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Training for Stardom

Article Author: Scott Rose

Bash Dibra's book StarPet helps you train your pets for home and Hollywood by Scott Rose

Think of your dog as a diamond in the rough - with loving polish in her training, she can sparkle like a 32-carat, structurally perfect gemstone.

That's the philosophy of five-star animal trainer Bash Dibra. Bash is the celebrated trainer of the planet's top dogs. Mike the Dog, for example, was a graduate of Bash's dog actor training programs. He appeared on TV's Law and Order and on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. You likely also saw shaggy Mike in commercials for Wrigley's chewing gum, Cheerios and Burger King.

You know that even if your doggies haven't yet been in Burger King commercials, they are nonetheless little princes and princesses. Bash's terrific book StarPet is one to set tails happily wagging. If you love dogs, you'll love reading it.

The book achieves multiple aims. For one, it welcomes you into Bash's dazzling world of beautifully-trained dogs that delight all who behold them. Bash works with the likes of Sarah Jessica Barker (oops, you know who I mean), Mariah Carey, JLo, Ron Howard, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Martin Scorsese. Did anybody hear a major Hollywood name getting dropped? If so, hold your ears because here comes another big name; Bash has trained Henry Kissinger's dog. The dog's politics might be controversial but nobody denies that he is brilliant and that when he barks, he does so with an elegant Viennese accent. Smile and say "Guten Tag!"

Then too, StarPet gives you knowledge essential to making your dog a big star right in his/her own castle. For example, the book includes instructions for training a dog to pick up an object, carry and then drop it. The aim of the move as well as the dog and human psychology and the mechanics involved in achieving it are all given in clearly-worded language such that you will be able to do the training successfully right in your home. I tested this one on a certain German shepherd named Schatzie who now performs it to perfection.

Bash is equally concerned about creating dog stars for Hollywood and home as he is about training dogs to help people and animals in need in both therapeutic and charitable settings. One K-9 under Bash's tutelage belonged to a psychiatrist. The children she was treating often didn't want to talk. She however encouraged them to talk to the dog, to engage in tricks with it, including waving and shaking, and before you could say Kool Dog cannoli dog treat, the ice was broken and the therapy could proceed. While Bash was working on training the dog, a cat was also present. He suggested training that cat too. The psychiatrist couldn't believe it. "You can train a cat?" Bash sure can! But that's enough about felines in our dog-love-dog context. Reminds me; whoever goes around spreading that ugly "dog-eat-dog" slander obviously hasn't been around dogs trained by Bash Dibra.

I asked Bash how people who want to get involved at whatever level with the use of dogs in therapeutic settings might set about doing so. "Go online and research different pet therapy organizations," he says. "Even if a person lives far from urban centers, groups often have satellite programs. A person could get involved in being their area's representative for the organization, going to local nursing homes or hospitals and encouraging them to get on board with the program. By doing that, you're creating a network, and not incidentally, cultivating audiences, so to speak, where you can eventually show everybody your shining star dog and have them reap health benefits from the joy the dog brings people."

Bash is also choc-a-bloc with smashing ideas for how you and yours can break into the big time. He says: "When we did the semi-satirical magazines, Dogue for Vogue, Catmopolitan for Cosmopolitan and Vanity Fur for Vanity Fair, dressing the animals up in haute couture, we were having fun at a time when that was not really going on in society. Nowadays though, as you realize, it is. And that has created a huge demand for dog actors. Casting directors are constantly on the lookout for new canine talent."

What is the bottom line for a Fifi or a Fido jumping into the big time? Bash says: "For print ads, the range of compensation runs from $50 to $500. TV commercials can result in as much as $1,500. Movies are an open contract. But let me qualify what I've said. The better trained your dog, and the more tricks it can reliably perform, the higher a fee s/he commands. If you go to a casting call and your dog among the others present performs impeccably you will get the contract and you will be able to name your price. You want to get things to the point where they simply can't believe what you can do with your dog."

Beyond the nuts and bolts, or better said, the treats and feats of training, Bash's StarPet book gives lots of insight into how you can go about organizing the business management of your dog's career. There are agencies that handle dogs and perhaps you would want to sign your dog up with one. Yet there are also benefits to being your own dog's talent manager. The pros and cons of this and related questions are treated in the book. You want to be thinking about how to put together a top-notch portfolio. Then there's the matter of (as it is so aptly put in the volume) getting your paw in the door.

Bash is enthusiastic about how a dog's acting career can be promoted by means of the internet. "As a promotional tool, the world wide web has opened up virtually unlimited possibilities. Pet owners have been empowered; a whole new industry has been created. You can become your own Madison Avenue."

The StarPet process has three fundamental steps. "Through training," Bash explains, "you build up your dog's confidence. You make this training fun for the dog and you play to his strengths. I want to point out that in no instance should anybody use punishment as part of a dog's training. It is counterproductive and leads to the dog being afraid of the sessions. There's a world of difference between giving a correction, and punishing." That difference is convincingly explained in StarPet.

The second of the steps is building up performance credits. They say that nothing succeeds like success but in truth, nothing succeeds like a dog barking on cue. "As your dog gets known for his talents, you command higher and higher fees." So the third step, you see, is landing those more lucrative contracts.

Bash relates a cute anecdote. "In the case of one human actor who shall remain nameless, he just could not do what the director wanted him to do. Yet the dog in the commercial got his bit done on the first take. Finally, in exasperation the director said to the human "The dog did it; why can't you?"

Bash Dibra's extensive resume in working with the top dogs in Hollywood could lead you to believe he wouldn't have time for anything else. I am here to tell you though that Mr. Bash Dibra is a hero to dogs and the people like us who love them so much. His charitable activities on behalf of dogs in need in themselves would appear to constitute a full-time career all on its own. Learn more about him at (www.bashdibra.com). Paws Across America, for example, (www.PawsAcrossAmerica.com) is his baby. Besides the fun aspects of that organization, it has saved many dogs lives. What I have to say having read StarPet and interviewed the man who wrote it is that he is worthy of our most profound admiration.

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