Originally called El Valle Kennels and established in 1935, Barkerhaus Kennels is the oldest operational kennel in El Paso. Although the name implies a spin on the sound of a dog’s voice, Barkerhaus is actually named after founders Stephen and Frances Barker.
Originally from Missouri, the Barkers moved to El Paso in 1929. Mr. Barker was a reporter covering city and county government at the El Paso Times. The Barkers were dog lovers; in 1935 they purchased two acres in the Hidden Valley area of El Paso and built a kennel to board dogs and cats. They also bred dachshunds and other small dog breeds for sale and show. Mr. Barker was an active member of the El Paso Kennel Club and served as president of the local club several times. Mrs. Barker was involved in showing and judging at dog shows. El Valle Kennel, dubbed “El Paso’s finest boarding kennel” was operational under the Barkers until their respective deaths in 1958 and 1963.
In 1987, Jim and Angie Morgan purchased the property. They renamed it Barkerhaus to honor the Barkers and to rebrand their operation’s focus on German Shepherds. Jim, retired from the military police at Fort Bliss, was already skilled in dog handling and training, so he and Angie started offering those services to the community along with boarding dogs for their vacationing owners.
Today Barkerhaus is a full-service boarding and training facility. The property boasts 60 runs and a large exercise and training field. They have trained service dogs for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); wheelchair assistance; emotional support; and for the deaf, retrieval assistance, and sight assistance.
They practice and train Schutzhund (German for “protection dog”), which is a challenging 3-part test. Schutzhund was originally designed to determine if a dog displayed the appropriate traits and characteristics of a proper working German Shepherd dog, traits such as tracking, obedience and protection. Schutzhund is also an international sport that tests a dog’s desire to work harmoniously with the handler, its courage and fighting drive, intelligence, trainability in nose work and the ability to work independently. It also tests physical traits such as strength, endurance and agility. Schutzhund has grown into a popular sport as dogs of many breeds, even mixes, can compete.
The Morgans breed German Shepherds for family, protection, search and rescue, police and detection. Jim says “Our program has the ability to provide trained service dogs; puppies or dogs with the potential to become service dogs; or train your own personal dogs, providing they meet our criteria.”
One of the most successful programs that Barkerhaus offers is called the Canine Encounter Training. This four-hour course is offered to police officers as well as to departments such as code enforcement and water where personnel may encounter a scary-looking dog during the course of their duties. Angie says “we educate them on how to read and interpret the dog’s body language. A lot of dogs can look and act dangerous out of fear but are not actually aggressive. Workers that encounter these situations through their jobs learn how to de-escalate the situation rather than react with lethal force.” Tiffany Schneider who is a trainer at Barkerhaus adds “when we started this program in El Paso, up to nine dogs a year were being shot and killed by police. That number is down to one in the past 18 months.”
“The goal is to build a better shepherd, but our practice is to love and care for other people’s dogs while they are away” says Angie.
Barkerhaus Kennels are a Texas Treasures Business Award Recipient.