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  • Welcome to Our Blog!

    We are Becky & Dave Bishop! Thanks for stopping by our blog! This is where we update on the events, activities, and adventures here at Crystal Creek Farms, home of Puppy Manners, located in beautiful Woodinville, WA!

    "Dig" around and explore! Maybe you'll find a helpful bone or two! Either way, we'll "treat" you to some great information including dog training tips, puppy help, and how you and your canine partner can become certified in therapy!

    We'll also be sharing videos, photos, and stories---both personal and professional---that will be sure to entertain!

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Starting a business? “No” is never the final answer.

In the summer of 1994, I had a Labrador puppy named “Magic” that I purchased from a breeder. We had an older dog (also a Labrador) named “Yogi”, but I wanted a puppy that I could train to be my “business partner”, as I had decided I was going to put my passion into action and become a professional dog trainer. To do that, I knew I needed a puppy that I could train from the ground up. Just as Yogi was our family dog, Magic was too, but I was very intent that she would be my partner and my “demo” dog. So we went to school on each other and boy, she was a handful. Not easy at all! She was a hard, field-bred lab, and I’m sure every time I wanted to give up on her, she wanted to give up on me as well. But we rode it out and she was the best business partner I could have ever asked for. Truly a well-trained dog, one of the first “Reading with Rover” dogs in Seattle and my best friend.

Originally, I wanted to start my own business just so I’d have an outlet for my passion, which was dogs, and still be a stay-at-home mom. I also really wanted to make enough money to buy a horse, feed it and care for it. Dave panicked and made me promise I wouldn’t go out and buy a horse until I had steady money coming in. Surprise! That didn’t take long. But the real thing I had going for me was not my gift for dog training, but rather, my naivety. Unbeknownst to me, a friend had told Dave that it would be a really difficult industry for me to break into since there were already well-established dog trainers in the area and our little town of Woodinville was small. Thankfully, my husband never told me this until after I was off and running and I’m so grateful he didn’t. When you start a business, you don’t want to solicit a bunch of naysayers, you want cheerleaders! It never crossed my mind that this could fail and after all, it was just going to be “fun money”, the buffer that would enable us to take vacations as a young family, as well as finance other little perks… like a horse!

I started taking Magic to puppy classes all over the place. I was enrolled in several classes at various facilities and what I learned most from these other successful training facilities was what I didn’t like in puppy training. While picking up a short list of new techniques, I couldn’t help noticing how much I disagreed with what was being taught. At one particular location, the trainer actually brought students to tears, raising her voice, berating them in front of the other students with statements like, “How many times have I told you NOT to hold the leash that way?!” or “STOP repeating your commands–Say it once and make it happen!” I knew I could hold the leash right and I had pretty good timing, so I mostly flew under the radar, but I quickly observed that when there was an intimidating trainer in the room, the human end of the leash couldn’t help feeling nervous and fearful, and that energy traveled straight from the handler’s hand and into their dog. After that, neither handler or dog could function with any trace of confidence and they stopped having fun! Having a puppy should be fun, right? But no fun was being had in these group classes.

The instructors were all competitive show dog handlers too and they left no wiggle room. “Sit” had to be an immediate sit, “down” had to happen instantly, “wait” had to be performed with a keen eye-to-eye focus from the dog. Do you know how hard that is with a 20-week-old field-bred Labrador puppy that cannot control her wiggle? This was my first scolding from an instructor. She said, “You need to get her to take this more seriously!” and she snatched my leash and strung my puppy up so her front feet came off the ground for a few seconds and sternly said “SIT.” For one second, Magic sat, and then she immediately started to wiggle… again. I managed to smile (despite what she had just done to my dog) and I told the instructor I would work on it at home, but on the inside, I was taking mental notes for how I wanted to approach teaching someone else. Magic took this correction much better than I did. Dogs move on, humans struggle to let go. If I learned one thing from that trainer, it was that I would never adopt her approach.

For one thing, I’d never tear the leash from the handler’s hand–it’s rude and condescending. I knew I’d try to make handlers feel good for trying and that it’s “okay” to give a puppy some wiggle room. I’d remind them that this isn’t a competition. Most people I knew just wanted a well-behaved family dog that wouldn’t embarrass them. And so that’s what I wanted to teach. I wanted to teach better, not perfect. I wanted to read the human first, the dog second. Any trainer can make a puppy look good but sometimes, it can be at the handler’s expense and that was not the business model I wanted to pursue.

In 1995, the classes available for training a puppy required they be a minimum of 20 weeks in age. But most people were getting their puppy at eight weeks old, so there was a critical period of time between 8-20 weeks that no one was getting help. Everyone was flying blind! I remember how Dave and I floundered with our puppies when our children were small–we had no idea what we were doing, nor was there any help out there that I could find. We had to re-home our first dog, a huge lab/dane mix named “Buck”, because I couldn’t handle him and a baby. Looking back, if I’d had someone like me to help, he would have been a great dog. So I decided I would start there, with the 8-20 week window, offering private lessons for families in their home. In some way, I hoped Buck would be proud of me for helping people with their dogs the way I wish I could’ve been helped with him.

When I first started looking for client leads, I solicited veterinarians because they are the first professionals you see when get a puppy. I started with my own vet and he gladly helped me market my business, (thank you, Dr. Matson of Hollywood Hill Animal Hospital)! At the time, I was offering private lessons, but I didn’t really know much about marketing. What I did know is that I had zero budget. So I wrote up a training tip called “Why Won’t My Dog Come to Me?” and printed it onto flyers and placed them in various veterinarian offices. They were instantly well-received! People were taking them and the calls started coming in. Eventually, I had a vest that my training dogs would wear whenever we went to town. It had my “Puppy Manners” logo and the word “student” across the back. It was probably the best billboard I could have ever come up with! I felt very official because at this point, I also had business cards that I could hand out. And this was when it started getting interesting…

About a year into my business, I was at a client’s house and they were really struggling with their shepherd-mix. On a whim, I offered to take the dog away for 10 days. That would be my very first “board and train” client. It was comical. I presented this idea to my client as if I had done hundreds of “board and trains.” The reality was this was my first one. Ever. It was an off-the-cuff idea but it was a brilliant one. I just suggested they let me take their dog and put him through my program and bring him back with some training. What they didn’t know was that my “program” began in the car on the way home with this “wild child” puppy bouncing in my back seat. Luckily, he was a great dog and the training stuck! I discovered if puppies get exercise and consistency, the turn around is remarkable. Thus, my “board and train” program began.

But poor Dave. He gave me one of the bays in our three-car garage to put in a dog run. Of course, it wasn’t long before the second and third bays were needed as well and he was forced to work around the garage entirely. By 1999, we knew we were outgrowing our current one-acre lot and we started looking for more acreage with a horse arena. In 1999 we found Crystal Creek Farms, a small mini-horse farm in Woodinville and it was perfect. Five acres, a horse arena, a barn and a ton of broken down fencing. By that time, I had a real-life “Field of Dreams” mentality. Like if I could build it, they would come!

We had just moved in and started ripping into the fencing to make it “dog safe” when we got shattering news. Dave was laid off. Like many of the .com companies, his bombed and he was out of a job. I was sick to my stomach. I lost 17 pounds over a period of about 3 weeks. My little puppy business was now responsible for our whole income. The mortgage, health insurance, and all the financial bills that go with a family with three kids to support and feed. I honestly had a whole new appreciation for my husband, he had always had this responsibility and it became clear why men statistically die before women. After about a week of throwing myself a pity party, I decided to just have the same attitude I had when I started this business. I wouldn’t worry because the business was still growing and now, I’d have my husband build me a sweet website. We would work together and build a real company and maybe even hire an employee! In the beginning, my kids really pitched in and helped. I tried to make it fun and they were totally unaware of the financial uncertainty we were facing. I’ve always felt kids can worry about this stuff when they become adults; there was no need to keep them informed on your adult concerns and cause them to worry. Kids worry enough about their own life. What got us through was our faith.Dave and I are both Christians and that plays a leading role in how we live our lives. There is an old proverb that says “Pray to God in the storm — but keep on rowing.” I didn’t shut down, I kept rowing. Today, Puppy Manners is a full service boarding facility, serving the finest families in the Seattle area. We offer group classes that consistently have a waiting list of over 100 dogs who want into our school. We have six full-time employees, and 11 part-time employees. We’ve won awards from Seattle Magazine Best Dog trainer to “Best of Western Washington” from King5 TV. I’ve worked with several movie stars like Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky, horrible movie but my dog I think was the star) and Sandra Bullock in “Practical Magic”, which was a better book than movie, but I love them both! My business now supports my community in many ways and I’m forever grateful for the many wonderful clients who I consider all friends, some like family. When people entrust their dogs to us, we really feel honored and blessed. To this day I still have the same passion I had day one. Perhaps some of this is just my natural competitive spirit that I do think I’ve passed on to my three children who all are doing very well in their careers. Our small family business was able to pay for our kid’s college tuition and they did not have to leave college with a huge debt of college loans. Our son has no college debt. I’m so proud of that. Just an incredible feeling to help your kids get off to a good start, much like puppies!

My best advice to anyone who wants to start his or her own business is to never take “no” as the final answer. If you have a passion and you know your good at what you do, then keep going. Seek out those who lift you up and encourage you. Don’t’ ask too many people what they think, especially if what they think won’t change your mind anyway. They may think you’re crazy! And that’s okay! Sometimes you have to be a little crazy to think you can build something from nothing, because who does that? Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I did!

For me, what I discovered about dog training is you can be the best dog trainer in the world, but if you have no people skills, people will not have your back. Dog training is more about coaching people, helping them feel good about their dog. That’s the real trick, because training the dog is easy. It also helps to have a great supportive, dog-loving husband like Dave, and a family that believes in you.

Letting Go / Feature

Reagan and "Tuffy", the day before he got his angel wings!

As much as we want to keep our pets with us forever, we simply cannot make it happen. The beauty of horses is they get to live much longer than dogs. Our horses are now well into their 20′s and healthy. But our show horse, “Tuffy”, the one who my daughter Carly got all her blue ribbons, all her trophies, and a lot of her self esteem and confidence, came from this wonderful horse. We actually sold “Tuffy” years ago when Carly went to college and by a stroke of luck, he came back to us from the family that purchased him from us. Seems their daughter, too, had now gone off to college and they loved “Tuffy” enough to let the people who loved him first have him back. We were thrilled to take him back. It seems that the daughter of the family that purchased him from us, “Tuffy” helped her through her parents’ divorce. And the boy, Andrew who came to ride him once a week, “Tuffy” helped him adjust to the bullying he was getting in his first year of high school. Being able to ride “Tuffy” gave Andrew a sense of control and let him know that he had something none of the other kids had—mental strength. Because getting a horse to do what you want when he outweighs you by a thousand pounds is a powerful statement to your mental strength. If the horse thinks your weak, he will not go forward. So “Tuffy” and Andrew went forward for several years and Andrew’s hard days of high school are now behind him and according to his mother, it was the access we gave to him to “Tuffy” that helped him through the rough times.
And then, of course, there’s Reagan (our granddaughter) and we were so blessed that “Tuffy” got to be the first horse she ever rode and he was, in the end, Reagan’s horse. He would trot across the pasture to meet her and her basket of carrots on the other side of the fence and take each carrot so gently. So how do you prepare a four-year-old for the lose of her pet, a dog, a horse or a cat, any pet that they’re attached to? I started months ago telling her how old “Tuffy” was and that someday, not today, but someday he would go to “Angel Mountain” and get his wings and join her dog “Rudy” and become an Angel Horse. Reagan rather liked that idea but wanted me to assure her that it was “Not today, right?” and I told her, “No, not today, but someday soon.” And that was all I said.
As the weeks drew near and we were down to our final week with “Tuffy”, I told Reagan that on Monday, he was going to Angel Mountain to get his wings. And don’t we all wish we could see this through the eyes of a four year old child? We were having one of our popular “Bark-BQ’s” with our student dog friends, which was a Sunday, so other people came over to also say good-bye to “Tuffy”. One of my clients was aware of the situation with our cherished horse and she asked Reagan “Is that your horse?” and Reagan proudly replied, “Yes, that’s ‘Tuffy’, he’s my horse and he’s going to to get his wings tomorrow! Boy, oh boy, oh boy, he is ONE lucky horse!” Everyone just laughed, and cried, and I would have never thought that our four-year-old granddaughter would some how make this easier, this “letting go” process. But she did.
Monday morning we woke up early. “Tuffy” had a bath the day before and he was brushed up and looked beautiful. Reagan was the second one in the barn, the first being our barn manager, Karen, who opens the barn in the morning. Reagan exclaimed upon seeing Karen, “Isn’t this the MOST exciting day, Karen?” and Karen said, “What’s so exciting Reagan?”, to which Reagan replied with this voice of excitement, as if she were going to Disneyland, “‘Tuffy’ is getting his wings today! He’s going to be an angel and fly in Heaven!” We all had tears in our eyes but had to hide those tears from Reagan who had the most positive outlook on the situation and honestly, to see it any other way would have been so sad. And then I thought it over and “Tuffy” really is one lucky horse! He has never had a bad day, he’s never been sold to an auction or to abusive people, he was an angel on earth and helped, not just my child, but many children along the way and he deserves to go with grace and dignity and without any suffering. Reagan is right, he is one lucky horse and we are one lucky family to have taken this journey with him and it was a gift to us that we got to be with him in the end.

Reading with Rover, D.R.E.A.M. (Dogs for Reading Assistance Education and More)

I wrote this article for a magazine recently and thought I’d share it here. For more information on Reading with Rover, please visit the website HERE.

Back in 1999 I received a phone call from MeiMei Wu, a dog loving librarian working at the King County Library in Bothell Washington. Summer was approaching and with that, as usual the kids section in the library would become a ghost town. Seems that in the summer, along with a school break kids take a break from reading as well.  MeiMei.  asked me if I would like to help her change all that. Because I’m a dog trainer and I have therapy dogs Mei Mei thought I would be a good contact to help set up reading sessions where kids read aloud to dogs. I was not so sure about this idea, “won’t the kids see right through it? It’s like we are tricking them to read? “  On the other hand I thought it would be “cute”, “sweet”, my dog would love it, but nothing that would really have any long lasting benefit to the kids. Of course this ended up that MeiMei had a great idea and boy, was I wrong.  I think not only did we change the summer reading population at the library, we may have changed the world!  Ok, maybe a stretch but I do think time will tell! Only a few weeks into the summer and several news organizations came out to film what we where doing, “Reading to a dog? Helps kids? What?” One of those news organizations was CNN, national news. Next thing we knew, we had gone what we call today, “gone viral!”  I had clients calling me from airports, seems our story was being promoted as a human interest story so it was being seen by a lot of people from all over the world.  It  was becoming obvious that because dogs are non judgmental creatures, they are the perfect reading buddy for a child with challenges. 

Reading with Rover dogs also visit hospitals, brightening up the day of someone who needs it.


The line of children at the library became so long that we actually had to make appointments for the kids to read to the dogs. My friend Dottie Snow, who also had therapy dogs and I started recruiting more teams to meet the demands that summer.

I would be lying if I did not say that my motivation in the beginning was slightly selfish, I thought from dog training business perspective  “what a great way to market what I do, get my name out there!” but that all changed when Animal Planet sent a production crew from England to Seattle to film our Reading with Rover program at Woodmoor elementary school. This was going to be part of a two hour Jane Goodall special called “When Animals Talk”   During the interviews, one of the kids, Kassidy who had leukemia since age two made this comment “I think it’s the dogs job to make you feel safe” and this comment was like an arrow that pierced through my heart because I knew what Kassidy was going through so the thought that our reading dogs could create a sense of “safe” feelings for her was remarkable. Reading with Rover is about feeding the heart and soul of not just our community of children but it’s a huge part of our lives, the handlers of the dogs as well.  That summer Kassidy died of leukemia. Her experience with our dogs changed not only my life but our mission. Today we not only help children with reading challenges but autistic children, children with cerebral palsy or other physical limitations. Any child with a special need can benefit from the experience they are having with one of our D.R.E.A.M dog teams. Not only are these dogs special, I have to say the dedicated people that hold the leash and sit back and let the magic happen are special as well.

Reading with Rover has grown from 3 reading dogs in a small library in Bothell Washington to over 120 ready teams, helping kids all over the Puget Sound. Since our segment aired on Animal Planet seven years ago I to this day get emails from all over the world, India, Germany, Australia, England, Mexico. There are now reading dog programs nation wide and also in Europe as well. Their groups have different names but it’s the same concept, dogs helping children by offering some non judgmental humane interaction.  All want to know how to set up a program like Reading with Rover in their community. Amazing isn’t it!  So are we changing the world? I think we are, one tail at a time.


Feature / Wooley

Our foster dog, “Wooley Bully”, needs a home!

“Wooley” came to us from a good family but sadly, like many dogs, her “Dog Ma” just didn’t have the time with her busy career to give “Wooley” the time she needed for training and exercise. Wooley came to us at 82 pounds and is now an athletic 60 pound Doodle! She is available for adoption to any family that has kids older than 14. She’s great with people and if anything, she’s the dog who “loves too much”, so we worry in a home with young children, she may accidently barrel them over. She is four years old and since living here at the ranch, has received tons of obedience training. She’s now ready to make the transition to her forever home. She loves to fetch, hike, and is a good watch dog too. She would be best as a single dog. On occasion, she will play with other dogs but it’s people she is mostly drawn too. She would most likely be fine with an older male dog who would let her be queen.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in “Wooley Bully” just email us at info@puppymanners.com. “Wooley” has lived here with us since January and we are just now putting the “woof” out about her. I have personally taken her shopping with me many times and she’s easy to shop with and has great leash manners. And let’s face it… With a grin like you see above, what’s not to love?

September 25, 2011 - 5:46 PM

Veronica - There is absolutely a lot to love. Sounds like a great dog and potential companion. Best of luck and I hope you have already found a home. Cheers.

Catching Up!

Wow! Spring came and went and now the summer is on it’s way out and I need to catch up here with what’s going on at the ranch!

Well, we are excited to announce that we, Puppy Manners, won “BEST of 425” in the 425 Magazine contest for Best Dog Trainers. But I have to say, it’s not just me and Dave. It’s our amazing crew of people that work here. Karen, Nate, Patrick, Dylan, Jamie, Brian, George and Kyle. They care as much about the dogs and Crystal Creek Farms as we do. Just an amazing, caring and dedicated crew of people who take pride in where they work and what they do. Dave and I cannot thank them enough! On top of that, the other BIG win was Reading with Rover, which won for Best Local Non-Profit! That’s an amazing feat because there was serious competition, with non-profits much bigger than us. But in the end, the community spoke with their vote and we are so proud of our Reading with Rover program and what the volunteers and their “rover dogs” do for kids all over the Seattle area.

In other news, we’ve received a lot of questions about our foster dog, “Dusty”, and whatever happened to her? You can read about “Dusty” in this previous blog post. After her DNA test came back, we were not so surprised that she is 52% Doberman and 12% Malamute. But the real shocker was this bit–the results reported that “Dusty” is 12% Pekinese! No wonder she’s such an odd little duck! The remaining 25% is unidentified DNA, which our veterinarian says can be a rare breed not included in the data bank. It’s possible for her to even have some coyote, wolf, or other feral dog breed, which would make more sense due to her extreme shyness and feral like behavior. She came from a litter born on an Indian reservation and it was a feral litter. Her mother is most likely feral as well, so she has some ingrained behaviors that we struggle with, like warming up to people. But there’s not a mean bone in her body and she loves, loves, LOVES other dogs. She is one of the most socially appropriate dogs I’ve ever seen. However, finding a home for her has proven nearly impossible. She simply will never be a dog that can settle in, curl up by the fire place, frolic with kids, greet strangers with a wag of her tail, or be a happy house dog. She is still a bowl of shaking Jell-O with every perspective family that comes to visit and she almost becomes catatonic. Just so sad. Most dogs when they meet families, it’s like speed dating and they know right away “this is the dog for us!” But for “Dusty”? It’s just not in the cards.

Dave, Becky, and Barn Manager, Karen, with "Dusty"

So fast forward to today and I’m happy to tell you “Dusty” has, indeed, found her perfect home! The family is willing to accept her for who she is, not for who they wish she was and she’s such a happy dog! She will let people pet her, people she is familiar with of course, and she is loved and adored by many because she is officially a Bishop! That’s right, Dave and I adopted “Dusty”. We recognized that she loves it here at Crystal Creek Farms and it’s clear she loves to run with a pack of dogs. “Zoom” is getting older and I can’t really keep using her as a “greeter dog” to test a dog’s social skills. Enter “Dusty”, who we also call our “ranch dog” because she has a job and that’s to tire out all the puppies that comes to stay with us and be the official “greeter dog” for new guests. She makes them feel welcome and accepted, which is exactly what we need from her! So everyone can rest in the knowledge that “Dusty” has found her perfect forever-home and she is very happy.

As for our personal lives, Dave had hip replacement surgery a couple months ago and is recovering beautifully. He’s also lost 45 pounds post-surgery! Additionally, I have lost nearly 20 pounds! We decided to start practicing what we preach for dogs, to live well, eat better, and trim the fat! It’s been a pretty amazing journey, but it’s not difficult when you have great family support, which we’ve had from our kids and of course, each other. We celebrated 32 years of marriage this month. I love Dave a lot and am so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together.

Also new in our lives is a new pup named “Diesel”! Technically, he’s our granddaughter, Reagan’s, dog, but he’s been living with us for a couple months now while Solomon, our son-in-law, builds a fence to keep “Diesel” safely in the yard. “Diesel” has turned out to be an incredibly loving, amazing yellow Labrador from SunnyDaze Labradors in Bellingham. He’s such an exceptional dog, he’s been nicknamed “Special”, which suits him perfectly.

The ranch is literally hoppin’ with fur and has been a great place to spend the summer. As fall quickly approaches, we will take one short trip to Alderbrook Resort for a few days. We will not be bringing a dog, something we haven’t done in over a decade. A trip for just me and Dave on a well deserved vacation and we can’t wait! It’s amazing whenever we go somewhere without a dog, as I find myself actually looking for dogs to connect with… I just need them in my life, I guess. I guess if you have to have an addiction, wanting and needing to pet a dog on a daily basis can’t be unhealthy… Right?

One last thing before I sign off! If you haven’t checked it out yet, head over to our Vimeo Page, where you’ll find several short videos of dog training tips. Several of them are simply iPhone clips and others are more in-depth training videos. All of them are fun to watch and extremely informative. Be sure to leave comments on the ones that help you most and please, feel free to make request for specific videos and we’ll do our best to go over those topics soon. Thanks for sticking around for our updates! We love our clients and readers and as always, we do our best to address your puppy training needs as they come up. Thanks for reading!

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