Book asserts that the key to well-behaved pets is well-trained owners

Carolyn J. Kelly

By A Contributor

Many prospective pet owners view spring as an ideal time to bring home a puppy. If committing to a 10- to 15-year relationship with a four-footed companion is your plan for this spring, then also plan to look at “Barron’s Dog Training Bible.” This complete guide was written by Andrea Arden, well-known Animal Planet pet expert, who currently works on several Animal Planet shows. She is a certified dog trainer, a certified Pet Partners Team evaluator for the Delta Society and a certified evaluator for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test. She is also director of Andrea Arden Dog Training in New York City. She was named the best dog trainer in New York by “New York, W, Time Out,” “Quest” magazines and “Daily News.” The publisher certifies “All information and advice contained in this book has been reviewed by a veterinarian.” Arden begins the training guide by pointing out the importance of understanding canine psychology and a dog’s learning capacity as necessary prerequisites to effective and humane training. The key word here is humane. Dog owners stuck in the older, punitive, militaristic style of training that uses fear and pain to induce a dog to comply will not appreciate this guide. While several different approaches to dog training, canine temperaments and impulse control are offered, Arden basically debunks any over reliance upon commonly misinterpreted wolf studies that led to owners practicing physical coercion in a misguided attempt to be an alpha wolf. Arden, like many trainers before her, including Barbara Woodhouse of “No Bad Dogs” focuses on a choice every dog owner must make. “Do you want a fearful and submissive pet or do you want a happy, joyful and well-mannered member of the family?”

In answering this question, Arden advocates a cruelty-free method of life coaching for dogs and their people. Her play-training uses mutual understanding and respect. It puts an end to outdated methods that rely on physical exhaustion, choke chains, prong collars, dominance rollovers or stressful aggression of any kind. Instead, learning becomes a positive experience that dogs enjoy and happily anticipate.

The main sections of the guide are organized as housetraining, with reference to short-term and long-term confinements; food, water and walking schedules; socialization, with reference to handling and gentling, bite inhibition, introduction to people and socializing with kids; dog training 101: foundation exercises, which includes exercises in eye contact, teaching a dog to come when called, sit, down and stand commands and walking on leash; correcting behavior problems, including excessive barking, destructive chewing, digging or begging; and physical and mental activity, with advice on teaching games, tricks and agility training.

Particularly engaging, physical and mental activity provides easy-to-follow and complete instructions for teaching clever tricks that may not have obvious practical value but will teach owners to work with their dogs as a team and bring a lot of fun times to the household. While “Barron’s Dog Training Bible” is filled with instructive color photos, the illustrations become particularly noticeable and useful in this section.

Also, the text features a spiral binding, which will keep the book open to chosen pages when training is in progress.

Often similar training materials tend to be less detailed and use only one or two dogs as an example, usually the smarter breeds - German shepherds, Australian shepherds and border collies. This substantial guide depicts many different breeds; from longhaired Chihuahuas practicing prayers to full-grown saint bernards demonstrating simpler commands. The beautiful photographs - many full-page - show pleased and active hairy, terriers, mutts, poodles, beagles, pitbull terriers, pittie mixes, French bulldogs and a particularly lovely, huge wire-haired German shorthair among numerous other breeds. A Boston terrier wearing a pirate hat serves as the visual cue for warning boxes that point out common training errors and offers corrective explanations. Again, Arden’s emphasis always stresses that owners must learn to set and enforce reasonable rules and boundaries which will prove to be a much more effective way to become a dog’s leader.

Another particularly useful discussion is how to effectively use dog parks. Manhattan’s Fairmont Dog Park is a very popular relaxation destination that attracts hundreds of dogs and owners all year. With new students entering, others finishing their degrees and leaving and military constantly deploying and returning, this ever-changing population is a perfect example of the many different ways owners understand and handle their dogs. Arden writes, “Dog parks can provide a wonderful physical and social outlet for dogs and their people.” However, she considers the parks to be a mixed blessing due to how social dynamics change from moment to moment and the park population ebbs and flows.

Arden encourages owners to be realistic about their own dog’s suitability for the environment. Reading and sharing “Barron’s Dog Training Bible” is an easy way to find and encourage like-minded dog owners invested in creating the healthy play and training environment deserved by our dog companions.

Carolyn J. Kelly is a freelance writer and a Manhattan resident.

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