Review: How to be Your Dog's Best Friend

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete was a book that one of the dog park people recommended to us. Thanks to the wife's aunt, we got a copy of it for Christmas, and dove right in. After getting through a few chapters, my first thought was "This is the book we should have read before getting Nala".

The Monks of New Skete have apparently been breeding German Shepherd Dogs for quite some time now and also run a boarding/training program for other dogs, so they have a good amount of experience with breeding, raising and training dogs and dog psychology/sociology. Much of this collected wisdom (along with plenty of anectodes) is encapsulated very nicely in this book. The book offers a lot of good training tips and insights into the canine mind, which is something I think all dog owners would benefit from to help understand their dogs better. Apart from the training advice and techniques given in the book, I think the most valuable thing this book has to offer are the monks' insights into the canine mind, and how dogs think and behave. A lot of topics are covered in the book, so at 321 pages some of the coverage is necessarily a little cursory. A sizable reading list at the back provides pointers to other books that cover specific topics in more detail though.

For dog owners, this is one that's definitely worth adding to the bookshelf.

BTW, pay no attention to the bad or 1 star reviews at Amazon.com. All of those people seem to have gotten the wrong idea that the monks are trying to get across about disciplining your dog. They give the false impression that the monks advocate beating your dog into submission, which is totally way off base and suggests these people just didn't get what the monks are trying to say about discipline. While a couple of physical punishment methods are provided, the monks qualify their use by saying:

physical discipline or correction is never an arbitrary training technique to be applied to each and every dog for all offenses
In considering their use, you should follow the rule of always using the least amount of force necessary to change the behavior. Don't go overboard. Build on your corrections, making them progressively tougher until your dog responds appropriately. Above all, watch your dog: his response will tell you whether the correction is too soft or too stern.
physical discipline should be reserved for the heinous canine crimes mentioned earlier, not meted out for every episode of bad behavior

The reviewers that give the book a poor review seem to have missed all this. The chapter on discipline ends with a section on making up with your dog afterwards, which is a very important thing to do.