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Book Review
Professional Dog Training
by Wayne Davis

Review by: Kate Connick, July 2003

Wayne Davis's Professional Dog Training is perhaps best described as forgettable. Davis, president of a dog training business dubbed the West Virginia Canine College, published this book in 1990 as a textbook for his students. Unfortunately, it reads more like sketchy class notes than like a book proper.

One problem is that it's unclear who Davis's audience is. Are they folks who know very little about dogs but aspire to become trainers, or are they trainers looking to refine their training and business skills?

Both the foreword and the biographical page about the author highlight his entrepreneurial drive rather than his dog skills. Yet fundamental business tasks such as bookkeeping, marketing, and dealing with issues of liability are not addressed. On the other hand, basic husbandry issues are discussed at some length. These include first aid, parasite control, and the logistics of building a kennel.

Explaining how to take a dog's temperature or listing what vaccinations should be administered certainly suggests that the intended reader is extremely unfamiliar with the basics of dog care. And yet, if one assumes that the reader is this kind of rank novice, the book clearly contains insufficient information to be meaningfully educational.

The only information included about obedience training, for example, is a sample curriculum - e.g., "Lesson 1 - Heel, sitting by your side, sit, and automatic sit." I found it amusing that the author feels the need to explain how to give a bath - "Very similar to washing your own hair. Rinse completely, soap and scrub, rinse completely, soap and scrub a second time, and then rinse a final time" - but offers absolutely no comment on how to teach a dog to heel, sit, or stay.

In fact, only the first 60 pages of the 103-page book deal with training or behavior, and much of what the author says is redundant. He continually asserts that temperament is genetic and unchangeable, for example. This may very well be true, but repeating it like a mantra doesn't make for scintillating reading. The reader ends up thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I got it. What else do you have to say?"

Most of what the author asserts - for example, that dogs require socialization - isn't wrong, offensive, controversial, unique, or original. Just the opposite is true. The content is so banal that it simply isn't interesting.

The apparent emphasis of the author's business leans towards protection dogs. Not surprisingly, what philosophy and method is presented is traditionalist and force-based. He dismisses the soft dog as "only a good pet," and classifies submissiveness - defined as an "attitude of surrendering to the authority or control of another" - as a serious unsoundness of temperament.

Frankly, I find books like this unsettling. The reader is presumed to have no idea how to bathe a dog or take its temperature, yet the author offers a 14-page chapter on protection training. The old saw about the dangers of a little bit of knowledge comes to mind.

Of even greater concern is an ethical issue alluded to by the author. Mind you, he continually harps on the notion of temperament being unalterable, and therefore stresses the importance of selecting only a dog with a suitable temperament to perform protection tasks. He notes that such a dog should never be shy and defines "bad aggression" as "aggressiveness that is based in fear."

Then he concedes, "Even though we realize what the proper temperament should be we can not be a total purest when dealing with the general public. If we are we would have no business. Certain temperaments can work out fine in certain situations even though we know the temperament is a mess." A mess?

It gets better. His "confidence course... is designed to increase a dog's suspicion level and develop its natural instincts to protect his owner and property; and as an aid to help overcome inherent or cultivated shyness." Yikes. This course subjects the admittedly shy dog to 10 hours of agitation "until you hopefully can get a good intense pursuit." Why on earth would any responsible individual recommend increasing a shy dog's suspiciousness and defensive aggressiveness to the extent that the animal is intensely pursuing the source of his fears? It certainly seems like paper-thin ice to me.

Davis doesn't have a gift for written expression, as evidenced by awkward phrases like, "much more easier," or sentences like, "Dogs do not rationalize, they reason through repetition." He has an annoying tendency to CAPITALIZE PHRASES OR ENTIRE SENTENCES. He also weirdly capitalizes random words like Vet or Inability.

Finally, a multitude of typos gives his book about Professional Dog Training a decidedly unprofessional appearance. One can find missing letters (e.g., "ad" rather than "and"), inappropriate spacing (e.g., "int he" rather than "in the," or "for mal" rather than "formal"), misused homonyms (e.g., "whole" instead of "hole," or "course" instead of "coarse"), misuse of apostrophes (e.g., "the products effectiveness" requires one, while "in dog's" does not), and simple misspellings (e.g., "bread" where it should be "breed," "rapid" where it should be "rabid," or "closes in dog run" where it should be "closed in dog run").

Much of the content is dated, but even if it weren't, this book is poorly organized and lacks a clear focus. Information is sketchy at best, yet it still manages to be repetitive and boring. The book will hold no appeal for anyone who is not a student at the West Virginia Canine College. While it might represent class notes for that establishment, the content and presentation are not sufficient to render it a legitimate book in its own right.

Note: This book is out of print. You'll have to buy it used or find it at your local library.

Professional Dog Training by Wayne Davis.
Published by Kendall Hunt Publishing, 1990. ISBN: 0840356641

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