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Book Review
What all Good Dogs Should Know
by Jack Volhard & Melissa Bartlett

Review by: Kate Connick, Jan. 2003

If I could only recommend one "starter" book for the new puppy owner, it might be Jack Volhard and Melissa Bartlett's What All Good Dogs Should Know. Very readable and well-illustrated with Melissa Bartlett's engaging cartoons, this breezy paperback is deceptively informative and practical.

Volhard and Bartlett define a "good" dog as one that is housetrained, comes when called, stays when told, walks without pulling, and is free of bad habits like jumping up, chewing destructively, and barking excessively. This gives a novice owner clear expectations and goals. The authors then address these topics in a brief and highly palatable way.

Commands like sit and down are taught with food lures until the dog is responsive. Then the food lures are segued into random rewards, and the commands are gently enforced (if need be) by placing the pup into the desired position. Leash walking is taught with food lures and collar corrections on a buckle collar, although head halters are recommended for dogs who require additional control. Puppy recalls involve relays between two people in the form of a happy game. The importance of calling a dog away from enticing distrations is also addressed. Housetraining in the form of basic crate training is outlined. Most behavior problems are dealt with either by satisfying the dog's underlying need or by distracting the dog and issuing an obedience command for it to follow.

Throughout, the emphasis is on the practical and the positive. There are no heavy punishments in this book. The authors continually stress the owner's responsibility in understanding her dog and providing for its needs. The approach is sensible, humane, and balanced. Just enough information is given about a dog's way of thinking, its body language, its developmental stages, and its need to be under a leader's guidance. The delightfully humorous cartoons underscore the text and make it memorable.

To be sure, this book is intended for the novice, and more experienced pet owners may find it overly simplistic. Somewhat minimalist in presentation, it gives a concise overview of molding a pleasant canine companion, but it doesn't explain in tremendous detail. The sparseness is a double-edged sword, as the reader may have unanswered questions when she's finished the book. But she will finish the book, and will walk away with an improved understanding of her dog and a thirst for more.

Simple though it may be, the content is excellent. This is a book that many obedience clubs and breeders distribute to clients, and with good reason. It doesn't pretend to be an all-encompassing tome, but it is a wonderful introduction to dog ownership and training. This book is a great gift for the new puppy owner. While it might not cover every contingency, it will certainly help the new owner gain a better understanding of her dog and a head start on training.


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What all Good Dogs Should Know by Jack Volhard & Melissa Bartlett.
Published by Howell Book House, 1991. ISBN: 0876058322

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