Review: Adopt the Perfect Dog

Adopt the Perfect Dog.

English trainer and author Gwen Bailey compiled this short and helpful introductory guide to dog adoption. Adopt the Perfect Dog was published by Reader’s Digest and is short and hands-on, filled with lots of photos and instructional side bars.

At this stage in my dog-book reading process, it wasn’t the most illuminating book. But that’s not Bailey’s fault: When I was reading this, I’d already read 52 other books about raising and training dogs (I know; I have a problem). Most of her advice and recommendations–while being very true and helpful–I’d already encountered numerous times. (I think I’m finally realizing that I’ve just about exhausted my dog reading potential. Until some other great book comes out, I may be nearing the end of my dog book list for now.)

This book would be a great place to start for someone who, again, was a total stranger to dog adoption, particularly adopting an adult dog and acclimating him or her into one’s home.

Bailey advocates positive reinforcement training techniques and provides clear, hands-on advice about how to introduce your dog to your family, how to set house rules, how to handle possessiveness, and how to avoid separation anxiety, among other things.

On the whole, I think I’d be more willing to recommend Petfinder’s guide to dog adoption, as it is far more comprehensive while also being very accessible to a first-time dog owner. But this is a nice, quick little book and it is not without value.

Review: Love Has No Age Limit

Love Has No Age Limit, by Patricia McConnell and Karen London

This is the book I have been waiting to read. Ever since I made it known here that we were leaning toward adopting an adult dog, everyone told me there was only one book I needed to read: The new release from Patricia McConnell and Karen London, Love Has No Age Limit.

After poring over this wonderful, practical, little volume, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the only book that a potential dog adopter needs to read. The book is slightly over 100 pages, but McConnell and London say everything that needs to be said to prepare your home and heart for a rescued dog.

Love Has No Age Limit has a strong emphasis on preparation. The authors do all in their power to keep their readers from being blindsided by the many challenges that come with adopting a dog. But with their advice, these challenges are not daunting; rather, McConnell and London equip their audience with the right tools and the right perspective to rehome any dog.

I appreciated their practical tips for preparation, such as: Don’t give the dog full reign of your house right away. Treat the dog as if she is not housetrained, even if the adoption agency says she is; the stress of moving to a new home can cause some dogs to forget the rules of going inside or outside a house. Set your house rules with your family before bringing the dog home (this one struck a chord with me, because I am going to need to do about two months of instruction to get my husband up to speed with all that I’m thinking about and planning for our dog).

McConnell and London, per their backgrounds as well-respected animal behaviorists and trainers, also emphasize the importance of establishing a relationship and a bond. With some dogs, this bond may be instantaneous; with others, it may take a few months or even a year or more. Knowing that both are acceptable possibilities has helped me tone down my fears about adopting an adult. “It often takes a year to fully integrate a dog into your household,” the authors say, and this was such a relieving reminder. Everything does not have to be ideal all at once; don’t expect a perfect dog in two weeks.

The overwhelming message of this book is to have patience with one’s adopted dog. This was such a welcome message to me. After all of my months of planning and research, I am plagued by the thought that I am going to mess the dog up, that he or she won’t be “perfect”–which is silly. Of course the dog won’t be perfect. Of course I will make mistakes. McConnell and London just keep saying, “Have patience. Have patience with yourself and with your dog.” And that’s the message that matters.

Disclaimer: I requested a review copy of this book from Patricia McConnell’s publishing house.

Review: The Adopted Dog Bible

The Adopted Dog Bible, by Kim Saunders

Now THIS is the book that I should have picked up first when I wanted more information about adopting a dog. Kim Saunders, one of the founders of the nationally successful rescue website Petfinder.com, wrote this hefty and helpful manual for anyone who is planning to rescue a dog or has already done so.

The Adopted Dog Bible contains a wealth of information for the new parent of an adopted dog. I also think it’s one of the most helpful books I’ve read to date on general dog care, regardless of whether that dog was adopted.

Saunders provides all of the information and tips that I had been looking for–and didn’t find–in Adopting a Dog. How to you prevent and mitigate separation anxiety? What kind of questions should you ask the shelter or rescue group about the dog’s background? How do you evaluate an adult dog’s level of socialization? Saunders has all of the answers and more.

The book also has an extensive section on health care, dog food, and home remedies. Saunders seems to be a fairly big proponent of natural remedies for common canine ailments, which I found very interesting. I hadn’t read about some of these herbal treatments before in relation to dogs.

In a perfect world, this would be the book that was given to every first-time dog parent who brought a dog home from a shelter or rescue group. I only wish that my local SPCA had an abundance of copies to give away. It’s an excellent resource and one that I plan on returning to in the future.

Review: The Canine Good Citizen

The Canine Good Citizen, by Jack and Wendy Volhard

After reading Bad Dog, I felt certain that I’d want to put my future dog through the paces of earning his or her Canine Good Citizen certification. The author of Bad Dog, Martin Kihn, mentions attending a workshop by the authors of this book, Jack and Wendy Volhard. Kihn emphasizes how helpful they were in getting his out-of-control Bernese mountain dog to her CGC certification and so I thought I’d read it in my spare time.

It’s a very slim volume and would be most helpful to those who were actually in the process of training for the CGC test. The book walks you through the 10 tests that the CGC evaluates and provides step-by-step instructions on how to train your dog to perform each task.

The Volhards create a helpful “Canine Personality Profile” for owners. This profile is supposed to help you evaluate your dog’s dominant drives and then use that information to tailor your training regimen. I think it’s an interesting idea and I think I’d probably at least try it once I get a dog of my own.

This book is kind of outdated in some of its training recommendations (recommends aggressive jerks on the leash, for example), but I figure I may reference it again if and when I decide to train my dog to earn his or her CGC certification.

Have you trained your dog to pass the CGC test? Do you have any advice about that test in particular? Do you think it’s worthwhile?

Review: The Seven Ages of Man’s Best Friend

The Seven Ages of Man's Best Friend, by Jan Fennell

Jan Fennell is an English dog trainer and self-heralded “Dog Listener.” This book covers what she believes to be the seven ages of dogs, from birth to death. It’s a very user-friendly book and ideally suited for a first-time dog owner.

Fennell aims to provide her readers with an overview of what to expect in each stage of a dog’s life. What I most appreciated about the book was its asides on health and general physical maintenance. As you can tell from my reading list, I’m primarily interested in training, canine psychology, and animal behavior; therefore, my knowledge of the anatomy and health of a dog is relatively small. I appreciated her emphasis on the basics of dog care and body maintenance. For instance, I now know what parvovirus is and why puppies get vaccinated for it.

Since I’ve already read so many in-depth and excellent training books, I found her obedience tips a bit shallow and occasionally outdated. However, that aside, I think The Seven Ages of Man’s Best Friend would be a useful guide to someone who is just getting to know his or her dog.