Interview with Bash Dibra, Dog Trainer to the Stars

Bash Dibra discovered his extraordinary ability to communicate with animals as a small child. While he and his family were interred in a Yugoslavian prison camp after escaping from communist Albania, Bash befriended vicious guard dogs, observing their canine signals and developing remarkable insight into their feelings and intentions. Years later, the unique task of training a young timber wolf for a film led Bash to a new understanding of canine thought processes and the development of his revolutionary training technique.

Bash has trained the pets of countless celebrities, including Kathleen Turner, Mariah Carey, Joan Rivers, Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin. His own pets are celebrities themselves, featured in motion pictures, television commercials and print ads.

In addition to his star-studded training techniques, Bash has also appeared on countless TV shows promoting responsible pet ownership. He works diligently behind the scenes for animal welfare, organizing the PAWS Walk 2000.

Now see what Bash has to say when he answered your questions in a special interview.

iVillager wshflthnkr: What can I do to keep my dog from whining and barking when I am not around? I recently got a full-grown beagle from the Humane Society, and she appears to have separation anxiety. We live in an apartment, so it is important to keep her as quiet as possible.

Bash Dibra:You're right. It sounds as if your beagle definitely suffers from separation anxiety, and the first order of business getting her in a training program that will teach her to accept separation from you.

First, teach your dog the basic sit/stay command (you'll learn how in my book DogSpeak). Put her in the sit/stay position and move away the length of the leash. When she has that exercise down pat, attach the leash to a doorknob, give the sit/stay command and go into another room. This program builds confidence and lets your dog adjust to your absence.

Beagles need plenty of exercise, so begin your day a half-hour to an hour earlier and take her for a long run or walk. When you return, supply your dog with something beagles love -- a "tough toy." I suggest a Kong, which you can fill with treats. Since the treats aren't easy to get out, this should keep her occupied for long periods. Leave the house, but remain quietly outside the door (though not so close he can sense your presence). If she barks, come in and give a loud "No bark!" command. Make sure she has plenty of goodies in the Kong -- if not, give more -- and leave again. Very soon she'll learn to accept your absence. Often we humans make the problem worse with long good-byes and saying things like "Don't worry, I'll be back." This simply makes the dog more anxious. Just give her the toy and leave. But remember to be patient and persistent in reminding her that separation isn't forever.

iVillager Hergie1:I would like to be a dog trainer as I feel I have a similar "sense" with animals as you do. What kind of training or education does one need to be a qualified trainer? I am also very interested in animal welfare. How do I get involved in PawsWalk 2000?

Bash Dibra:Welcome to the wonderful world of animals! When you become a trainer, you'll find the gratification of your love for animals is your greatest reward. Study and experience are essential. You should begin by reading as many books as possible on animals and animal behavior, including my three books, DogSpeak, Teach Your Dog to Behave and Dog Training by Bash. Doing so will give you an understanding of animal behavior.

You might take a course on animal behavior at your local college or kennel club, which might have seminars in dog training. Since experience is the best teacher, I suggest you volunteer at your local shelter, where you will gain invaluable hands-on experience with different breeds, different dogs and different temperaments.

As for PawsWalk 2000, you're most welcome to call our hotline at (718) 601-1460, or visit the Website. PawsWalk 2000 is a five-borough New York City event starting on April 30 in the Bronx and ending June 3 in Manhattan. PawsWalk 2000 coincides with National Pet Month and supports responsible pet ownership while it benefits pet programming, New York City parks and pets in need of emergency medical care or adoption. We need volunteers like you. And good luck in your chosen profession!

iVillager Amy:I started a pet play group about a year ago, but my three-year-old Lab keeps brawling with one of the guests. She seems to be well socialized from numerous training classes, but she keeps antagonizing this other dog, and I don't know how to stop her from being so aggressive.

Bash Dibra:It sounds as if you've really tried to work with your problem, and I commend you for your efforts to control your dog. You're right in being uneasy. Aggression cannot be tolerated, and now is the time to stop it, before it becomes serious. There are times when even the most dedicated owner needs to call in a professional, and it sounds as if that's where you are now. I don't know where you live, but I urge you to call me or a professional in your area for help with your Lab. Aggression must be dealt with by a pro, working on a personal level with you and your dog. I wish you success.

iVillager Savanana:I think my 11-year-old golden retriever is jealous of my granddaughter. She positions herself between the baby (nine months) and anyone who comes between them. She lets the baby crawl over her, and doesn't make a move. But if the baby starts to walk toward anyone, the dog knocks her over. This doesn't hurt the child, but it does prevent her from coming any closer to us. I know the dog loves our granddaughter because when she's gone for a few days, I find the pup lying under the dining room table with her head resting on the chair where the baby sits. Do you think this is a playful thing or something to worry about?

Bash Dibra: As a rule, goldens are nice dogs, but occasionally jealousy can be a problem. Your dog is being possessive of you, her owner. If she wants attention, give her some in a training session. With that, you're saying, "Okay, you've got my attention, but remember -- I'm the pack leader here!" The dog will realize that she gets all the attention she needs. If she gets between you and the baby, give her the "go to your place" command. Select a special place your dog likes -- her bed, a corner of the room, that warm spot next to the heater. With the pooch sitting or standing at your side, command, "go to your place," while simultaneously pointing to that place and walking her to it at heel. It's the perfect balance of the right sort of attention and the right kind of control.

iVillager debbielecl:When I'm sleeping, my two-year-old corgi mix comes on the bed to be with me, and always has to touch me. If I move to the left, she moves. Her paw, her ear, her nose -- something has to touch me. She does it to my husband too. Does she need to feel safe, or is she scared that we'll leave her?

Bash Dibra: Corgis are herding dogs, and their nature is to nurture. They want to be sure you're okay. That's endearing, but sometimes exhausting. Here, a "go to your place" command is ideal (see above). This will help accustom her to separation, which in turn prevents development of separation anxiety, a condition stressful for both dog and owner. Of course, be sure your dog has a place of her own and has been trained to go there on command. If yours hasn't, I would encourage you to begin now. Good luck!

iVillager beebop2000:We have five dogs, all rescued from various situations. Three of the dogs are from the same litter and are eight years old. The other two are close to the same age. How can I prevent them from developing a 'pack mentality'?

Bash Dibra: A pack mentality is a good thing. It's in a dog's genes to be a pack animal. The important thing is that you establish yourself as pack leader. By doing so, you create a perfect family, with you in charge of checks and balances. See the excerpt from DogSpeak about how dogs developed from wolves, and the importance of the pack to both species. I hope you find it helpful.

iVillager jama56:Is it better for my dog to have a companion, or is it okay to have only one? Do dogs get lonely for other canines?

Bash Dibra: Dogs are happy being alone with their owners -- they get undivided attention. Some dogs don't even like other dogs. However, many owners -- and I gather you are one of them -- feel guilty leaving a dog alone all day. If you have the space and financial resources to accommodate another dog (a studio apartment won't do it!), that's fine. But if you've been alone with your pooch for years, and bring in a new one, your first dog may be very unhappy indeed. A decision like this must be resolved on a case-by-case basis. One solution is a dog walker, who can spend some time with your pup during the day (I'm assuming you're at work most of the day). Sometimes a cat is the right companion for a dog. It's all an individual choice for you and your canine. I wish you the best.

iVillager sur5or2:Dogs -- especially my Yorkie -- seem to be very possessive of their masters, so what happens when the person is a celebrity who gets tons of outside attention?

Bash Dibra:Actually, the dog isn't left out as much as you might think. When a celebrity appears with his or her dog, the public checks out the celebrity first, then goes right to the dog. They want to see what sort of dog the celebrity has, and they tend to pay almost as much attention to the dog as they pay the celeb.

Because of their owners' celebrity status, dogs sometimes become celebrities in their own right, and need be well mannered and well behaved. But that's not exclusive to Hollywood. The bottom line is this: Teach your dog "pet-iquette"! If the pooch has a need to be the center of attention, you may have a budding superstar. Begin with real obedience training, then teach her to do tricks. That will earn her the applause she needs, and who knows, you may end up with a television or film star in your home.

In fact, if you think your dog has star qualities, please log onto my Website at Good luck!

iVillager Paula:Can a dog be trained to be both gentle enough to play with children and aggressive enough be a good watchdog?

Bash Dibra:Most importantly, any dog that's going to be around children must be socialized and very well trained. This will not only create a close bond with the family, but will also work double-time to foster the automatic instinct to protect family members.

While training techniques vary, it does come down to time, patience and consistency. My books DogSpeak, Teach Your Dog to Behave and Dog Training by Bash are all designed to teach a dog owner to communicate effectively with his or her pet.

If you'd like a general breed recommendation, German shepherds and collies make great protectors with wonderful herding instincts. Looking for more of an indoor guard dog? A boxer might be your best bet.

However, it isn't necessary to have an intimidating guard dog to protect the family. Just the presence of a dog is a psychological deterrent to any intruder. Who wouldn't prefer entering an empty house to one with a barking canine? Don't forget, even tiny pups can make big noise!

iVillager cl-luv2cans: My three dogs (German shepherd, spitz and pit bull) have unfortunately killed a lot of wildlife on our property. I understand that a high prey drive is difficult behavior to correct. Any suggestions? Also, what breeds share your life?

Bash Dibra:It sounds like you have a pack, and that the pack mentality has taken over. I'm assuming that the killing of wildlife happens when you're out walking with your dogs, no? If so, I would recommend that you work with each dog individually to establish yourself as leader of your pack. Go through basic training again -- one dog at a time -- beginning with on-leash training and progressing to off-leash. Once you've established yourself as undisputed pack leader, you will have control over all three dogs.

As for my dogs, I'm very fortunate. Many dogs come into my life, and at the moment I have a Maltese, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, a rottweiler, a bulldog, a fox terrier and a Great Pyrenees. I also live with six cats and a bird. It's the best of all worlds -- a world of animals!

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