Dogs need guidance and discipline as much as children do. They love routine almost as much as they love their humans. They want to be polite; most of all, they want to please us. But some breeds are more hyper than others, some individuals have no training, some have been abused or neglected.
Here’s where My Smart Puppy™ by veteran writers Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson comes in. It is a wonderful handbook of helpful hints on how to kindly, yet firmly, train your new puppy. In fact, I think much of the authors’ advice could also pertain to an older dog who has had insufficient or no training. A friend’s Benji-look-alike dog, at two (relinquished once before), could benefit from a lot of hints here. She is adorable and is almost totally lacking in etiquette.
Here are a few pointed, clear messages: “Twice a day… your puppy will go a little nuts… This is what we call a FRAP – a frenetic random activity period…Coined by a client years ago, this term aptly describes the puppy crazies. This stage passes, but it is mighty cute while it is here!” (i.e., you’re not alone in experiencing this frenetic energy.) The authors list several corrections to help your puppy learn, like “removal of eye contact,” “acting in a startling way,” “removal of meal,” and “stopping play.” These are not mean if used correctly, they advise: “Corrections also calm the puppy, always a good idea. The authors, like most other dog experts, advocate the use of a crate for a variety of uses.
Perhaps most important is this statement: “If you want your puppy to change what she is doing, you must change what you are doing first. There’s no other way to do it – sorry.” Dog training pertains to both of you, and all puppies (unless severely damaged in some way) can and want to learn.
This reader also appreciates the recommendation of feeding high-quality premium puppy food. Some foods are more calming than others, apparently, and what goes into cheap commercial food is sometimes enough to kill a dog (or cat) over its lifetime. Our commercial pet foods are not government regulated. This is a book about training, but a person wants a happy and healthy pet. Just as with children, training and diet go hand in hand.
Although bad puppy manners is not a frequently stated reason for relinquishing a dog to a shelter, it certainly comes into play. In a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, out of 12 animal shelters in the U.S. over one year, this is what they found: The bulk of the relinquished dogs – 47.7% -- were between five months and three years of age. And most of those young dogs, at a whopping 96%, had no obedience training whatsoever.
Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson have teamed up many times before to write about four-legged creatures. Previous titles include Tails from the Barkside; Good Owners, Great Cats; Good Owners, Great Dogs; and Paws to Consider: Choosing the Right Dog for You and Your Family (and others). The authors consistently receive high customer reviews for their practical, loving approach to living sensibly and wisely with dogs or cats.
The only drawback I might point out is that the book’s design is a bit too busy - too many bullets, pullout quotes, sidebars. However, several charming black and white photos, especially of children and puppies, are included.