Author Archives: Liam Crowe

Don’t Give a Puppy as a Gift!

Liam Crowe with DogBy: Liam Crowe

However appealing it may be to present your kids with an adorable puppy on Christmas morning, it is simply not a good idea for everyone concerned.

The fact is that far too many such gifts end up in animal shelters. A recent study of 12 U.S. animal shelters reported that 48% of dogs surrendered to their shelters were young—5 months to 3 years old—and that 37% of dogs had been owned for only 7 months to 1 year.

Giving a living creature (of any age or species) is a serious matter, and especially so for kids. A pet is not a battery-operated toy that can be played with, then put away on a shelf.

There are many factors to consider when deciding to bring a puppy into your home. Adding a puppy to your family is a 10- to 15-year commitment, and raising a happy, well-balanced dog requires an enormous amount of time, effort and expense.

In addition, while your kids may insist they’ll participate in the pup’s daily needs—feeding, walking, training—you as the parent must be realistic, and acknowledge that the bulk of dog care will invariably fall on you. Most children are simply not ready to take care of a dog until they are of high school age.

If your child (and your family) really wants a puppy, consider giving a gift certificate for one instead. Wrap a puppy toy or fancy collar and leash and include a note saying a puppy will be joining the family in the near future. Then plan a date for after the busy holidays to go shopping for the new pet, whether from your local shelter, a qualified breeder, or some other responsible source.

You owe it to your new puppy to give him every opportunity to develop a long-lasting, loving relationship with his family. Be prepared, patient and consistent. Puppies learn through experience and association. The more consistent you are, the faster your puppy will learn and the happier he—and you—will be.

Click here to read numerous tips from Bark Busters about puppies and puppy care.

Denver News Anchor Dog Bite Incident

Liam Crowe with DogBy: Liam Crowe

Many people across the United States are now aware of the recent unfortunate incident involving a Denver morning television anchor, Kyle Dyer, who was bitten in the face by an 85-pound Argentine Mastiff during a live broadcast, resulting in 70 stitches to her lips and nose.

CLICK HERE to listen to a podcast containing context, analysis, and listener Q&A from my interview on the Michael Brown Show, 850 KOA News Radio.

KUSA’s Kyle Dyer joins nearly FIVE MILLION Americans who are bitten by dogs each year. Of those injured, nearly 800,000 require treatment in a hospital, and dog-related injuries resulted in over 30 deaths in 2010 alone.

Our hearts go out to those who suffer dog bites, many of which are preventable. As experts in canine behavior, we at Bark Busters want to do everything we can to educate the public on dog safety and bite prevention measures, which is why our dog behavioral therapists across the nation offer FREE dog safety seminars to community-based organizations. CLICK HERE to find a trainer in your area and request a seminar.

We’ve also developed an extensive online program for kids, called the Bach & Buster Buddy Dog Safety Program(R). There, children can learn how to make the right choices around familiar and unfamiliar dogs and become certificate-carrying members of the Bach & Buster Buddy Club, in addition to completing coloring pages, a word search, a crossword puzzle, and more. All Bark Busters trainers are also available for free classroom presentations on dog safety.

 Some basic dog safety tips everyone should follow are:

  • Respect all dogs’ space. Don’t extend your hand out or force affection; just allow dogs to approach you to sniff you.
  • Human gestures like hugging can seem overbearing to dogs; the least-threatening type of pet we can give a dog is stroking him under his chin.
  •  If a dog is approaching you, don’t turn and run, as dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Always stand still, with your hands at your sides; face the dog at all times, but avoid eye contact. In most cases, the dog will go away when he determines you are not a threat.

To download a printable handout with more dog bite prevention tips, CLICK HERE.

We wish Kyle Dyer a speedy recovery and hope that this unfortunate situation will raise awareness of the need for dog bite prevention education across the country. Contact your local Bark Busters trainer to set up a FREE dog safety seminar with your civic group, school, or church today!

Pet Blood Donation

Liam Crowe with DogBy: Liam Crowe

Just like people, pets sometimes require blood transfusions for surgery, trauma or disease—and just like human hospitals, veterinary clinics often run low on their blood supplies. By allowing your healthy dog to donate blood, you could help save the life of another person’s furry friend in need. It’s a great way to give back with your dog in this approaching season of giving thanks for things like food, shelter, and good health.

Different vets and blood banks have varying requirements, but generally speaking, to qualify for donation, your pet must be current on vaccines/shots and parasite preventatives and be at a healthy weight. Pets will also need blood tests to check for underlying health problems and to determine their blood type. For many dogs with cooperative, easygoing temperaments, blood can be collected without sedation.

The process of taking blood usually only lasts 10-20 minutes, but can take longer depending on size and circumstance. While most clinics and blood banks do not pay you for your donation, some do offer incentives, such as:

  • Free health screenings or discounts on preventive medications like Heartgard® and Frontline®
  • Treats, toys, food or donor ID tags/bandannas for your dog
  • Free transfusions and/or a spot at the top of the list to receive blood in the case that your pet ever requires a transfusion

Donation rarely has ill effects on your dog—there may be an area of swelling or bruising that will fade in a few days’ time. Contact your veterinarian to find out more about how your pet could help save the lives of other dogs in your area this Thanksgiving holiday.

Training Dogs the Aussie Way, Part 4: Corrections, “Positive-Only” Training, and Using Your Dog’s Full Learning Potential

Liam Crowe with DogBy: Liam Crowe

Training in a way that is holistic and uses all of your dog’s learning capabilities is a critical part of training dogs “the Aussie way.” Dogs have the potential to learn in a variety of ways, and by limiting your training to only one teaching method, you’re not just increasing the amount of time it will take to change your dog’s behavior; you’re also selling him short!

As dogs evolved to rely on human companionship and care, they’ve become extremely good at reading human body language. Chances are that even if you think you’re only communicating praise to your dog (such as in strict “positive-only” training), he’s actually interpreting corrections from your body language and voice tones when you are upset or angry. Likewise, dogs with owners who do love and care for them but have a more gruff personality—for example, they may not seem to fawn over their dogs or reward them with treats—can still sense, respond to and enjoy their owners’ pleasure.

The trick to quickly and effectively changing a dog’s behavior is to actively use ALL of the ways he’s already learning in ways that are non-threatening, non-physical and build respect and trust. This means clearly educating your dog every time he makes a correct OR incorrect choice.

One example comes from the way we teach our own human children. Of course, when they make a good decision, we reinforce that behavior with affection and praise—“good job,” “that’s right,” “I’m proud of you.” We should do the same thing with our dogs to let them know when they respond appropriately. Although this can be done with treats or clickers, the simplest way is to use vocal praise and pets—you may not always have a treat or a clicker in your hand when you need to give your dog a command, but you’ll always have your voice/body language. Not to mention that this encourages your dog to focus on YOU and grows the bond you share.

Similarly, when our children make a mistake or are approaching a dangerous situation, we use it to teach them and redirect them to a better choice. Dogs can learn in the same way. For example, if a child is walking, arms outstretched, toward a hot stovetop, you wouldn’t just call him back or attempt to distract him with cookies. Instead, you tell him—often with a raised voice to indicate urgency—to “come back,” “don’t touch that,” “it’s hot,” etc. You don’t want him to simply learn that if he chooses to come back, he gets a cookie or a pat on the head. You want him to learn that it is dangerous for him to make the alternative choice and touch the stove.

The same kind of learning happens when you vocally correct your dog. The deficiency of training without correction and only by praise is that your dog never knows he’s making the mistake in the first place; he’s missing that part of the education. And like children, dogs are intellectually capable of learning that lesson without being frightened or traumatized.

When corrections are delivered in a way that is natural to canine communication and redirects to the desired behavior without physical punishment, they can accelerate and round out your dog’s learning. The result? A smarter, happier, more well-behaved dog and a stronger bond in less time! And that’s training dogs the Aussie way.

Tips to Help Your Dog Behave with Visitors

Liam Crowe with DogBy: Liam Crowe

As promised, in this post I’ll be providing training tips for the winning answer of last month’s Speak Dog Poll, “What is your New Year’s resolution for your dog?” The clear winner, with almost half of all votes, was: “Less barking and general excitement, especially when visitors come to the door.”

We all know the scene: The doorbell rings, and your dog comes tearing through the house, barking/scratching at the door, forcing you to either try to simultaneously restrain your dog and open the door, or to let your visitor in to—best case scenario—be covered in well-meant kisses, or worse, to be jumped on, frightened or even knocked over or bitten. It’s an embarrassing, potentially dangerous but common situation that many dog owners would like to avoid. So what can you do?


Note: As for most behavior issues, these training exercises will be more effective as part of an overall training effort that builds the bond you share with your dog by teaching him to trust your leadership and respect your decisions all throughout the day. Especially if your dog’s behavior is aggressive and motivated by his perceived need to protect the family from intruders, you should exercise caution and consider enlisting a professional trainer.

  • The first step is to create a boundary by the front door. Choose a spot about 10 feet from the door where you would like your dog to wait to greet any visitors. Ask him to SIT at the boundary every time you go near it, such as before inviting your dog out the front door for walks.
  • Set up the front-door scene and practice by having friends or family ring the doorbell or knock. If your dog breaks the boundary and runs to the door, correct him, then call him back to the boundary. Praise him when he comes back to you. Ask him to SIT, then slowly move to the door, correcting him if he starts to move and restarting the exercise until he does not break the boundary. At that point, open the door, greet the “guest” yourself, and then invite him to come greet the “guest” in a calm manner.
  • When you come home, do not act excited or greet your dog enthusiastically the minute you walk in the door; this attention reinforces his jumping and inappropriate greeting behaviors. Instead, go about your business, ignoring your dog until he loses interest in you; then, feel free to call him over for affection and praise.
  • Likewise, ask any visitors to not call to the dog or invite enthusiastic greeting behaviors. You should always be the one to release your dog from his SIT at the boundary.
  • Remember that a tired dog is a happier, more relaxed and obedient dog. If you know you will be having company over, give your dog his best chance to succeed by wearing him out first with a long walk, play, or a training session.