The grand opening on Aug. 4 of Billings’ newest dog day-care facility welcomed dog lovers and dogs of all breeds, shapes, sizes and colors. About 30 people and a dozen dogs stopped in at the grand opening, complete with St. Bernard mascot, hot dogs, popcorn and treats for canines.
Dog-centered organizations at the grand opening expressed their support for canines: Bark Busters Inc. provides training and Billings Animal Rescue Kare (BARK), with its kissing booth and adorable dog Portulaca to distribute puppy kisses, sought to raise money for abandoned animals.
Jessica Thomas, who manages the Dog Spot, took all the photos on the walls in the business, capturing the canines’ expressions.
Allison Egan, who is from Butte, is the owner of the Dog Spot. Laurel Egan, her mother, has helped with financing the business.
Both Ms. Thomas and Ms. Egan have worked in the pet grooming industry for about four years. From Pullman, Wash., Ms. Thomas notes some important differences between Washington and Montana dog owners.
“In Washington state, people are over the top with outdoor facilities and group playtimes for their dogs,” she said. “We thought, ‘What can we do to take them outside?’ So we have Paws in the Park every Wednesday from 9 to noon at High Sierra Dog Park in the Heights.’”
“I don’t think people know they can bring their dogs here and get them socialized,” she said. “They leave them in the bathroom or laundry room all day.”
Not wanting any of her charges to be bored, Ms. Thomas takes the dogs to High Sierra park, and she also posts pet photos online on the Dog Spot Facebook page. The complete website for the Dog Spot is www.thedogspotmt.com.
At the kissing booth, volunteer Tina Walker held Portulaca, which means flower. BARK profited from the dog’s kisses sold at the Kissing Booth.
Portulaca has a sad story. Suffering from diarrhea and vomiting because someone had stepped on her and abandoned by the people who had brought her to the vet because they could not afford to pay for the dog’s care, the vet called BARK at 839-WAGG. A family in Wyoming adopted the brindle dog.
You can follow the story of Portulaca and others’ rescues via the BARK Facebook page. A puppy reports the daily activities at the shelter.
Next month is BARK’s grand opening to sign up volunteers. The BARK facility, completely volunteer run at 4017 First Ave. S., is open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. BARK needs donations of towels and dog/cat food.
Training the owners
Tony Barone, a former New Jersey police officer turned Discipliner of Dogs, enjoys training.
“We train the owners” said Mr. Barone. “I work with aggression and barking. I’ve seen more and more aggressive behavior. The problem is, a dog needs leadership. People are not leading. We teach owners how to become their dog’s leader. People don’t socialize their dogs as much as they should. They don’t know how. They don’t realize how much time a dog takes. It becomes a family member – You’ve got to nurture them, guide them.”
Mr. Barone offered treats to every dog he saw at the Dog Spot and carefully evaluated how politely they took the treat from his hand. However, he said he uses no treats for training and directs the focus to the relationship between owner and dog.
“You become your dog’s best friend through leadership,” he said.
He noted that sometimes puppies don’t get enough time to develop. “Dogs are often removed from the litter too early. Even one week lacking time with the puppy’s mother denies puppies needed social behavior training. Humans don’t have the opportunity to teach the dogs social skills as much as the pack member or its mother would.”
Ms. Thomas appeared and shouted, “People in billings don’t know they can bring their dogs here and get them socialized - eight bucks!” Mr. Barone smiled.
“When you allow someone else to train your dog, your dog goes back into dysfunction easily as soon as he returns to you,” he said. “The owner must follow through. Owners must have three priorities when training their dogs: Open minds to new information, a willingness to change the way they interact with their dogs and a commitment to put training time into their dog every single day: 15 minutes for puppies and 30 minutes for adult dogs.”
Mr. Barone explained that his training services are for the life of the dog and have a service support guarantee. He said that down the road, there are transferable guarantees, if people have multiple dogs.
“I have never had a bad day,” he said, obviously relishing his job training humans how to control their dogs.
The originators of Bark Busters, Danny and Sylvia Wilson, have written a book called “Training Dogs the Aussie Way.” Mr. Wilson is a master trainer of more than 400 dogs. Bark Busters is nationally accredited with a National Academy in Denver, Colo.
Bark Busters clients get an initial three-hour training session, and phone and email support. Training is revisited for 45-60 minutes until the owners are able to manage and review how progress is going. If there are problems. they can get free advice at 656-2750. Clients get three to four revisits, which usually solves the problem. If not, pricing on special customized packages is available by calling Bark Busters.