With seven happy canines romping at home, Patricia Debarros-Kari probably qualifies as southern Denton County’s Dog-Lover-In-Chief. The owner and operator of The Nosey Dog, a successful pooch spa and boutique in Flower Mound, her second business venture is Dog Quest, a brand new canine sport and training facility in Lewisville.
“Dogs,” she said, “are like children, they just want to play and have fun.”
And if they don’t get exercise, and have a job, mischief twinkles its little eye just around the nearest corner.
Her work equipment includes a black fanny pack filled with tiny treats that reward tail-waggers for all manner of desirable behaviors.
“If you reinforce behaviors with treats, reduce meal daily volume accordingly.” She broke a snack into pieces that fit on the tip of her finger. “Over a day the extra food adds up to a fat dog if you’re not careful.”
One dog demonstrated gulping a treat without so much as a little chew to experience the flavor.
In the old days, people controlled dogs by instilling fear. “Harsh reprisals,” she said, “are a 40-year-old teaching technique. But, in fact, dogs respond very well to positive reinforcement, things like treats, toys, play, and even clickers.” Dog Quest sells everything in the list but harsh reprisals.
In that gentle spirit, Patricia used to drive her pets – five mini- dachshunds, a basset hound named Ozzie and a mixed breed pit bulldog – all the way across DFW’s northern suburbs to a training and play facility in Frisco.
A pit bull, gentle?
“Pit bulldogs have to be taught bad behavior,” she said.
Left to their own devices, the breed is pretty much your easy-going Fido. Who knew?
Dog Quest was born from her desire for a premier dog training and play center west of I-35E in the Metroplex.
Reared in Rio de Janeiro and Washington, D.C., because her father was a Brazilian naval officer, Patricia and her siblings grew up with all sorts of pet dogs. When she was 17 the family moved to England for several years then back to Brazil. At the Universidade Helio Alonso, in Rio, she received a foreign languages diploma.
“I am still fluent, of course, in Portuguese and English,” she said with only the faintest, hard-to-place, foreign accent, “but we’d have to say my abilities in French, Italian and German are definitely rusty after all these years of non-use.”
A Bartonville resident, she’s lived in Texas for the past 30 years when the whole Debarros clan immigrated.
“I was an excited college graduate, in transit to my first job, in New York City. I stopped in Texas to help my sister move to Fort Worth and I fell in love with the DFW area.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
She spent many career years at GTE which later became Verizon.
“I worked on a team that handled venture businesses for the holding company. That made it easy for me to become an entrepreneur after retirement.”
She is the sole proprietor of The Nosey Dog, and has three partners and nine on staff at Dog Quest – which boasts a 16,000-square-foot completely-indoor dog training campus in Lewisville.
Dog Quest’s “rings” are actually large foam-padded, rectangular areas inside waist-high chain-link fences. The 2-inch thick pieces of flooring fit together like gigantic jigsaw puzzles. This makes clean up and damage refurb easy.
“My first personal dog was a friendly guy I named Jacques, because he came from Paris, Texas.”
So how does your average Bartonville resident acquire so many “wiener” dogs?
“Owners of purebred dogs often form clubs, and most clubs also have a nonprofit rescue operation.” She laughed and said her short-legged gang is the result of “failed fostering.” The dogs came to dinner, stole her heart and never left.
Dachshund is German for “badger dog.” The animals were bred to tunnel in for underground prey, badgers. Picture a pooch wearing a miner’s safety helmet with a headlight.
“My back yard has a lot of little craters,” she said, “and from time to time a short, long doggie with a mouthful of mole or gopher will appear at the door and want to come inside to play.” She waved her finger ‘no.’
If you have varmints, and don’t care about a lawn and garden, wiener dogs might just be the pet for you.
Patricia expects her dogs to behave.
“In ideal circumstances, an owner acquires a puppy. During the first 8 to 16 weeks of life the owner teaches the animal to be social,” as opposed to feral or shy of humans. It’s an important period of a dog’s life.
“Puppies need plenty of handling and interaction with other animals and people.”
After that come house-breaking and basic dog manners. A polite dog responds to the verbal commands sit, stay and down. It won’t knock people over trying to get out the door first and will walk on a loose leash instead of dragging its human along. This canine Lord Fauntleroy exhibits self-control around other animals and humans, no bossy domination. Does that sound just like your family pet? Yeah, mine too.
“Dogs comprehend things in a literal way,” she said.
In other words, keep it simple. For example, “sit” always means put your rump on the floor right now. It doesn’t also maybe mean jump on my lap or the sofa then lower your rump.
Young dogs are roughly like 2-year-old humans. “They also experience the Terrible Twos,” she said.
At maturity, a reasonably intelligent dog can operate somewhat like a 5-year-old child, but the canine never gets out of kindergarten.
“In the business we say dogs have unreliable recall.”
In plain English, they can forget what they’ve learned.
“If the owner doesn’t consistently reinforce lessons taught, over time the animal regresses to its instinctive behaviors.”
Dogs need to know “Da Boss” expects certain behaviors ALL the time. Rewards make the point with kindness. If the truth be told, dog training classes actually teach owners, because dog training lasts for the lifetime of the animal. The good news is old dogs can learn or re-learn new tricks.
“A large percentage of impounded animals land in that situation because of behavior problems,” she said. “The owners just give up.”
To name a few, bad behaviors include jumping, barking, bolting, snapping and inappropriate chewing. Dare we mention housebreaking? Bored dogs with pent up energy find ways to amuse themselves that don’t always amuse the head of their pack.
“Dog Quest can help with this too. Our indoor facility is heated and air-conditioned year round so owners can be comfortable during training and playtime.”
The business tutors individual dogs and their owners, and leads group lessons. Got a problem with hours? Schedule a private class.
Puppies learn good manners and how to play nicely with others. Obedience training is available for older dogs, even gray whiskered and wrinkled novices. If your dog needs to learn a special skill, that can be taught and learned too.
The hottest new item in dog training is Barn Hunt, a farm dog version of Hide’n’Seek. It allows dogs to vent their hunter instincts and be useful in the agricultural setting. Barn owners use this class to teach their dogs how to clear the premises of messy little freeloaders otherwise known as mice and rats.
“Barn cats have difficulty surviving in a coyote kind of place like north central Texas, but dogs are “the man” for a job like this.”
The hunt teacher locks Dog Quest rats in individual heavy duty drums then hides those in a maze of stacked hay bales. The hunt tunnels are 18” wide by 22” tall.
“Any dog that can fit in the tunnel can be taught to sniff out, well, just about anything, actually.”
The rats munch, and twiddle their proverbial thumbs, while Ole Blue sniffs them out in return for a treat.
“I want to emphasize we do not allow our rats to be injured,” Patricia said while she showed off the multi-story rat hotel.
The spic-and-span, high-rise cage houses a dozen grown ups that were once adorable white mice with red eyes and pink tails and tootsies.
“All our rats are boys,” she adds. “We don’t breed them.”
“People who want to play with their dogs come to our agility course for fun and organized games. We have Rally and Flyball too.”
Dog Quest teaches the AKC Canine Good Citizen program. The company offers therapy for difficult animals, conformation, nose work and will work through animal behavioral problems.
“If an owner has a special need, our top notch trainers can help. They’ll bring out your dog’s true potential, and you and your dog will have a lot of fun into the bargain.”
Visit Dog Quest’s impressive facility with four large training and play rings at 1565 West Main Street, Suite 460 in Lewisville. That’s the northeast corner of Main and Garden Ridge. The nearest landmark is World Gym.