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Book Review
Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide
by Michele Welton

Review by: Kate Connick, Sept. 2002

Arguably the best book in its genre, Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide is an invaluable reference in helping the potential buyer select a breed of dog to match her lifestyle. This second edition, updated in 2000, presents general information about selecting a breed, as well as highlighting specific information about 200 common and not-so-common breeds.

The very breadth of breeds covered is a major strength of this book. For example, I was delighted to see information about Cesky Terriers, a breed that I own but with which few people are familiar. Also included are Entlebucher Sennehunds, Beauceron, Glen of Imaal Terriers, and Cane Corso - hardly breeds that most folks run into on a regular basis. Breeds are sensibly organized alphabetically (as opposed to clumped by function or kennel club grouping), as well as found in the index.

The author took great pains to try to present meaningful and accurate (and not always positive) information, including comments that potential owners might not find elsewhere or might not have considered. For example, a caution regarding buying Golden Retrievers reads, "With the extreme popularity of this breed, the glorious temperament can no longer be taken for granted." Regarding Fila Brasileiros, "Owning a dog who believes that his purpose in life is to defend you at any cost comes with the responsibility that you control his actions." Regarding Belgian Laikenois, "litters are not numerous, so be prepared to wait up to a year for a pet puppy." And regarding French Bulldogs, "be prepared for clever comments from passersby: 'Say, is that a Vietnamese potbellied pig?'" I ran into someone with a French Bulldog recently who does, in fact, hear that line all the time!

A full page is dedicated to each breed. Specific breed information is summed up in brief paragraphs as follows: temperament, history, physical features, health issues (including lifespan), and cautions when buying. Further, at top of the page, one finds quick listings indicating whether the breed is suited to a novice or experienced owner, how appropriate it is with children, size/coat/shedding/grooming considerations, exercise needs, indoor activity level, ease of training, and sociability with strangers. A black and white photo of varying quality accompanies each breed summary. The overall effect is an informative thumbnail of each breed that readily allows for quick comparisons.

A Schipperke, for example, is described as dynamic, busy, vocal, energetic and long-lived. Suspicious of strangers and adept as a watchdog, "He has a marked stubborn streak, strong likes and dislikes, a mischievous sense of humor, and will take advantage if indulged." The author pegs him as best with experienced owners and older, considerate children. Of comparable size, the Pug is described as appropriate for novice owners, good with children, sociable, comical, easy to spoil, and gassy to the point of embarrassment. "Though stubborn, Pugs seldom get into real mischief." The author warns of numerous potential health problems and heavy shedding. Anyone reading the two descriptions would have a very constrasting view of the two breeds in a very tidy nutshell.

One drawback is the absence of lists or charts that cluster breeds by particular trait. For example, if the reader is searching for breeds that are approrpriate for novice owners, there is no master list of these breeds. Nor is there a master list of low-shedding breeds, breeds good with children, etc. Rather, one has to flip through each of the individual pages to pick out the relevant breeds. This can be tedious, given that 200 breeds are referenced.

While I understand the author's desire to keep the photos less intriguing than the text, some of the pictures are quite poor. The German Shorthaired Pointer photo, for example, is so dark that the dog's silhouette is only barely visible. Several photos show standing dogs that are cropped off at the legs - hardly flattering poses. Improving the illustrative quality of the photos might be an idea for the next edition. That being said, some of the photos are very effective. I particularly like seeing breeds like the Lhasa Apso shown in a pet-clipped coat, rather than in full show tresses.

Based on the lengthy list of acknowledgements at the front of the book, it appears that the author made every effort to get feedback and approval of her breed information from breed experts. Probably as a result, the information itself appears largely fair and accurate. This is one of the few books that doesn't portray Bloodhounds as plodding dolts, that reminds the reader of the realities (breed prejudices) that complicate Rottweiler or American Pit Bull Terrier ownership, and that isn't afraid to be blunt about the damage that has been wrecked on some popular breeds like American Cocker Spaniels.

Although the bulk of the book (and frankly, what most readers will focus on) is contained in the breed profiles, attempts are made to assist the reader in evaluating herself and her lifestyle, choosing a breeder, and choosing a particular puppy once a breed is determined to be a good fit. The section explaining the differences between responsible and irresponsible breeders is particularly well done. Some of the recommendations (for example, not cropping a pet's ears nor attempting to maintain it in full show coat) are very sensible. Others, like the author's misplaced plug for "holistic" veterinary medicine, feel as if they don't belong. Overall, however, the advice seems reasonable and very likely to be helpful to a potential puppy buyer.

Everything is presented in plain English, and as a result, simple genetics, various health screenings, and competition titles are all clearly understandable by any reader. The glossary defines dog colors and health concerns. The book has a down-to-Earth, conversational, and very practical feel to it.

In short, this is a user-friendly guide to breeds and breed selection. No book of this nature is perfect, and one could probably quibble over minutia. Nonetheless, the author provides an excellent overview of breed differences and quirks and gives the reader information to help in their selection. This is a great book for dog lovers generally, and an outstanding book for someone in the market for a new dog. It would be an excellent Christmas or birthday gift in lieu of a puppy itself.

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Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide (2nd edition) by Michele Welton.
Published by Owl Books, 2000. ISBN: 0805064451

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