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Culture: Reviews
Do Over Dogs

“It’s never too late to begin again,” says veteran trainer Pat Miller, and in her new book, she shows us how to do just that. Whether you have a newly rescued pooch or a long-time canine companion with lingering “issues,” Miller offers guidance and insights that are both practical and inspiring. Her discussions of the shelter world, adopting a do-over dog, and the science behind training and behavior provide valuable context in which to understand and apply her advice.

Culture: Reviews
Dogs Can Sign, Too
A Breakthrough Method for Teaching Your Dog to Communicate

All of us talk to our dogs, but with this book, we’re given a way to teach them to talk back. Adding to dogs’ innate repertoire of communication signals, the author shows us in step-by-step fashion how to help our pups develop a vocabulary of gestures that convey both basic ideas and more complicated concepts, including answering questions. While many experts feel that dogs lack the capacity to learn a non-natural language, Senechal disagrees, and created K9 Sign Language to prove it. The basis of this approach is that “anything a dog can identify can be linked to a word and a corresponding body gesture.” From that perspective, dogs using sign language may not be such a far-fetched idea after all.

Culture: Reviews
Mini Encyclopedia of Dog Health

This compact book is indeed encyclopedic in its coverage of the common and not-so-common pitfalls of canine health. Beginning with an overview of how to have a healthy dog, it then segues into specifics of first aid and emergency care and the more complicated issues of system-based ailments. Neurological, circulatory, respiratory and more are covered. It is also fully illustrated; the diagrams showing how the various systems work are particularly informative. While no book can substitute for a vet’s attention, this one goes a long way toward helping us know when it’s time to seek that attention.

Culture: Reviews
Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog

Well-educated dog owners and dog professionals worldwide continue to be dismayed by the ongoing presentation of Cesar Millan’s inappropriate, sometimes dangerous approach to dog behavior modification or, as Millan likes to call it, “dog psychology.” This new book may be an attempt to quell some of the ever-growing opposition to Millan’s less-than-scientifically supported dog-handling techniques.

Though Millan acknowledges that he disagrees with many highly regarded, experienced and educated professionals in the field of dog training and behavior, he includes some of their perspectives here. From the “positive” side of the trainer world, he invites comments from the notable Bob Bailey, guru to thousands of educated dog trainers, and Dr. Ian Dunbar, founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), author and early advocate of rewardbased training. Among the professionals included are Bonnie Brown-Cali, Patrick Burns, Barbara DeGroodt, Mark Harden, Katenna Jones, Joel Silverman, K irk Turner a nd G ary Wilkes. If you think this creates a confusing end product, you’re right.

There is more actual substance in this book t han i n p rior M illan e fforts, thanks in large part to the contributions of his visiting trainers. Information on Millan’s own approach to modifying the behavior of the dogs he works with, while somewhat more fleshed-out than in prior books, is not a comprehensive description of his methods. Although— for the first time—he attempts to define some of his non-scientific terms such as “balanced,” the results are less than satisfying.

In the end, while the book appears to be an attempt at an historical and current overview of a wide spectrum of training philosophies and methods, it falls short of being a usable guide to dog behavior and training.

Culture: Reviews
Play with Your Dog
Dogwise Publishing, 149 pp., 2008; $14.95

In our second book, Play with Your Dog, Pat Miller shares her observation that almost every dog-human interaction is an opportunity to have fun while building a stronger relationship. Rich with photos of dogs at play (by themselves and with each other, children and adults), this book sets the stage for playtime with lively descriptions of a wide variety of dog play styles, including “body-slammers,” “chasers” and “wrestlers,” personalities I recognize in neighborhood dogs.Having identified your dog’s style, you’re well positioned to match compatible playmates or introduce a new dog to your family pack. For those nervous about loud and energetic play, including growling, snarling and biting,Miller demystifies mock aggression and explains how to tone down exuberant play before it escalates. She briefly samples dozens of play opportunities that allow you to subtly reinforce obedience commands, which will help ensure that your dog remains a welcomed participant in family and public outings. Devoting an entire chapter to play between children and their dogs, Miller emphasizes ways that are safe and fun for all. (The chapter on “Rehabilitating the Play-Deprived Dog”will come in handy at my house for Sport, our senior rescue, who is still learning how to play.) 

So, when the weather outside is frightful, take your favorite doggie cookbook off the shelf, whip up some tasty training morsels and surprise your best friend with your special attention, yummy treats and great new games inspired by these creative and experienced authors. 

Culture: Reviews
Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep?

“Border Collies,” as a Scottish shepherd once told me, “have been bred for 300 years to work with us.” Bred to work sheep over difficult terrain to their humans’ faint whistled commands, Border Collies’ strong work ethic and trainability have made them excel in work shepherds could never have imagined. Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep? tells of two littermates with important but very different responsibilities.

Carol Lea Benjamin is a native New York dog trainer who wrote the bestselling Mother Knows Best. Denise Wall breeds, trains and trials sheepdogs, and fondly recalls her grandmother’s farm, where every new stockdog was “Dolly.”

Two years ago, Carol took puppy Sky home to train as a service dog while Sky’s littermate, May, remained on Denise’s farm to learn the sheepdog’s traditional trade. In alternating chapters, each author shows us how her pup matured and learned its life work.

Taxis, buses, restaurants, gyms, street people, jampacked sidewalks, frantic dog parks, MANY odors, hooting horns, police strobes: that’s Sky’s Manhattan, where the young dog learns to anticipate and relieve his owner’s sudden, debilitating pain. Since Carol’s Crohn’s disease can flare up any time, Sky never leaves Carol’s side. Carol describes their connection: “The intimate relationship between me and my dog gave me back what having a disability took away.… Instead of feeling alone, with Sky at my side, I felt part of the human race, ready to face anything even when I was ill. There’s no prescription, no man-made pill that can do what a dog can do.”

From her Tennessee sheep farm, Denise writes: “It was important that I recognized that she [May] was trying to do the right thing, even when things didn’t go exactly right … the young sheepdog needs time to develop all her instincts and learn how to balance them with self-control in order to become a good worker.” May made the grade; at two years old, she qualified for the National Finals Sheepdog Trials.

After Sky was fully trained as a service dog, the littermates had a glad reunion on the farm where, for the first time, Sky worked sheep.

Carol and Denise have spent their lives training dogs, and Sky and May’s stories are lucid, insightful and sometimes surprising. The reader will discover two wonderful dogs.

As a child, I was enthralled by Jack London, Eric Knight and Albert Payson Terhune. Somehow, magically, the stray mutts my family took in became like White Fang, Lassie and Lad of Sunnybrook Farm. Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep? stands comparison with those classics. 

Culture: Reviews
Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had

If you haven’t read Colter, you’re in luck, because you still have it to look forward to. Written by Rick Bass, Colter is the “true story of the best dog” he ever had, a German Shorthaired Pointer, the runt of the litter who blooms into a genius of a hunting dog.

When Bass adopts Colter, the dog is “bony, cross-legged, pointy-headed, goofy-looking.” But the ungainly young dog shows surprising potential. Bass engages a field trainer, who molds him into the great hunting dog he was born to be.

The “brown bomber” becomes a topnotch pointing dog, and Bass marvels in his flawless execution as he goes “on lock-solid, drop-dead point … head and shoulders hunched and crouched, bony ass stuck way up in the air, body halftwisted, frozen, as if cautioning us of some hidden deadly betrayal: and green eyes afire, stub tail motionless.”

However, Bass can’t hit a bird, which frustrates Colter excessively. He takes to shrieking when the shotgun fires and no bird falls. Bass can live with his poor aim: “In bird hunting … one little window of dog perfection, one wedge of success, thirty seconds of grace, is enough to obliterate al l the errors of a lifetime.” However, he hates his ineptitude for his dog’s sake. Occasionally—by accident, he says—he hits one; he finally enrolls in a shooting school in hopes of improving his aim. He does, much to Colter’s joy.

As all dog stories ultimately do, this one ends sadly. To love a dog entails the risk of loss. We pay this price, and dearly. However, anyone who has ever loved a dog will agree that the risk is worth taking, for the love of a dog is priceless. The same can be said of Colter: it may make us sad but is well worth the reading.

Culture: Reviews
Tea and Dog Biscuits

“You take in dogs?” Lonely after the loss of their 14-year-old German Shepherd, Barrie Hawkins and his wife embarked on rescue work, starting GSD Homefinders (gsdhomefinders.org.uk) in their rural English village with only the most general idea of what it would involve. Word spread quickly, and in no time, all manner of Shepherds in need of homes turned up on their doorstep. In Tea and Dog Biscuits, Hawkins chronicles the couple’s first year of rescue and fostering. He does a lovely job describing each dog and is candid about his general ineptitude, especially in the early days. This is a story of hope and healing, both of the dogs and of the couple who took them in.

News: Karen B. London
Low Stress Handling
Sophia Yin’s advice book available free online

Sophia Yin has written another great book to go along with her popular Small Animal Veterinary Nerdbook and How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. Her latest book is called Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats. The ideas and techniques in this book can improve safety at veterinary clinics, decrease stress in the animals, and make life easier for veterinarians, guardians and their pets. And best of all, an abridged version is available online for free through December.

  This book is all about helping animals who are nervous when visiting the veterinarian, those who dislike grooming or handling, and even those who feel uncomfortable with visitors at home. Specific issues in the book include getting dogs in and out of kennels and putting them on leash, different methods of restraint necessary for procedures, picking dogs up, the principles of classical and operant conditioning, modifying behavior through a variety of techniques, recognizing fear and understanding dominance.   Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and behaviorist, is an expert in behavior modification. Her book is a product of her knowledge of learning theory combined with her practical experience. With clear text, more than 1,600 photos and 100 video clips with informative narration, this book can help improve the lives of our pets as well as our relationships with them. There are sections on helping pets who already have issues with handling, and the book also covers ways to help puppies (and kittens) learn at an early age to take being handled in stride throughout their lives.   So many dogs and cats struggle to deal with every day handling and care or completely freak out at the veterinarian. By modifying behavior—both that of humans and of dogs and cats, so much of the resulting stress can be eliminated or at least greatly decreased, and this book provides the sort of practical information needed to make it happen.
News: Karen B. London
Mutt Match
Finding the right dog

I still consider my one-time success at setting up friends who later married to be among the biggest accomplishments of my life. Matchmaking is a time-honored skill that has just as big a place in the dog world as in the human world. Adopting the right dog to suit your lifestyle is that first and oh-so-important step towards a happy relationship.

  That’s why I’m such a fan of Mutt Match, an organization dedicated to promoting adoption of rescue dogs into permanent, loving homes. Meg Boscov and Liz Maslow, whose love for dogs led them to found Mutt Match, are both Certified Pet Dog Trainers with a great deal of experience working with shelter dogs. The service they provide is to find the right dog for their clients to adopt. A lot of what makes a dog well suited to a particular family is not obvious to members of the general public. Even people who are very knowledgeable about dogs have been known to fall in love at first sight with one that would not ultimately be the best bet for a strong relationship and a happy life together.   Mutt Match helps people find the right dog by providing a private in-home consultation, searching local shelters for appropriate dogs and conducting behavioral testing on those dogs, conducting a meet and greet for the shelter dog with the family, and offering a follow-up consultation. They suggest a donation of $200 for the combination of all these. Since becoming established as a business in January of this year, they’ve made 36 happy matches. When I asked Meg and Liz if they have a favorite story of a match, they shared this story.   “We were walking through one of our local SPCAs when we saw a young couple standing by a kennel, and the woman was crying. We stopped to see if we could help, and she told us her story. She was diagnosed with MS a couple of years ago. The disease had progressed to the point where she could no longer work or drive. She (Susan) and her fiancé Carmen had been looking for a tiny companion dog to enrich Susan's life.   “They were at the point of giving up when we met them. On their own, they were daunted by the task of finding just the right match for Susan. They had spent several frustrating months scanning Petfinder.com and visiting the local SPCAs. Tiny dogs are rarer in the rescue world compared to larger dogs, and when there was a small dog in need of a home, by the time Susan and Carmen would arrive at the SPCA, the tiny dog would already be spoken for.   

“We arranged an appointment to meet with Susan and Carmen in their home. During our meeting we discussed their hopes and dreams for Susan's own personal therapy dog, a lap dog small enough for Susan to carry. After leaving, we reached out to our amazing rescues and shelters, and within a couple of days Susan was home with Lucy, a darling six-pound Manchester Terrier whose idea of the good life was loving and being loved by her special someone. Susan says that Lucy has brightened every aspect of her life."

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