Check It Out

Courier Article by Becky Browning
Sunday, November 7, 2004

Dog Guides Will Put Bark on Your Tree of Knowledge

Joseph Campbell, lifelong teacher and student of the human spirit, said, "Follow your bliss. Find where it is, and don't be afraid to follow it."

I feel fortunate to be able to live Campbell's advice. For me, bliss means books and dogs, so coming to work in a library and training dogs in the evening (mine and other peoples' at the Evansville Obedience Club) give me my "bliss fix" every day. The following are books and videos about training, living with and loving dogs.

Good Puppy! A Step-By-Step Training Guide by Jeanne Carlson (video, Sound Dog Productions, 1988).

It is so important to give your puppy a good start. What makes this video especially helpful is that Carlson uses 10 to 12 puppies that have had no prior training. Puppy issues such as cuddle, dominance and examination training are demonstrated, along with bite prevention and calming exercises. The "settling techniques" are particular useful in dealing with rambunctious puppies that, if not taught otherwise, would soon turn into rambunctious, bratty adolescents.

It's Not the Dog: Training You to Train Your Dog by Charlotte the Dog Trainer (video, Charlotte Foster, 2001).

Foster says of her training philosophy: "After training hundreds of dogs, I realized that it is far more important to train the owners than to train the dogs." The video was filmed at an obedience school and takes you through several weeks of class sessions. The methods used are fair and humane, and Foster has a real flair for dealing with people and their dogs.

Dog Talk: Training Your Dog Through a Canine Point of View by John Ross (St. Martin's Press, 1995).

This is by far the definitive dog-training book for pet people. It contains much valuable information.

For starters, Ross makes it clear that well-trained dogs are not created by magic but by patience, commitment and a regular training program. The middle section of this book contains step-by-step instructions for teaching what all dogs should know: sit, stay, come, lie down, how to walk politely on leash and no jumping up.

A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me by Jon Katz (Villard, 2002).

Too many people end up with the wrong dog. If you don't do your homework, what happened to Katz can happen to you. After having a couple of couch-potato dogs, Katz is persuaded to adopt, Devon, a border collie.

Chaos and frustration ensue. If not for Katz's determination to bond, train and give this dog a "job," Devon, like so many dogs, would have ended up in a shelter, or worse.

The New Work of Dogs by Jon Katz (Villard, 2003).

This book is an assortment of stories about people and the dogs in their lives: a group of divorced women, a terminal cancer patient, a woman who rescues abandoned and mistreated dogs and a suburbanite father whose main connection to the world around him is his Labrador retriever. Katz warns, however, that no matter how wonderful we think our dogs are, they are still creatures different from us, and we need to give careful consideration to our relationship and to the reality of our expectations.

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia B. McConnell (Ballatine books, 2002).

Dogs are not verbal animals. Rather than "chatting up" your dog, pay attention to your body language when trying to communicate.

Says McConnell: "All dogs are brilliant at perceiving the slightest movement that we make, and they assume that each tiny movement has meaning."

When you do speak to your dog, try to avoid sending conflicting and confusing messages.

If you say, "Sit Down," what's a dog to do? Sit or lie down?

Remember, dog training should make sense to you and to the dog.

Becky Browning is a readers' advisor at Oaklyn Branch and an avid reader.