Review: Adopting a Dog

Adopting a Dog, by John Ross and Barbara McKinney

Since I’m leaning more and more into the adoption camp, I thought it would be a good idea to read a book specifically about adopting a dog. One of my primary hesitations about adopting a dog from the shelter is handling the behavioral baggage that these abandoned dogs may come with. I picked up Adopting a Dog from the library and looked forward to learning more.

The beginning of book provides some helpful insight on choosing a dog and bringing it home from the shelter or rescue agency. For instance, Ross and McKinney point out basic facts, such as that it’s probably unwise to choose the dog who cowers at the back of his kennel when you approach. Even though your heart may be moved by his fearful display, this will be a dog who will–most likely–be extremely difficult to train.

Ross seems to have written most of the training chapters and I wasn’t hugely impressed by his methods. I’ve been completely sold on positive training methods since the first serious dog book I read and so I get suspicious when people like Ross criticize positive training as being unable to produce results and insisting that dogs need physical discipline. Ross commonly recommends physical corrections like leash pops and forcing a dog into positions (like sitting, down, etc.).

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t very impressed with his training regimen. Unlike positive trainers like Pat Miller and Patricia McConnell, who are actually certified in their fields, Ross does not appear to have any serious credentials–aside from the fact that he’s owned a lot of dogs. This is certainly more than I have, but I’m not inclined to take his advice too seriously–especially when he maligns positive training methods and encourages physical punishment.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book and was hoping that it would provide some more useful information about issues like house training an adult dog, working through separation anxiety, and discerning a dog’s behavioral background. Have you read a good book on dog adoption? If so, please share! I’m still eager to learn more.

(Also. There’s a seriously unfortunate typo on the cover of this book. Can you spot it? As a copy editor, I just have to wonder how this stuff gets by. Did no one proof the cover??)