Have you read to your dog lately?
Enhance your knowledge of dogs by reading some recent contributions to information on training, behavior, and breed characteristics.
The Complete Encyclopedia of Dogs  

Rebo Publishers, 2001

Esther J.J. Verhoef-Verhallen, photographer, writer, and dog lover, has compiled an encyclopedia of dog breeds that includes many rare breeds, such as the Thai Ridgeback and the Azawakh.  The Azores Cattle Dog, however, is absent; the book includes 300 breeds, and there are probably closer to 400 documented breeds.  For rare breed enthusiasts, there are websites devoted to unusual breeds which are not subject to the limitations of space that a printed book must endure!

Particularly useful for those researching their next puppy are descriptions of character, behavior, and socialization for the various breeds in Verhoef-Verhallen's encyclopedia.  The author gives recommendations about typical behavior you can expect from a breed, including how it will react to children, other pets, and strangers.

Requirements for grooming and exercise are included for each breed, as well as a collection of photos, usually both puppies and adults, as well as color variations and coat types.  The photographs are crisp and give insight into the personalities of the dogs portrayed.  The history and origins of each breed and the breed standard are documented.

This large book will provide many hours of enjoyment from both photos and text and will make a handy reference for anyone who is fascinated by dogs.

Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer)

You've probably watched Cesar Millan's popular series on the National Geographic Channel called Dog Whisperer. In each episode, Cesar tackles the problems of family dogs by training the owners to become calm, assertive pack leaders and thus heal their canine neurosis. In his book, Cesar explains his theory in more detail, and with a biography that gives insight into its development, illustrates the origins of his school of dog psychology. He uses case studies to illustrate his basic principles.


In many respects, Millan's theory goes against existing information. Particularly controversial is his use of the "alpha roll," where he physically forces the dog to lie on its side in a submissive position. The real problem is that much of what Millan has to teach will not be understood by many dog owners, and attempting some of the techniques with aggressive dogs in particular could exacerbate problems. However, he does recommend seeking the help of professional dog trainers in addition to reading his book and watching his series.

I'm convinced that many experienced dog people will benefit from reading this book, even if they don't agree with every word or principle. The author grew up with dogs in a more natural culture and presents insights into North American dog-lover behaviour that helps to shed light on common dog behaviour issues.

My greatest concern with the book is that some sections may be misunderstood by inexperienced dog owners. For example, the explanation of how to introduce a new dog into your home suggests you may have adopted a dog from a shelter. Cesar recommends a very long walk with the dog as a bonding experience before taking the dog into your home and inviting him into the various rooms.

I'm sure what Cesar means here is that if you are bringing home a new adult dog, perhaps from a shelter, this bonding process will establish your position as leader. What I fear is that some readers will attempt this with a new puppy and do damage to the young dog's joints by over-exercising before the growth plates have matured. This caution is necessary because many dog people aren't aware that the average age for skeletal maturity of this kind is eighteen months. Walking a puppy for that distance would require a puppy tote or wagon: if you notice your young dog becoming tired during a walk, carry him or her home or to your vehicle.

Owned by a Bichon Frise apron
Owned by a Bichon Frise by canid_muse
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The importance of the walk as a bonding experience is a focal point in Cesar's recommendations. Many people believe that the walk is merely for exercise, which is also crucial of course, but the significance to a dog is much more social. In addition, the concept of migration of the dog pack elucidates the anxiety many dogs feel when moving to a new home, because it occurs in an unnatural way.

Many people underestimate the importance of space in social relations, but dogs understand it instinctively as conveying social status. Cesar explains how to invite a new dog into each room of your home in order to convey your ownership, which then allows you to set rules and boundaries that your dog will respect and feel comfortable with.

Cesar's Way is an important contribution to the field of dog psychology and human-canine relations. Even those who disagree with some of the methods described will take away a greater awareness of themselves and the ways in which they contribute to their own problems in relationships, especially but not exclusively with dogs.
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