Review: Training the Hard-to-Train Dog

Training the Hard-to-Train Dog, by Peggy Swager

This slim, colorful little volume is a helpful and basic guide for people who have “difficult” dogs. Trainer Peggy Swager divides dogs into several categories, including those who are naturally very stubborn, independent, controlling, or shy. From these categories, Swager gives advice on how to train dogs with these specific temperaments.

I was relieved to find that Swager is a strong proponent of positive reinforcement training and she often pointed out that the dominating, physical punishment-based methods of training often backfire with shy, controlling, or stubborn dogs. Unfortunately, it is often these “hard-to-train” dogs who receive the most aversive and negative training techniques. But Swager emphasizes that gentleness and respect can go a long way with these difficult personalities.

Swager herself is a long-time parent and trainer of Jack Russell terriers, who are notoriously hard to control and train. I’ve worked with a few JRTs myself and experienced them enough to be thoroughly convinced that I don’t think I could handle one myself. She is a certified trainer and speaks with calm authority about the “problem” dogs she’s encountered.

Overall, the book’s advice skims the surface of the challenges of working with difficult dogs. Swager provides factual but elementary advice on training basic commands. While this information is helpful, I think the guardian of a truly difficult, hard-to-train dog would probably need to look elsewhere for more in-depth counsel. In any event, Training the Hard-to-Train Dog is a great place to start for any person with a shy, controlling, or stubborn pooch.

Pup links!

A classy lady and her terrier, January 1957. Source: Flickr, click for link

Desperately Seeking Distance. A thoughtful post on how to evaluate a shy or fearful dog’s relationship with distance. (Fearful Dogs Blog)

Do Dogs Have Gender? Kristine writes a really interesting post on how we treat our dogs based on their sex. Do we culture them to act like “boy” or “girl” dogs? Great thoughts here. (Rescued Insanity)

Rez Dog Biographies. Photographer Steven Sable’s moving series of the homeless and/or neglected dogs who live on Native American reservations in the American West. It’s easy to forget that there are still many “feral” dogs living in the U.S. (Steven Sable)

Dogs of the Selby, Part 1. A collection of the fashionable dogs as seen through the lens of The Selby blog. (Miles to Style)

Top 10: Beautiful and Artistic Dog Portraits. Always love a good dog portrait! Have you ever hired a professional photographer to take pictures of your dog? I’m tempted to call up our fabulous wedding photographer, Meredith Perdue, who is also a respected pet photographer, once we get our dog… (The Hydrant)

Weaving Machines. A fun checkerboard photographic montage of dogs doing weave poles. (Paws on the Run)

Top 6 iPhone/iPad Apps for Pet People. I don’t have one of these fancy smartphones/devices, but my husband does. When the time comes for our dog, I imagine I’ll be convincing him to get a few of these handy apps. (Pawcurious)

You’re Fooling Yourself. This photographer walks around San Francisco and takes photos of dogs tied to things, waiting for their people. He writes often hilarious meditations on what the dogs might be thinking. This one particularly made me laugh. (Dogblog)