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Book Review
How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With
by Clarice Rutherford & David H. Neil

Review by: Kate Connick, June 2006

Clarice Rutherford & David Neil's How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, now in its 4th edition, is a concise, informative yet palatable, puppy-raising manual written for pet owners.

The authors trace puppy development from birth through the first year, explaining what is most important at each stage of development. Without brutishly preaching about the evils of commercial puppy-production, it becomes abundantly clear to the reader why a good breeder is so fundamental and how early life experiences can have long-range impact on the developing dog.

Rutherford & Neil assert, "A puppy's adult personality will be shaped by a combination of three factors - his breed, his individual genetic behavior, and the socialization that he receives during the first 4 months of life." Obviously a disproportionate amount of control over the dog's eventual outcome rests in the breeder's hands.

That being said, the pet owner is charged with the obligation of making sensible decisions in breed and puppy selection, for continuing to provide socialization, and for otherwise fulfilling his responsibilities in meeting a pup's needs. These responsibilities include fostering both trust and respect, as well as providing leadership, training, and appropriate play and exercise. The burden is placed on the owner to guide his puppy into becoming a good dog, as the authors advise, "You must accept the pup the way he is and then proceed to mold the kind of adult dog you want."

Developmental periods are explained clearly, with fear periods highlighted. Practical tips for introducing the pup to his new home, housetraining, and simple puppy pre-training exercises are included. A range of basic commands and manners is presented.

Not all instructions will be explicit enough to step the reader through achieving the desired result, but the book is intended more as a supplement to puppy and obedience classes, rather than a substitute for them.

The overall tone of the book is practical and balanced, although decidedly food-dependent. Treats are used throughout to lure and reward behavior, yet the need to assert leadership is stressed, as well. Earlier editions included physical corrections like scruff shakes, but this edition includes nothing more violent than a squirt of vinegar and water from a squirt bottle or the startling sound of a shake can. The emphasis is on encouraging desired behaviors, while disrupting and redirecting unwanted ones.

Overall goals boil down to building confidence and respect, while teaching a puppy how to learn, pay attention, and respond to fundamental commands and situations. Enough information is included to be informative, yet the book remains brief and easily read and understood. It excels at providing the reader with a sense of realistic expectations.

Predictable handling errors are highlighted to forewarn the reader, especially with regard to adolescent non-compliance:

"It's very easy to let these three months (age 3-6 months) slide by and to think that your puppy doesn't need training because he's such a good dog. But in a few months, you'll regret that decision... He's not mean, but suddenly he's a lively handful that isn't paying attention to you because the pattern of communication wasn't established as a puppy."

The writing style is straightforward, well organized, and clear. Chapter headings, bold-faced emphasis, and black and white photos are used to good effect. Although the bibliography is anemic, the appendix includes a thorough, illustrated description of puppy temperament testing.

This primer is a time-honored favorite. Many breeders give this book to new puppy-owners to get them started on the right track. Affordable and palatable, it makes a good gift to prepare the aspiring or new puppy owner for that first year.

How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, 4th ed., by Clarice Rutherford & David H. Neil.
Published by Alpine Publications, 2005. ISBN: 1577790766

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