Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thursday training tips: Five books for your summer reading

We’re halfway through summer, and if you haven’t taken the time yet to relax with a good book – let’s get you started! Some wonderful books that will improve your relationship with your pups are waiting for you.

If you only read one dog-related book this summer, let it be Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs, by Suzanne Clothier. You will never look at your dogs in the same way again. Suzanne is one of the country’s most innovative trainers, advancing a relationship-based positive training protocol. Her book is easy to read and deeply moving. It also makes sense. If you know, in your heart, that positive training brings more success (and happiness!) than the old “alpha” philosophy, this book will clarify why your heart is speaking the truth. If you still think a certain “dog whisperer” who slams dogs on the ground or hangs them from a leash is offering a path to a successful dog-human relationship, this book will give you a new perspective.

While Clothier focuses on the heart of the relationship, trainer and educator Pat Miller looks more towards the brain. Her tips on conditioning responses, along with handy management tips, come packaged together perfectly for foster parents in her book, How to Foster Dogs: From Homeless to Homeward Bound. Miller provides easy descriptions of the four principles of operant conditioning, and then puts it to use in solving common problem behaviors. As one of the book’s blurbs states eloquently: “Opening your heart to a foster dog is easy; opening your home is much more challenging.” This book will help you meet those challenges.

On the topic of challenges… Another book you may want to pick up is Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home. Thousands of dog lovers have benefited from the advice of certified behaviorist Patricia McConnell, and her advice here is a “must have” for all adopters. This is a concise, practical guide on veterinary care, training, and especially problem solving. For instance, how long does it take for a shy dog to get comfortable? (It might take a year, but “that’s okay, what’s the hurry?”) How do you know if there’s tension between dogs? (Among the signs is your inner voice, “it is often right, even if you don’t know why.”) You’ll keep this book handy forever.

The time may come, more often that we like, when your senior seems lost in a dream world. Is she relaxing, or is she experiencing doggie dementia? One of the most helpful books on the subject is Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, by Eileen Anderson. One of the most valuable chapters includes a check list that you can use to explain your cairn’s behaviors to your vet so that, together, you can examine the options for easing your dog’s way along life’s path. Anderson discusses symptoms, medications, management tips, and specific products that may help. Importantly, she ends with a plain-spoken discussion on deciding about euthanasia. Tough topics, but ones we face throughout our lives.

Ending on an up note, your “feel good” book for the summer would be Old Dogs are the Best Dogs, by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten. Gene writes a humorous weekly column for the Post, but there’s nothing to laugh at (although smiling is allowed) in this delightful and inspiring book. Weingarten presents 60 short vignettes, accompanied by wonderful dog portraits by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael Williamson. You might want to take your time to savor the vignettes and feel the love and peace surrounding these beloved seniors. Reading a couple of Weingarten’s stories each week would make the rest of the summer just about perfect.

What are some of your favorite books? Let us know in the comment section, and we’ll share them in future blog posts.

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