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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sylvia Wilson believes she can train a ferocious rottweiler to be as cuddly as a poodle in less than three hours.
This could explain how the Australian-based dog lover has turned her passion for animals into a successful international company with more than 320 franchises in no fewer than eight countries, including Israel.
According to Wilson, who started Bark Busters back in 1989 with her husband Danny, more than 350,000 dogs have been trained using her unique holistic and humane system.
Here over Succot to research ways to expand Bark Busters with Israeli franchisee Sharon Levy, Wilson has done for dog owners what Jo Frost's Supernanny has done for parents.
"We do not train the dogs, we teach the owners how to train the dogs," comments Wilson, whose techniques include speaking to the animal in what she calls a "guttural" language they can understand, as well as drawing up a list of hard and fast rules for owners and pets.
"People either have no interaction with their dogs, or try to humanize them - but dogs are afraid, and they need a leader. In nature, a dog is educated by his pack. That means dogs naturally look for someone to guide them," she says.
"In Australia, I have two rottweilers, and if they go after a kangaroo in my backyard, one word from me will stop them dead in their tracks," continues Wilson, whose confidence is as impressive as her business successes.
Levy, who brought Bark Busters to Israel a little less than two years ago, says she has seen Wilson in action and the results are "unbelievable."
"When I decided that I wanted to start my own business, I looked around for something that would involve dogs," says the Israeli-born 32-year-old. "Every Internet search I did on dog training brought up information on Bark Busters. My mother was in England at the time, and I asked her to check out the [Bark Busters] branch there. It turned out that Sylvia was in London, too."
Levy says her mother called her a few hours later, describing how Wilson had tamed a particularly frightening dog in under three hours.
"She told me that I had to bring Bark Busters to Israel," continues Levy, a former John Bryce employee who wanted more control over her own career destiny.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After being trained in the technique at Wilson's New South Wales ranch and seeing Wilson's own dogs in action, Levy returned to see if the Australian-designed program would work on Middle-Eastern canines.
Israel has its differences when it comes to dogs, admits Levy, pointing to groups such as Orthodox Jews and Arabs, who are not used to keeping them as pets.
However, she adds, "there has been a shift in the last seven years in people's attitudes to dogs. There are far more pet stores than ever before, people are taking home pedigree dogs, and municipalities have started to take more of an interest in pushing owners to de-sex and vaccinate their pets."
As for putting Bark Busters into practice here, Levy says the demand is growing. In the short time since starting, she says she's treated "hundreds" of dog owners. Many vets recommend her services, and she sees her role here as providing "private therapy for you and your dog."
"I usually go into the dog's home environment so I can see what its real problems are," says Levy, who has also translated Wilson's books on how to deal with troublesome puppies into Hebrew. "As long as people have realistic expectations, we are able to provide them with the tools they need to connect with their dogs."
Bark Busters boasts on its international Web site that it has a dog-lifetime guarantee, which Levy and Wilson say holds in Israel, too.
While the Israeli Bark Busters is just a one-person show for now, Levy says she is hatching plans to expand the enterprise.
"I really believe this is a growing market," concludes Levy. "And the results of our work can be seen almost immediately."
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