Bash Dibra, a well-known animal trainer (he also trains dogs to be
movie and advertisement stars), author and organizer of events such as
Paws Across America, is well known among the doggie set. He has
trained famous people's dogs -- Martin Scorsese's, Jennifer Lopez's, and
even Henry Kissinger's. His newest title, Your Dream Dog, is a basic,
good beginners' guide to choosing the appropriate breed, full of advice
and personal anecdotes.
The most useful sections are the descriptions of 140 "officially
recognized" breeds, with photos and information about their habits,
energy, hair and the diseases that most generally afflict these
particular canines. For example, the German shorthaired pointer "should
not be kept in the city or an apartment." These medium-sized dogs need a
lot of exercise. They were meant to be pointers, hunters and guarders,
and do not want to be left alone or become couch potatoes. Norwegian
elkhounds have a lot of stamina and like large yards. Although Bash says
her "medium-length coat sheds a little," in my sister-in-law's
experience, her dog shed enough for her to knit a sweater quite quickly!
Certainly, the pug sounds extremely suitable for many possible animal
companions, as does, somewhat surprisingly to me, the Chihuahua, the
oldest breed in North America. Although I've known them to be barky,
they live quite long and "are lively, intelligent, very affectionate,
bold, and clever." Because they are so small, they are also extremely
fragile and "toddlers should not handle them." The French bulldog, a
breed I know little about, sounds appropriate for many families,
especially those who live in apartments. "'Frenchies' have heart,
humor, and friendliness all packed into a small package," writes Dibra.
In fact, these smaller dogs are often most suitable for today's wannabe
dog companions if they have a small amount of time or space.
Four other aspects that are excellent in this volume are
He also thinks older dogs often
make good companions for older people, if chosen wisely.
- My Dream
Dog Notebook, a form to fill out about physical care and temperament to
help a person decide what to choose,
- a directory of dog
organizations, where a customer can find more information on dog traits
- Dibra's fondness for kennel and rescue dogs and his
discouraging of buying a dog in a pet shop and
- his high
recommendation of obedience training.
Where this book falls down, in my opinion as an animal writer, is in two
areas. Dibra does not cite any sources or recommend any other useful dog
books. Nor does he give enough information about starting out with the
most healthful tools -- the most nutritious food, the best quality animal
dishes, the best toys, the safest drinking water. He is following the
traditional party line here; he doesn't espouse an alternative health
agenda, it appears. Therefore, it would behoove a first-time dog owner,
or one who has recently lost a young dog, to read supplementary
materials in addition to Your Dream Dog in order to get any new dream dog off
on the right paw.