I just finished a book written by one our native Seattle daughters, Cristine Dahl, titled “Good Dog 101”. I should disclose at the beginning of this review that Cristine was my original mentor in dog training and canine behavior. OK, now you know that I’m a biased reviewer, and an unashamed one at that, but I genuinely feel my bias does not lessen the usefulness of this book for average dog and puppy owners.
“Good Dog 101: Easy Lessons to Train Your Dog the Happy, Healthy Way” was recently released by Sasquatch Books, a regional book publisher. Since I orginally posted this entry, this book has received 5 stars by reviewers on Amazon.com.
This easy to read and enjoyable paperback book is a comprehensive volume that combines step by step instructions for training obedience behaviors with easy to follow instructions for solving common behavior problems that inevitably come up with owners in any obedience class or puppy kindergarten. In addition to her chapters providing step by step instructions for training behaviors such as sit, down, come, leave it, and drop, Cristine devotes a chapter to “Common Canine Behavior Problems and How To Resolve Them” which covers Potty Training, Barking, Greeting Problems, Chewing, and Stealing. The author includes chapters on Aggression, Puppies, and Geriatric Dogs, the last of which is often given short shrift in general dog training books. Geriatric dogs have special needs and issues, but as owners, we’re often in denial about why our beloved companions have suddenly started behaving “badly”. Good Dog 101 can help owners identify that the issues their geriatric dogs are having are age related (organic) and not behavior related.
What makes this book so relevant is Cristine’s constant focus on scientific methods and animal learning theory. Her research is sound and her methods consistent with the scientific data on how dogs learn. Her chapters on the history of dog training and traditional/military style training techniques are illuminating. I don’t think I’ve ever read a dog training book geared towards average dog owners, or the training community for that matter that did such a wonderful job of documenting the history of dog training and how those out dated, military methods of dog training (and the metal collars that came with them) came into popular use in the pet dog population. This is an important historical context given the resurgence of these techniques.
I only have two minor criticisms of this book. After the chapter detailing the military history of dog training and traditional methods, I would have preferred that those comparisons had been edited out of later chapters. Why reinforce methods we’re trying to replace with more scientific and effective methods? Secondly, in this age of YouTube and iPods, the inclusion of photographs or illustrations might have made the text more usable for some readers. Overall, however, I feel these are minor issues compared with the overall value of this book to the public consciousness.
Cristine does an admirable job of explaining “positive” training and giving owners tools for determining whether a trainer is truly using positive methods or just using the term “positive methods” to land clients. Our congratulations go out to Cristine Dahl for making canine ethology and animal learning theory understandable to the general public in her first book.