a lead, start to take the object away. Use a water spray bottle or drop the training pillow near the dog and growl BAH at the exact moment it snaps or growls …

    If i read these in a training manual at the worlds first SPCA, London 1824 i may think Mmmm OK, but come on its 2014 people. We know better. This is outdated, dangerous and just plain stupid!

  25. So here is my personal experience with BB. The woman who owns the local franchise came up to me after I gave a talk on dog behavior. (I am a professional dog trainer with a Master’s Degree in Learning Theory/Animal Behavior).

    BTW I already knew about BB because my brother ha sent me an article in his local paper about their local franchise owner. The article explained how they used the very items Eileen has pictured – the air horn, ‘pillow’ and penny can. This guy was also pictured using some of these items, and he explained that you were also to yell, “BAAAAHHHH” at the dog. I knew that this was not a method I would recommend anyone use, but I also did some research at that time. That only confirmed my initial conclusion. I could never recommend anything about BB to anyone.

    Back to my local BB trainer: She told me how she and her husband, who are in their 60’s wanted a business for their retirement years. They were thinking of a 7/11 or a Subway but decided dog training would be more ‘fun’. Yes, those were the choices! They had a 12 yr old dog and had never trained a dog in their life. But in a couple weeks and around $60,000. they were magically transformed into professional dog trainers! She was so excited about her new ‘profession’. I had been speaking that night about reward marker training (R+ mainly, for those who know the ‘lingo’) and I also explained why I do not use punishment (P+ or R-). She exclaimed, “We use the same methods!”. I told her no, that was not true because, as I had said earlier I do not use positive punishment. Her face went blank. I explained that adding something aversive to decrease (stop) a behavior was positive punishment. She seemed still a little confused, so I gave her an example. I told her I do not throw things at dogs, nor do I yell “Baaaahhh” or anything else. Her face lit up! “OH! We don’t MEAN those things to be punishment!”. I am sure she thought I would happily agree with her and say, “OH, then that is ok!”. I just rolled my eyes and started to gather my things. She had one more thing she wanted to talk about. She was ‘trained’ to work with aggressive dogs. They were required to have their own dogs to use when they worked with client’s aggressive dogs. Her dog was 12 and had already been attacked several times by the client’s dogs. Her theory was that her dog was too old to know how to ‘properly respond’ to another dog being aggressive. (I did not want to know what her dog was supposed to do) And she also thought her dog was not agile enough to get out of the way of an attack. Because I had mentioned I had Labs, she wanted me to recommend where she might get a Lab puppy, because that seemed like the perfect dog to work with her aggressive clients. Yes, she was going to use a puppy, and subject it not only to aggression but possible attacks. I just had to walk away.

    Since then I have had quite a few of their former clients come to me to try and fix the damage that had been done to their dogs with their ‘training’.

    Excellent job Eileen! People need to know the truth so they can make educated choices!

  26. The Founders of Bark Busters have their say.
    As the Founders of Bark Busters International we appreciate that everyone is entitled to their point of view. Although opinions can be constructive, they can also be very destructive and not always based on Fact and sometimes pure Myths. We are well aware that some training methods can be called ultra-soft and others ultra-hard.
    As the founders of Bark Busters that has over 350 trainers across the globe, we definitely do not get involved in debating about other trainers techniques i.e. too hard, too soft, too antiquated or too new age or outdated etc…
    Bark Busters training methods
    Bark Busters apply a “temperament tailored” programme designed to suit dog and owner which uses the dogs natural form of communication and is neither cruel nor harsh-we NEVER use pain to train nor do we use any electronic methods, these are all forbidden methods within our system.
    Our training leans more to the lower softer end as opposed to higher tougher end of the spectrum, as we do NOT use electric collars, pronged collars, alpha rolling, scruffing, poking, hitting or hurting the dog in anyway. Our catch cry is ‘hands are only for patting’.
    Bark Busters is a Worldwide organization established in 7 countries
    As an organisation with over 350 trainers globally, we have a strict code of conduct that does not allow Bark Busters trainers to enter into negative conversations about other dog training methods or other dog trainers. You might be wondering why you never see Bark Busters trainers blogging negative comments about anyone in the ‘dog training world’. We are bound by a strict code of ethics that forbids our trainers from doing that. We feel that this only serves to make the dog training world look unprofessional and in full of ‘in fighting’.
    Second opinion
    We believe, as you probably do too, that providing the training is humane and does not hurt the dog in any way that ‘training’ can only benefit the dog and the owners.
    Owners will get it wrong and will search around for other methods. That’s a fact of life and no different to people who search out other doctors for a second opinion. We all get each other’s clients from time to time, we need to act professionally and ethically.
    Shelters packed to the rafters.
    With humane societies and rescue shelters being packed to the rafters with unwanted dogs, due to the failure of many dog owners and society’s inability to educate owners, we see a need for more trainers not less.
    This is a huge task and one where we ‘all’, as trainers, should ‘join arms’ and work together for the betterment of dogs everywhere. There is need for a ‘collective voice’ and for us to all stand together, not divided. If we all truly love dogs then we would direct our energies to more productive pursuits that can truly help dogs and not negative pursuits.
    If others think they have a better way to train dogs, we salute you, no need to fear us.
    Sylvia Wilson, our co-founder, managed an RSPCA shelter for 10 years where she saw many dogs surrendered for behavioural problems. This was the catalyst behind the formation of Bark Busters. She saw first-hand the failure of dog owners and their frustrations at trying to cope with their out of control dogs. She witnessed many of these poor animals being euthanized, mainly because people did not want them anymore, and generally due to the owner’s inability to control their behaviour.
    She wanted to help dog and their owners to find humane solutions to solve problems that would usually see dogs surrendered.
    Dog trainers are the dog’s voice
    As dogs don’t have a voice, we feel that our collective voices should not be in the wilderness of the internet, involved in ‘in fighting’, but joined together as ‘one voice of dog trainers’. We should not be fighting each other but we should be fighting the problem. We need to speak for dogs everywhere and it is time for us (the collective ‘we’ of dog trainers) to support each other, not to try to tear each other down.
    Dog fights
    We feel that this kind of destructive comments, as are posted on this blog, are detrimental to ‘dog training’ in general, it makes the ‘dog training world’ look very unprofessional and makes it look like one big ‘dog fight’.
    Whenever we are asked about another dog trainer our competitors, regardless of who they are asking about or what they do, our answer is always the same.
    “We cannot tell you what they do. We can only tell you what we do. If you want to know what they do, you should ask them”.
    For us to comment would be very unprofessional and we pride ourselves on being professional.
    We have used this statement for the last 25 years.
    We believe that dog trainers in general, should all build their reputation on their own ability and knowledge to train dogs not by tearing others down.
    Bark Busters trainers are all dog passionate, professional, caring people, who take what they do seriously and we invite you all to learn more about what we do by checking out our websites. We have an extensive, comprehensive procedures manual and our training is constantly upgraded and tested at conferences and training seminars. We take what we do very seriously because we work with a living breathing creature.
    Bark Busters never turns any dog away, regardless of how aggressive or how difficult the situation is. We do deal with many of the most troubled dogs and in some cases it can be the dogs ‘last chance’ as the owner has given up and is ready to give their dog to a shelter.
    All of the Bark Busters trainers have to adhere to a strict code of ethics, which amongst other things, states that our people cannot recommend the euthanasia or surgical debarking of any dog. Neither can we ‘bad mouth’ other dog trainers, nor are we allowed to use any method that will harm or hurt any dog. We would never recommend any cruel inhumane training methods. We never take a dog out of sight of the client and all training is conducted in their presence.
    We know this will never stop the negative comments but we hope you have a more informed view of us now.
    Yours truly
    Danny and Sylvia Wilson
    Founders / Owners Bark Busters

  27. As a professional dog trainer I am heartened to see that the information we have gained from decades of research into animal behavior and learning is FINALLY filtering into the heads of the general pet owning populations in part due to blogs like this. No surprise that companies that have founded their services and products on outdated methods and information would feel threatened by it, along with the people who have subscribed to their version of dog manipulation. If we ever do manage to attain some kind of regulation in the dog training industry and create standards of practice based on science and animal welfare, practices like the ones used by this company will likely be understood for what they are; potentially dangerous rubbish. The science supports you Ms. Anderson. Professional animal care and training organizations support you. I applaud you.

  28. Eileen, another wonderful blog!!!

    I used to train like this. Not specifically using a BB trainer, but using these and similar methods. I did have a decent compliance rate and saw no reason to change my training style from something that worked to cookie pushing.

    Then I acquired a dog that forced me to change what I was doing. And I found that I did not need to use the coercion or aversion that this type of training embraces to change behavior. My compliance rate dipped a bit initially, then soared. It was amazing how much easier it is to train without the use of methods like these described here.

    What always baffles me is this: If I can achieve the same compliance, accuaracy and precision without the use of aversives, why would anyone chose to use them? How I wish someone had shown me what was possible before I ever did anything like this to my dog. I wish someone had said “You don’t have to do this”. Who among us WANTS to cause our dogs pain, fear or discomfort and would we not ALL be grateful for someone to help us learn tha we do not NEED to?

    1. Thank you, Kim!

      I am still trying to end comments on the post. Maybe third time is the charm. I may open them again at a later date. Many people, including the founders of the company, have had their say. Thanks to all of you who were polite and professional.

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