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Book Review
K.I.S.S. Guide to Living with a Dog
by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M.

Review by: Kate Connick, June 2003

A number of simple, user-friendly guidebooks have hit the market in recent years with titles that target dummies and idiots. Bruce Fogle's K.I.S.S. Guide to Living with a Dog is the first book I've read from the Keep it Simple Series. The acronym K.I.S.S., of course, popularly represents the phrase "keep it simple, stupid."

And simple it is. Nearly 400 pages long, this book is a comprehensive yet very simplistic overview of dogs and their care and ownership. Fogle touches on such topics as evolution, basic training, grooming, first aid, nutrition, and old age. He reminds the reader that a dog is a dog and not a human being, and throughout he repeatedly highlights the importance of being a kind leader to one's dog.

No single topic is discussed in great depth, and the result may be that the content is too superficial to be genuinely useful. This may be particularly true of the chapters on breed selection and obedience training. Typical of the oversimplified presentation, Fogle advises the reader to use care when clipping their dog's nails. No attempt is made to describe or illustrate how to actually clip nails, however. Rather, the reader is advised to ask their veterinarian or groomer to demonstrate proper technique.

Some of the better chapters address responsible ownership, housetraining, and basic health concerns. The final chapter is perhaps the best, as it sensitively discusses aging and euthanasia.

Fogle has a charming, down-to-earth writing style. His warm, friendly, casual manner of expression is ideal for a book of this nature. A veterinarian by profession, he is at his best when discussing matters of health.

Although not opposed to what he terms "aversion therapy" (correcting or punishing undesirable behavior), his rabid objection to choke collars appears to reflect a poor grasp of their proper use. He asserts that a choke chain is intended to tighten around a dog's neck "until it hurts or he cannot breathe." That's actually a gross misapplication of a choke collar. The author is entitled to dislike whatever equipment he chooses, but his stated reason for disapproving of choke collars is founded on a fundamental misconception about how they are supposed to be used. This undermines his credibility regarding training matters. On the other hand, his treatment of nutrition and vaccination - two very hot topics nowadays - seems very even-handed and well thought out.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs, artwork, colorful highlight boxes, and variations in font size, style, and color. The visual appeal makes reading palatable for even a die-hard non-reader or child, particularly as there are no lengthy blocks of text.

The sophisticated reader may find the book to be too dumbed-down for his tastes. Yet there are some worthwhile nuggets to be found, such as a list of toxic plants, an appendix of dog-related websites, and some quirky trivia.

This book might make a good gift idea for a dog-loving child or brand new dog owner, but it's not really the kind of book you buy for yourself. It is a lighthearted and entertaining book more akin to a breezy celebration of dog ownership than a hardcore users' manual.

K.I.S.S. Guide to Living with a Dog by Bruce Fogle.
Published by Dorling Kindersley, 2000. ISBN: 0789459760.

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