Blog Dog Training ~ Speaking Dog the Bark Busters Way!

Monday 12 February 2018

Being a responsible puppy owner

When people bring home a puppy it is a time of great excitement and fun for all the family. In previous articles, we have talked about the importance of training your puppy in a fun, gentle and consistent way from the very first day you bring him home. This involves the basics of toilet training, sleeping alone through the night, sit, stay, come when called etc.

In addition to these basics, it is also a good idea to bear in mind some other important factors that will help your puppy grow into a well-adjusted dog, living happily within your family, and being comfortable with meeting new dogs, people and experiences.


Many people choose to get their puppy at a time when they are going to be at home for a few weeks to allow the puppy time to settle in. This is a great idea as it allows you the chance to bond with your puppy, and for you both to learn about each other. It also means that you have time to start putting your toilet training plans into action, and you can be much more tolerant of the odd sleepless night if you don’t have to get up for work the next day!

During this period, it is very important that you separate from your puppy for short periods of time when he is awake. By doing this from an early age, starting with very short periods of a few minutes, and building up the time, your puppy will learn that you can be separated without anything bad happening to either of you. If you are using a crate, you could pop the puppy into his crate with a toy that he can chew to entertain himself for a few minutes whilst you disappear out of sight. Try not to rush back if you hear him crying, unless you are worried that he may genuinely harm himself. If you are not using a crate, create a safe, enclosed space for your puppy where he will have his bed, some water and a toy, and from where he can’t escape to follow you. By doing this regularly, and extending the time, you will be preparing your puppy for times when he will be alone in the house.

The next step is to leave the house. You can stay close and listen to how your puppy copes with this but, again, try to stick to your plan and don’t be tempted to rush back indoors as soon as you hear a whimper as this will teach your puppy that he can summon you back by crying. Clearly, the last thing we would want is a distressed puppy, but this should not be the case as you are not expecting anything unreasonable from your puppy, and he should calm down after a short time.

Keep extending the time, and extend your separation by going to the shops and returning home, or walk around the block…just enough that you are away from the house but not too far away. Listen out for sounds of crying before you open the door to re-enter the house. If your puppy is quiet, or even asleep, then you are making progress.

Unless you take some steps to teach your puppy to separate from you, you may be inadvertently causing the behaviour of separation anxiety and struggle to ever leave the house without him. A dog who can’t bear to be separated from his owners can become very stressed, create a nuisance for neighbours if he barks and whines throughout the day. This can lead to issues that may make your life miserable.

Rest and Sleep

It is vital that your puppy is allowed to rest and sleep whenever he needs to. The immediate area around your puppy’s bed or crate should be for his use only. This will become his safe area. It is particularly important that children are taught the importance of allowing a puppy to sleep. If the puppy is resting in his bed or his crate, nobody should approach and disturb him. Puppies need lots of sleep. Bursts of high-energy play will usually be followed by a need to toilet, or to sleep, or both. You will find that a tired puppy will be much more difficult to control than a well-rested one. Excessive mouthing and other challenging behaviour can often be caused by a lack of sleep. Owners often call us out to ‘aggressive’ puppies when they simply have an overtired, over stimulated puppy.

Socialization and desensitization

Very early on, start to introduce your puppy to sounds and items that he will encounter on a regular basis. Introduce him to the vacuum cleaner, the hairdryer, the brush and the bath tub as soon as you can and as gently as you can. Handle his paws and toes on a regular basis to get him used to grooming and nail clipping. Make the experiences as pleasant and unthreatening as possible, so that you don’t create tension and cause your dog to fear these things. Before his vaccinations and before he is allowed out you can accustom him to sights and sounds in different parts of the home. Guide him to the places where you want him to explore and don't be tempted to pick him up too often as this can encourage unwanted behaviour. Even before he is allowed out on lead, you can start to accustom him to it. Encouraging him to walk inside the home will prepare him well before his big day out. 

Once your puppy is allowed out into the World, don’t overwhelm him or rush to socialize him with loud noises. The same goes for other adult dogs on the park. It only takes one bad episode to imprint into a dog's mind and this one episode could stick with him for many years to come. Speak to your veterinary practice to find out about puppy socialization classes where your pup can meet and play with other puppies. Using group classes for puppies can also be a good idea for socialising.

Keep your puppy on a lead for the first 12 months of his life, whether you are out in the street or at the park, so that he can’t rush up to unknown adult dogs. The reason for this is that puppies haven’t learnt the rules of dog socialization etiquette and can easily overstep the boundaries of good manners if they bound up to and leap all over an adult dog. This can result in them receiving a strong correction from the older dog, and may make them frightened of other dogs… something that will make your life more difficult than in needs to be! Do allow him to socialize with friends’ dogs, or dogs that you know to be friendly, but you should still keep him on the lead so that you can remove him from the situation should one of the dogs become overly assertive.

Please do enjoy your beautiful new puppy, but keep in mind that the foundations you build in the early months of his life will create the temperament and behaviour of the adult dog who will be with you for many years. Creating positive associations and teaching him kindly and consistently will create trust and respect from your dog that will stand you both in good stead for the years to come.

Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

Friday 9 February 2018

Are you under the paw?

You may have seen our recent article The Importance of Training your Dog where we talked about the importance of regular training sessions between you and your dog to maintain communication.

In today’s article, we are taking a light-hearted look at the training that takes place in lots of homes every day…where your dog is training you!

It might amuse you to know that, when our Bark Buster trainers visit dogs and their owners in their homes, one of the first things we are assessing is ‘who believes they are in charge here?’. By simply observing the behaviour of the dog and the owners whilst we are chatting and taking notes, we can see how well the dog has trained its owners. In fact, in most of homes we visit for behavioural issues, the dog believes he is in charge and the owners don’t know it! Often, once we point out to the owners the very subtle tell-tail signs, and they realize how silently and expertly they have been trained by their dog (and after we have all had a good chuckle about it), this is the point when owners start to see things from their dogs point of view, and have a new respect for their dog’s intelligence.

So, as a fun exercise, we decided to put together some examples of dogs who have used their intelligence to work out what they want to happen or what they want to achieve, and who have then gone on to successfully train their owners or to control situations to get what they want! These are all real-life examples of dogs practising their ‘human training’. Names have been changed to protect the identity of those kind enough to admit to being trained by their dog! We hope you enjoy them, and maybe you will see in these stories a reflection of your own reality!

  • "Merlin (border collie) is very good at asking my husband to let him out during the night, and then running back upstairs before him and stealing his place in bed!"
  • "This recent bout of very wet weather meant that Olly (Boxer) was coming home from walks very muddy. So, my husband started breaking a biscuit in half and throwing it onto the wet grass in the garden to clean Olly’s feet before he came onto the patio for washing. However, now that the weather is drier and he no longer has muddy feet, Olly still goes and stands in the middle of the grass waiting for his treat before he'll come onto the patio to be cleaned!! It works every time!"
  • "When Diesel (border collie) was alive his favourite toy was a tennis ball which he carried everywhere with him. But if you were eating something especially tasty for tea he would bring it over and offer an exchange."
  • "If I ever have new people over and they ignore Ozzie (Sharpei/Rottweiler/German Shepherd X), he will go and get Gromit (originally a hot water bottle cover so it's pretty big). He will continually shake Gromit into the visitor’s legs, and then lie on his back and wiggle around relentlessly until someone rubs his belly or says ‘hello’. Only once he is satisfied with the attention he has received will he lie down and go to sleep. Shutting him into another room doesn’t work as he can open any door!"
  • "Ashka (Malamute X) flips the indoor flap of my letter box to get my attention! He started doing it a while ago in the middle of the night, waking me and bringing me downstairs, so I taped it up. Assuming he’d forgotten, I removed the tape a couple of weeks ago. But He’s not forgotten! So, I come to the door thinking it’s the postman or a visitor knocking and there he is grinning at me waiting to be let into my office which he likes to lie in when a little anxious about storms/wind/fireworks etc."
  • "If Matty (border collie) wants to go out to toilet he will stand at the back door and wait as long as it takes for someone to open it (he is slightly slow on the uptake for a collie). However, if Jasper (border collie) sees Matty standing there, he will come and bark to tell us Matty wants to go out! Not sure whether it’s Jasper training us or our lovely simple boy, Matty , who has trained Jasper to get us?"
  • "King (German Shepherd) doesn't often ask to go out or come back in as he has unfortunately learnt to use the door handles himself, so he's pretty self-sufficient in that respect! But he gets us to respond anyway because we then have to go and shut the door after him. He also knows how to open the little gate we have between the patio and the lawn in the back garden and tries to turn the ring handle with his mouth to lift the latch. His current project is working on the baby (dog) gate. He stands up and tries to squeeze the buttons either side of the latch with his paws and lift the lever with his nose. Too clever!! I've had reports that, while he's at Playschool, he often opens the door to the garden and lets the dogs out - and back in again! Cheeky monkey!!"
  • "Snoopy (Labrador x) hates you looking at your phone! If you are holding your phone in front of you with both hands, his big black face will suddenly appear in front of your phone. His face will be in the way of the screen, and his tail wagging means that it’s impossible to read the screen as it is moving too much!"

These are just a few examples of dogs using their intelligence to get what they want and, in some cases, train and control you. There are many more methods not listed here! Try to observe your behaviour with your dog for 24 hours and make a note of incidences where you are responding to your dog’s demands.

Don’t panic if you have a long list! And if you have no behavioural issues from your dog, you can just regard these behaviours as amusing, quirky aspects of your dog’s personality that make you laugh and brighten your day!

However, where you are struggling with aspects of your dog’s behaviour, this may be the first place to start turning your relationship around and getting yourself back in control. The way to turn things around is simple. Be mindful of what you are doing at your dog’s command, and stop doing it! Ignoring attention-seeking behaviour, or demands from your dog. By not responding to your dog's demands you are communicating leadership to your dog in a passive way that he instinctively understands. He may sulk, or try extra hard for a few days to win his control back, but eventually the demands will cease once he sees they don't work anymore.

However, we don’t want you to ignore your dog completely! We want you to play with toys with your dog as this builds your relationship, uses his brain and gives him exercise and interaction with you. We want you to stroke your dog and walk him and feed him too, but all these interactions from now on must be instigated by you and not when your dog demand it. If your dog demands something from you, ignore him until he gives up and goes away. Wait 10 seconds and then call him back to play, eat, walk, have a cuddle. This may seem like a minor change to you but the message it sends to a canine brain is massive.

This simple step is the foundation to changing your relationship with your dog so that he begins to respect you rather than control you. It is easy to put in place and make the new behaviour part of your life. Once you have identified where the changes need to be made, the only thing to remember is to remain consistent.

In all aspects of dog training and behaviour consistency is the key


Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

The importance of training your dog

When people buy a puppy, they take their responsibilities very seriously, ensuring that the puppy receives the necessary vaccinations, learns where to sleep, where to eat, and where to toilet. Then, when the puppy is ready and able to leave the house, they conscientiously attend puppy training classes every week for the first few months of the dog’s life.

Clearly this behaviour shows a responsible and conscientious attitude towards dog ownership, and is extremely commendable. However, as dog trainers & behaviour therapists we find that there is more to training a dog than teaching the basics in the early months of a dog’s life, and then assuming the work is done. Just like when we humans learn a new skill, unless we practise by using the skills regularly to reinforce our knowledge, we will forget much of what we have learnt. It is the same for dogs. Unless they practise, and repeat the behaviour of listening to your instructions, following what is asked, and receiving positive reinforcement from you, they will soon forget what they have learnt and what is expected of them.

Owners who don’t realise the importance of regular training sessions with their dog can sometimes see their dog’s level of obedience deteriorate. They can become exasperated by their dog’s behaviour, lose confidence and patience and become inconsistent in their commands and praise giving. This situation can quickly spiral downwards and is probably one of the main reasons why we see so many dogs being surrendered to rescues and shelters.

We often meet owners who are deflated and demotivated because their dog appears to lack basic levels of obedience whilst other dogs they meet are beautifully trained and a pleasure to observe. We would encourage these owners to take heart from the fact that we never meet a dog who is beyond help. Often, just a few weeks of regular training between a dog and its owner can reverse years of unruly behaviour, and reduce stress in both owner and dog.

Dogs are much happier and less stressed when they know what is expected of them and can trust that the leadership decisions of their owner will keep everyone safe. If you fail to behave in a way that lets your dog know he can depend on you to make the right decisions, he may start to make decisions for himself based on his own safety assessments. You need to know that your dog will listen to your commands over and above his own instincts. Only by regular and consistent bonding through training will you achieve this level of mutual trust and respect.

As with any new set of skills you want to acquire, start simple and progress from there. Firstly, try to do some basic training with your dog every day. Do exercises that he learnt as a puppy, or just some simple exercises like sit/stay or fetch. Make it fun, interactive and rewarding for your dog so that, whilst you know that you are training him, your dog is having fun listening to you, and being the focus of your attention. Doing this sort of training for short periods once or twice a day will help you to build a bond with your dog. He’ll also, hopefully, be receiving lots of praise from you, and your voice tones will let him know that you are happy with him. Be patient…your dog may not do the exercises successfully at first, but with time and practice he will improve.

Learn how to use your voice tones consistently. Dogs do not speak English so they will find it much easier to interpret your tone of voice. A light, happy voice tells him that you are pleased with him, whilst a gruff voice can communicate displeasure. Don’t mix them up by praising in a gruff voice…it’s the tone your dog will hear rather than the words.

A well-trained dog is a safe dog. So, once you have mastered the basics, try some of the more difficult exercises like recall (coming back when called) or stopping a dog in motion. Start in the house or garden where it is safe and secure, and practise repeatedly ensuring you praise success every time. Being able to recall or stop your dog in motion instantly and consistently could save his life.

Due to recent changes to dog laws, it has never been more important for dog owners in the UK to have their dogs under control. For the safety of both you and your dog, please try to start early when your dog is a puppy, and remember that training is an ongoing lifetime commitment. If you find that you are struggling, call in a professional who will be happy to help you. Bark Busters Home Dog Training therapists will always do their utmost to help you establish routines and communication with your dog to minimise the chances of your dog being one who is surrendered to the shelter.

Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

Friday 24 February 2017

Muzzle training for your dog

Muzzle training for your dogThere was a time when muzzles were considered the sign of a dangerous dog. Fitting a muzzle was a last resort for owners who could not trust their dog not to attack other dogs and/or people. Although muzzles are much more widely used these days for many and various reasons other than aggression, owners are often reluctant to use a muzzle as they feel that it will stigmatize them and their dog. However, muzzles can be useful in many ways and their use shouldn't be discounted.

People generally are more willing to put time and effort into training their dog than they were in the past, and dogs are now, on the whole, sociable and acceptable canine members of our society. These days, UK legislation is much stricter and the penalties for dog owners so much harsher, so sometimes the use of a muzzle is a sensible and safe option. As a positive aid to dog training they allow owners to be more relaxed in the knowledge that, even if they lose control of their dog's behaviour, there may be no significant consequences. A muzzle can also be used to control a dog's habit of eating faeces (coprophagia) whilst out on walks. With the increased incidences of poison being maliciously laid to kill or harm dogs, a muzzle can be an invaluable tool to safeguard dogs who scavenge for food whilst out walking. They can be especially useful to groomers and vets who are handling dogs at close quarters in situations where the dog may be uncomfortable or even stressed.

Bark Busters recommends a basket muzzle, either leather or vinyl, where possible. For dogs who show aggression or who scavenge whilst out on walks, a basket muzzle would be the most appropriate.

We do not recommend a steel muzzle as these are too dangerous and could hurt another dog or person. We also do not recommend a muzzle that encloses the dog's snout or mouth as these can restrict panting or drinking. These can be dangerous for dogs because a dog needs to be able to pant and drink through the muzzle.

Most dogs can be trained to wear a muzzle, and there is an argument that all puppies and young dogs should be introduced to a muzzle in case a situation ever arises where one becomes necessary – for example if a dog becomes stressed at the vets or at the groomers, or if a dog starts to show aggression in certain situations, due to fear. As with anything that we want to introduce to our dogs, planning is required. Be patient and consistent when introducing the dog to the muzzle to ensure that the muzzle has positive associations for your dog. The training should be undertaken over the course of a few days to enable your dog to become accustomed to having the muzzle near his face.

When training your dog to wear a muzzle, the whole experience needs to be pleasant and unthreatening. Don't rush the process. Your voice tones should be soft and happy and lots of praise given at every stage. It's also important to ensure that the muzzle you select fits your dog comfortably, as any pain will create a bad association and reverse any good work you have done.

Some people will introduce the idea of a cone to a dog before presenting the muzzle. This is a way of training a dog to put his nose into something that you are holding, without being worried about doing so. Every time your dog puts his nose into the cone he gets a treat reward and praise. This encourages your dog to want to insert his nose into items that you are holding for him, knowing that there will be a reward. You can change the items as you progress, for example, from a cone, to a child's bucket, to a mug, and eventually to the muzzle itself.

Others will go directly to the muzzle training. In either case, the following steps will help you to accustom your dog to wearing a muzzle:

Step 1

When first introducing the muzzle, allow him to place his nose inside without pressure from you. Don't try to fasten the muzzle at this stage. Begin by placing a dry treat inside the muzzle. Allow him to put his nose inside the muzzle, retrieve the treat, and withdraw his nose. Repeat this several times, moving the muzzle away from him so that he begins to follow the muzzle to retrieve the treat. Praise when his nose is in the muzzle, and remain silent whist the muzzle is off. This will help him to associate the muzzle with good attention.

Stage 2

Introduce treats into the muzzle that take a little longer to chew, or you could use a doggy paste that needs to be licked. The aim here is to enable you to hold the muzzle up to his nose for a longer period. Always praise when the muzzle is over his nose.

Practise this stage for a few days, two to three times per day for around 3 or 4 minutes each time. Once your dog is comfortable with you bringing out the muzzle, and happily puts his nose inside to eat from it, you are ready to progress to the next stage.

Stage 3

Practise feeding treats through the holes in the basket, still without fastening the muzzle around your dog's neck. Make sure you get it right so that your dog can eat the treats posted through the holes before you proceed onto the next stage.

Stage 4

Here we begin to attempt to fasten the muzzle onto your dog's head. Make sure you are armed with approximately 20 high value treats. Things like strips of chicken or small pieces of sausage work well. Place one treat into the muzzle, allow your dog to start chewing the treat and then fasten the strap of the muzzle. Immediately start feeding your high-value treats through the side holes, as you practised in stage 3. As you feed the treats, keep praising your dog. Once all treats are eaten, unstrap the muzzle and cease the praise.

Stage 4 should be repeated for a couple of days, extending the period of time that the muzzle is worn, until your dog can tolerate the muzzle for around 30 minutes. Don't worry if this takes longer than a couple of days for your dog. All dogs are different, and will accept things at different speeds. The important thing is that your dog ends up comfortable with the muzzle over his face. A good sign would be that he wags his tail happily when he sees the muzzle come out.

Keep up the good work by introducing the muzzle when your dog is doing something he enjoys. You may want to continue introducing treats occasionally, and always maintain the praise. If your dog seems to regress in his acceptance of the muzzle, don't get angry or frustrated, simply go back a couple of steps and start again from there.

You can teach your dog to drink water when wearing a basket muzzle by filling his bowl to at least 3 inches. Take him over to the bowl and waggle your fingers in the water, or scoop some water up to encourage him to drink.

If you are at all unsure about your dog's behaviour, muzzle training is a very good idea. An owner who is anxious and worried about what may happen when out on walks will be sending those stress signals down the lead to the dog. With the properly-fitted muzzle in place your dog cannot inflict any major damage onto other dogs or people, and you can therefore be more relaxed. A relaxed owner is more likely to be walking a relaxed dog – a situation that is healthier and happier for both.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

How to greet a dog safely & politely

How to greet a dog safely and politelySince you are reading this, you are probably someone who likes dogs! You are certainly not alone. As Bark Busters dog trainers & behaviour therapists, we spend most of our time with dogs. This means that we constantly meet dog lovers, be they owners, children, or passers-by. So we thought we'd give you some advice on how to greet a dog safely and politely.

At the risk of stating the obvious, dog lovers love dogs! They love to talk to them, stroke them, scratch their ears and fuss them. That's great as long as you know the dog, the dog knows you and you have established this behaviour as being acceptable between both of you. However, this can become a potential problem when you assume that all dogs will love the attention and assume all dogs behave like this; especially with a dog you don't know. Your innocent actions could seem threatening to some dogs, so you need to be sure that you know how to act and behave around unknown dogs, and the reasons why, to ensure everyone's safety.

We must appreciate that the behaviour and body language humans display is very different to canine behaviour and could be regarded by canines as offensive and/or an attempt to threaten, challenge or control. Understanding that the behaviour we show when greeting, differs so greatly from a dog's behaviour, is the first step towards making your greeting of an unknown dog, safe, respectful and polite.

How dogs greet
Firstly, look at a greeting from a dog's viewpoint. Well-socialised dogs, meeting for the first time, will be making assessments based on canine behaviour. They see a dog and assess its body language from a distance. Then they may go towards the other dog and stop, still assessing its body language for signals to indicate whether it's relaxed, friendly or anxious, nervous, wary or a threat. A dog is also assessing the threat level of the other dog by its stance. This could be tail up, ears pricked, head up, proud stance, hackles raised, or maybe tail down, ears sideways or down, head lowered and even looking away? Depending on the signals a dog is showing could mean the difference between a confident dog, a nervous or aggressive dog or a relaxed dog with no threat at all. Some dogs may use submissive signals such as immediately dropping to the ground and laying on their back or side. If that's your dog, be happy that it is unlikely to get into trouble! The next step is that they sniff each other's faces and then go head to tail to check each other's signature smell from anal glands and genital areas. After initial greetings and assessments, they may either walk on comfortably, play, or one may show submissive signals, like lowering head, rolling over willingly, or even urinating (especially uncertain pups). The other dog will then usually indicate acceptance to the submissive signals and both will happily go their separate ways.

How humans greet
Humans do not greet in this way! Nor do we naturally recognise these forms of body language signals. Primate behaviour involves meeting face to face, looking into the eyes of the other 'person', using vocal sounds (talking), and lots of use of the hands and arms (touching, stroking, gesticulating, hugging, kissing). If we use this behaviour when greeting an unknown dog, we may be inviting an unwelcome reaction from the dog, and here's why.

You were probably told when young to reach out and show the back of your hand or clenched fist for a dog to sniff before trying to stroke their head. Depending on the dog and its level of human socialisation, this can cause a dog to feel threatened despite your good intentions; consider that many dogs are naturally shy, nervous or timid. Furthermore, there are many hand shy dogs, such as adopted dogs, with an abusive or uncertain past. These dogs, particularly when on lead, may be feeling uncertain and unable to run away. When an unknown person, using their human behaviour, stares straight at a dog's eyes, leans over them, which can be interpreted as controlling or even aggressive behaviour, then moves their arm swiftly towards their head, the dog may be feeling uncomfortable or even threatened. This may cause the dog to issue a nervous warning (growl) or create a noisy response (bark), or react physically at the end of the lead. Consequently, a dog could be wrongly labelled as aggressive.

Of course, there are many dogs that are very well socialised with humans and our rather blunt form of greeting. They love having their head, ears and body ruffled and patted and will jump up and/or show happy wagging tails. Humans are good at recognising that happy-dog body language and understand the dog's desire for that type of greeting. The trouble is that we are not so good at recognising the body language that tells us we are not meeting one of those types of dog!

How to greet a dog safely and politely
Please consider doing the following when thinking about greeting a dog on or off lead in the park, street, or in the dog's home.

First, ask the owner if it is safe to greet their dog. We may teach our children to ask an owner, but in our experience an adult rarely asks the owner of a dog if they can do so. Some people even feel it appropriate to feed treats to their dog without asking permission.

If the owner says not to greet their dog, then please accept this. Don't assume that every dog will like you and because you've had dogs as part of your life for some time that it's okay to keep trying to touch the dog. Up to now, you have most probably met lots of well-socialised dogs.

The best way for people to assess and greet a dog is to do the following: -

  • All greetings must be on the dog's terms. Allow a dog to make the first approach.
  • Don't rush in to fuss a dog.
  • Keep talking to the owner so you don't stare at a dog.
  • Stand very still. Don't make sudden movements.
  • Ignore the dog. Let him come to you to sniff your legs.
  • Do not try to stroke or speak to a dog whilst he's sniffing you… he hasn't finished checking you out. A dog that sniffs you and then retreats, should not be approached, he does not want your advances.
  • After 30 seconds or so you should be fairly sure whether or not the dog wants a fuss.
  • ALWAYS ask the owner first.
  • Even if it is obvious that a dog is happy for a fuss, do not lean over him. Stroke and fuss the upper side of his body but not his head. This indicates that you don't want to be considered controlling. Also, some dogs have very sensitive ears so, if unsure, stay away from them!
  • Don't force yourself on a dog if he moves away from you or indicates in other ways that he is not comfortable. Stop after a few seconds and see whether the dog leans into you or nudges you for more.

As humans, we tend to assume that dogs will understand our intentions and our words but unfortunately that is not the case. Our means of communication differ so greatly from that of dogs. This is why so many people receive a bite or a snap as a result of unwitting behaviour when they approach an unknown dog! By failing to respect canine behaviours, signals and body language whilst imposing attention onto a dog we risk injury to ourselves or others, and put the dog's life at risk too. Some dogs cannot understand the differences between human and canine behaviour. Dogs learn through association and a series of events and interpret our movements and body language through their canine instincts; our words are largely interpreted through voice tone. They assume that you will understand their body language and their signals so it's up to us to ensure that we all recognise the signals and educate ourselves so that we do.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Crate training your dog or puppy

In a recent article, we discussed how to meet your dog’s needs. One of a dog’s needs is for shelter, its own space or den. We know that, in the UK, most dogs live indoors with their human family and so they do have shelter from the extremes of heat or cold, or from wet weather. Having your dog living indoors also means that they are part of your family unit and addresses their fundamental need to be part of a pack.

However, very often dogs need a little extra in terms of shelter. At the very least, most dogs like to have their own bed where they can retire to and know that they won’t be disturbed. Some dogs appreciate something more than this; they like a small dark space to go to where they feel safe. This is where a crate can be useful and fulfils a dog's need to have its own den. It also assists in the management of young dogs who are destructive or fearful of storms and fireworks etc.

By providing a crate, making it comfortable and cosy inside, and covering it with a blanket, you are giving your dog a dedicated small space. This is a space just for your dog, where he can feel safe and he doesn't have to share it with a human.

Select the right crate for your dog
Many dogs love a crate and will naturally seek it out. You will need to source one that is small enough to be cosy, but large enough for them to stand and turn around. If your dog’s precious toys are also in the crate, then this only adds to the feeling of security. Some dogs may be unsure at first so choose somewhere to set up the crate in the house that is accessible but not too busy, and leave the door open so that your dog can enter and exit as often as he wishes. Every time he enters, you can introduce a phrase such as ‘go to your bed’, and praise / reward him once he is in. Allow him to come out, and repeat the exercise until he is confident and comfortable about this new ‘den’. You could try to introduce the crate at feeding times and feed your dog in the crate. This will help to create a positive association with the crate and it will let your dog know that he can eat undisturbed by other pets or children.

Only when your dog is happy to enter and remain in the crate, can you start to close the door for short periods. You should never close the door if your dog is getting stressed. He needs to feel comfortable with the crate first. You can close the door short times when you are eating or, especially if introducing a crate to a puppy, whenever he is having a nap during the day. Gently place him in the crate and close the door. Your dog will soon become confident that he is safe and that you will be available to release him when he is ready. You can gradually increase the length of time to wait before releasing him.

It is worth remembering, however, that not all dogs like crates. You need to stick to your training plan whilst your dog becomes accustomed to the crate, but if your dog panics he could harm himself. Open the door and let him out and go back to having the crate door open for a while longer. We don’t recommend forcing your dog into a crate that he is clearly uncomfortable with…some dogs may never take to it.

Never leave a dog unattended in a crate for long or extended hours, this is unfair and could lead to barking or toileting issues.

Properly managed, crates can assist with toilet training
As with all training it's better to start early when your dog is a puppy, but it's never too late to try to accustom your dog to a crate. If he seems comfortable with the crate, you can use it to help with sleeping through the night and with toilet training. Dogs do not generally like to soil their own beds so, as soon as he wakes up, be ready to take him straight outside to toilet. This may mean that you are disturbed during the night for toilet duties, but it will help you get your puppy house trained much more quickly, and will gradually stop. He will also become accustomed to spending the night in his safe den knowing that you will reappear in the morning.

Providing adequately for crated dogs
If you are going to leave your dog or puppy in a crate for any length of time, you must make sure that water is available. Specially-designed water bowls are available to fit inside crates so that there is no risk of the water being overturned. Apart from overnight, it is not advisable to leave a dog of any age in a crate for more than 4 hours. If you are out during the day for longer than this, it would be best to leave the crate door open and allow you dog the run of one room such as the kitchen or utility room. We don’t recommend crates in hallways as the dog can become disturbed by postmen and passers-by which can lead to guarding and barking issues.

The benefits of crating your do
There are several benefits to crate training your dog. One of these is travel. If your dog is happy in a crate, then the crate can be used for safety in the car. It also means that your dog’s familiar sleeping place is with him if you are staying somewhere new. Additionally, a dog accustomed to a crate will be much happier being crated for airline travel.

A crate can be a fabulous tool for providing a designated resting and sleeping place. As with all training, do your research, be consistent, and never try to force your dog into something that frightens him. Your local Bark Busters trainer can help you with all aspects of crate training.

Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

Monday 20 February 2017

Choosing the right puppy

As Bark Busters dog trainers, we find that the New Year is a busy time for puppy training. If you are thinking of getting a puppy it is worth taking time to think about and prepare yourself for what you are taking on, and to make sure that the puppy you buy is right for you and your family. Having the right dog, properly trained, will bring you joy for years to come.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a puppy. Consider the breed you are thinking of and be sure that you can handle its size, temperament, and the amount of exercise it will need as it grows into an adult dog. Some of the registered breeds can be prone to known medical conditions so check these out before you go ahead. A cross-breed can be excellent but unless you know the size of the parents it is sometimes difficult to know how large the dog will become.

How to identify the right breeder
Talk to and visit breeders. Always buy your puppy from a reputable breeder that specialises in only one or two breeds. A reputable breeder should check your situation before allowing you to take one of the litter. They will need to know whether you have a secure garden, what time you have available for training, how much time will the dog spend home alone etc.

Make sure you can visit their premises and see the mother, and where possible the father, with the puppies. If you go to a domestic property to view a puppy, make sure that the puppies and their mother live together, and that the house has signs of dogs living there. There have been some terrible stories recently about puppy dealers, so make sure you are 100% confident that the person you are buying from is an ethical and licensed breeder or a reputable rescue centre.

As well as seeing the mother of the puppies it's advisable to see the father too. The temperament of both mother and father must be sound and of a good nature. Your puppy will inherit some of their temperament traits.

Never take a puppy under 8 weeks old if offered, as puppies need to stay with their mother and siblings for those first crucial weeks whilst they learn to interact and communicate with other dogs. This will help to avoid behaviour problems in the future. Whilst you are viewing the puppies, always try to see the whole litter at play, and be mindful that the puppy sitting on its own away from the rest of the litter may have some temperament issues that may be difficult for a first-time puppy owner to address. Similarly, the puppy that is confident and comes bounding over to you may be challenging as he likes to make his own decisions! Try to choose a puppy that best reflects your personality.

Choosing the puppy to suit your personality
The best puppy to choose would be the one who is playing with his siblings but not being too rough. If you pick him up and he is happy to be cuddled without mouthing too much or wriggling to get away, then that could be the puppy for you. If you feel that you would like two puppies to be company for each other, choose a male and a female, as that mix of a male and a female is far more compatible, than two of the same sex. If you really want two of the same sex, then, providing you are going to have them de-sexed, two males are preferable to two females, as in our experience, females are the more prevalent types we deal with when called in to address problems such as Sibling Rivalry.

Bringing a new puppy home
When you bring your puppy home, be mindful that the puppy will be unsure and scared when taken away from its mother and siblings. Be prepared for crying and whimpering and be patient. He will need somewhere small, dark and cosy to sleep, and will preferably have a small toy or blanket brought with him to remind him of his litter-mates. Our crate training article may help.

Ensure that you register your puppy with your vet and start the course of injections as soon as possible. Also, be aware of the laws surrounding identification and speak to your vet about microchipping as it is now compulsorily in the UK.

A free WaggTagg™ dog identification tag is provided with each Bark Busters Home Dog Training package.

One of the main concerns we hear about puppies is toilet training. Puppies will have lots of accidents but they won’t toilet in your house on purpose or to spite you! As with everything with puppies, this issue needs consistency and perseverance. Be prepared to go outside with your puppy in all weathers on a regular basis whilst you encourage him to toilet outside. A lot of hard work and consistency in the first few weeks will pay dividends in the long run.

Puppy training to suit your needs
If you need assistance in settling or training your puppy, Bark Busters has a training programme that will suit you and we will be happy to help you understand your puppy and why it does the things it does.

This information is brought to you by Bark Busters in the interest of good puppy management.

Bark Busters Home Dog Training has trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

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