Saturday, August 18, 2007

Book Review - How To Raise A Puppy You Can Live With

The first dog-related book I've picked up so far is How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With by Clarice Rutherford and David H. Neil. It's a short book (~150 pages) that covers puppy development from birth to one year, behavior, and training. Overall it is a very intelligent book that has a lot of good, useful information, with the biggest drawback being its small size. The advice is never very in depth, since it covers so many topics in such a short amount of space. The methods recommended I agree with, and make sense to me.

It starts off with choosing the right puppy for you, with the most emphasis on the right type of breed or at least group of breeds (i.e. hunting, retrieving, herding, etc.). That suited me very well, since I also believe that picking the right breed is important.

Next, there is a lot of emphasis on puppy development and its main stages, including the neonatal period, the transitional period, the socialization period, and the fear period. I learned that it's important to choose a good breeder because there is a lot that happens in the first 8 weeks of a puppy's life. If it misses out on experiencing certain things or at least new things, it could be stunted by the time you take the little guy home.

The book talks briefly about the puppy coming home with you, its first night, its first trip to the vet, etc. In these areas I wish it would have gone more in depth, but it at least serves as a warning that the first night and couple of days will be hard. Luckily, further reading on this subject can very easily be found online.

There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of play and socialization, which I 100% agree with. When you get your puppy, it's still a baby whose body and brain are developing. The more you expose your puppy to, the more its brain will develop and better understand the world around it. In the early stages of you dog's life, it will want to please you. Start training from day one, and always keep it positive. If your puppy does something you like, praise it, and it will continue that action because of that positive association. While the book doesn't go into a lot of detail, it does introduce many areas of training, and explains why so much training will lead to a great relationship between you and your dog.

The area of the book I thought was the most helpful was where it identified types of puppy personalities. These include the to eager to please puppy, the shy puppy, the dependent puppy, the independent puppy, the dominant puppy, and the extremely excitable puppy. It doesn't say that any of these puppy personalities are bad, only that puppies with these different personalities should be handled differently and these personalities should be kept in mind when raising it. This way of categorizing personalities really struck a chord with me. It makes so much sense. When you yell at an extremely excitable puppy, of course it's going to have a different reaction than an independent puppy. The excited puppy will immediately respond to the loud sounds you're making, whereas the independent puppy may refuse to give you its attention. I wonder what personality my dog will be? What would I prefer?

Another chapter I really enjoyed, but was way too short was the chapter on dog signals. By learning the specific behaviors that dogs do in certain situations, you can learn to better communicate with your dog. The most common signals most books talk about are "calming signals". These are the signals your dog makes when it wants the situation it's in to be calm. This can include signaling to its owner that it wants you to calm down (say, if your dog senses you are tense and upset because you had a rough day at work), or meeting a dog for the first time. Calming signals include yawning (yes, this doesn't always mean your dog is just bored or tired), avoiding eye contact, and approaching your side, rather than head on. I found this chapter very interesting, and I like the idea that by keeping an eye out for these behaviors I can better communicate with my dog. As they say, communication works both ways. It shouldn't just be about the dog learning what you want.

Overall I recommend this book to any first time puppy owner. Though it does give some training tips that dogs of any age can use, this book is too puppy-centric to bother with if your dog is older than a year old. If you don't yet have a dog, and haven't yet chosen a breed, this would be a good time to get an idea of what you're getting into, but I would recommend reading further on choosing the right breed and breeder, since this book is so brief. After reading this book, I feel armed with the knowledge that with patience, awareness, and positivity, I can raise a puppy that is the kind of companion I'm looking for.

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