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.

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