Dog Days of Summer
By Alissa Dornink
In a couple weeks, I will join the almost 70 million households in the US that have a dog, specifically a golden retriever puppy tentatively named Sylvie. Or possibly Poe. Or maybe Din Djarin. I’m still working on the perfect name. I have been watching updates of her with her littermates online and I am pretty sure she’s the most adorable dog ever, although I may be slightly biased.
It’s been a little while since I have had a dog so I am taking time to bone up (the only dog-related pun I will make here, I promise) on all things pertaining to dogs. I have gone around the fence and checked for weak spots, fenced off the garden, and made sure there aren’t any plants that might be toxic. I am working on dog-proofing the inside of my house next.
I have also started doing what librarians do best, which is reading up on anything related to dogs. There is a wide selection of resources at the Ames Public Library, as I quickly learned. Did I want to try the training methods developed by the Monks of New Skete in their book “How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners?” How about “Enlightened Dog Training: Become the Peaceful Alpha Your Dog Needs and Respects,” by Jesse Sternberg for a Zen-like approach to raising a dog. What about celebrity dog trainer Caesar Milan’s myriad of books? I decided to start simple, so I looked at “Dog Training for Dummies” by Wendy Volhard and Kyra Sundance’s Dog Training 101: Step by Step Instructions for Raising a Happy, Healthy, Well Behaved Dog.’” This very easy-to-follow book with over 500 photos walks you through everything from acclimating your dog to their new family, setting up a routine for everyone, basic training and games, and troubleshooting common behaviors. “Integrated Dog Training: The Commonsense Visual Guide to Training Any Dog” by Michael Wombacher and “Ultimate Guide to Dog Training,” by Teoti Anderson are both excellent resources that are a little more in-depth.
A common theme in a majority of the dog books is the effectiveness of positive reinforcement and training. Victoria Stilwell goes into detail about this in her book “Train Your Dog Positively” and explains how to use positive reinforcing training for everything from housebreaking to leash pulling. Zac George’s “Guide to a Well-Behaved Dog” also expands on this concept, and he covers it in videos on his YouTube channel. If you are a visual based learner and want to explore training in video format, try “Dog Training 101” by the Great Courses. Trainer Jean Donaldson breaks her course into 24 lectures where you learn not only how to teach your dog basic tricks, but also why they act the way they do. “The Natural Dog: A New Approach to Achieving a Happy, Healthy Hound” by Gwen Bailey divides her book into two parts—the physically healthy dog and the mentally healthy dog—and details how to achieve both. It also has some of the cutest pictures of all the books I have looked at.
If I feel really confident in my training abilities some day, I might see what we can do with “The idiot’s Guide to Dog Tricks” by Deb Eldredge, DVM. This easy-to-read guide covers tricks from sitting to skateboarding. Then there is always the Canine Good Citizens Award (an actual award with a real ribbon!) that we can aim for, which is detailed in The American Kennel Club’s “Canine Good Citizen: Ten Essential Skills Every Well-Mannered Dog Should Know.”
There has to be treats after all that training to be a good girl and of course there is a book for that. “Healthy Homemade Dog Treats” by Serena Faber-Nelson has over 70 dog approved recipes you can make out of everyday ingredients when you want to really spoil them.
Fingers crossed I will retain some of this information I have consumed in preparation for Sylvie (or Poe or Din). There are only a few weeks left before she arrives and the real fun begins!