Naughty Dog? Call Bark Busters

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - September 24, 2008
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Bark Busters (from left) Rufy, BlackJack, Osito, Sue Tsuruoka, Scott Argus, Chico and Taxi

Scott Argus, owner of Bark Busters Hawaii, says he can teach a dog to instinctively focus on the owner and follow cues as to what it should do and should not do.

“During the lessons, one of the most common questions I get is, ‘Will that work with my children (mother-in-law/husband/wife)?” says Argus with a deep, hearty laugh. “I tell them ‘I don’t know, I’m a dog trainer.’”

Whether the dog is nipping at people, peeing and pooping all over the house or chewing on couch cushions, Argus says he can teach it to behave. He’s posted a 20-question quiz online that owners can answer about dogs’ behavior, and it gives the owner a grade on how the dog behaves.

Argus visits the home of the family for a private training session lasting about two-and-a-half hours (four hours for multiple family members). He suggests a good time to do it is in the morning, or whenever the owner is able to concentrate on learning to “speak dog,” as there is a lot of information to absorb. Most of the time Argus’dog Rufy accompanies him to the home to help teach people how to communicate with their dogs.

“Sometimes people ask if they can just trade dogs,” says Argus, whose license plate reads TLK DOG.

Owners work with their pooch twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes in a five- to eight-week session.

Argus says the challenge to running the business comes when customers realize the fee for the training costs more than other eight- or 12-week programs that offer no guarantee.

“Once we’ve done the training, if there are any questions or concerns, the guarantee is for the rest of the dog’s life,” Argus says. “All they have to do is to call us. We’re in 10 countries and in 41 states with over 400,000 dogs trained worldwide. There’s bound to be a local Bark Busters wherever you go.”

Bark Busters America, which started in 1989, has its headquarters in Denver, Colo. Argus started his franchise about three years ago, serving the East Oahu area. Bark Busters Oahu services the West Oahu side of the island.

One of Argus’ clients is Sue Tsuruoka and her dog BlackJack.

Tsuruoka has given up her marketing job and undergone the Bark Busters training. She now is a partner in the business with Argus.

Word of mouth is one of the ways people hear about Bark Busters, and veterinarians and their staff are offered free trainings for their own dogs.

“If they don’t have a dog, they can use some of the dogs in their practice that are abandoned,” says Argus. “Once they’ve seen the results, they are recommending us.”

In addition to recommendations from veterinarians, brochures at pet stores, radio interviews and other publicity, there are other ways to get the word out. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International (SPCA) has named Bark Busters the Best of the Best for 2008.

“We are saving their lives and training them at incredible rates of speed,” Argus says. “We can correct the behavior of any dog with any behavioral problem, and as a result we end up saving their lives.”

Argus always has had dogs ever since the day he arrived home from the hospital as a newborn. His family had a few dogs, plus a new litter of cocker spaniels, for a total of 10. Now Argus’ happy four-legged family includes Rufy and Taxi. The extended family includes his office assistants dogs, Chico and Osito, who are owned by Carlos Tapia and Leilani Witt, respectively. Rufy is trained as a pet therapy dog and visits with patients in hospitals.

“When one of the dogs is getting old, I get a new dog before that one passes on, so it can learn from grandpa,” shares Argus, who always has at least two dogs. “I can’t imagine living someplace without having a dog.”

Luckily for people who want a dog as a housemate, he says, more condo resident managers are converting to allowing people to have dogs.

“We can make it happen so you can have dogs in your apartment, and that everyone is glad the dog is there,” Argus says. “Our goal is to create a culture here where dogs are so well-behaved. We want our dog owners to have people stop them and ask them, ‘How did you get your dog so well-trained?’”

In the coming year, Argus, who worked as a biomedical engineer for 25 years, may branch into training and certifying service dogs for folks who have physical and mental disorders.

For more information, call 734-3440, or log onto

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