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146 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bless the Monks!
Our dog Cadfael, a 190-pound English Mastiff, is a great example of what the Monks' training can do for a dog and his owners. He is our first dog and _Best Friend_ came through for us time and time again. While I read many books about dogs before Cadfael came to live with us, the Monks' book and _Dogs for Dummies_ proved the most helpful both in practical and...
Published on February 3, 2005 by Good Brother Cadfael

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229 of 233 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good resource for the new dog owner
"How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend" is an excellent reference book for the first time dog owner and trainer. As well as the normal chapters on how to choose, socialise, feed, groom and train a puppy, the Monks cover topics as varied as how to read a puppy's pedigree, how to massage your dog, and how your dog's living environment will impact upon his training needs...
Published on June 21, 2006 by A reader


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229 of 233 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good resource for the new dog owner, June 21, 2006
By 
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
"How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend" is an excellent reference book for the first time dog owner and trainer. As well as the normal chapters on how to choose, socialise, feed, groom and train a puppy, the Monks cover topics as varied as how to read a puppy's pedigree, how to massage your dog, and how your dog's living environment will impact upon his training needs.

Unlike many training manuals, the Monks of New Skete strike a nice balance between "dominance" based training methods and formal training. The Monks stress the importance of earning your dog's trust and respect and the importance of being a strong pack leader for your dog; they also recognise the need for formal training, and spend several chapters explaining how this is best accomplished. Most training books are heavily biased towards one or other method, so it is nice to read a book which realises that both are ingredients in successful dog training.

The training methods discussed are fairly traditional, with the Monks either luring or gently moulding the dog into shape, then praising. However they also advocate classically conditioning a positive reinforcer (keys jingling), which can then be used at strategic times to help a dog relax; and they do discuss and recommend clicker methods for "sensitive" dogs.

Contrary to some reviews posted below, the Monks of New Skete do in fact advocate using plenty of positive reinforcement in their training. Confusion on this issue probably stems from the fact that the Monks do not advocate constantly using food treats while training. However, food treats are not the only positive reinforcement method available to a trainer. As the Monks point out "Food treats are an extremely effective motivator to help dogs learn...however, they are not meant to replace sincere verbal and physical praise." The Monks advocate that puppies are regularly praised, petted and played with during training. Punishment only ever comes after a dog has been shown an exercise multiple times and fully understands what is required of it, and far from being harsh or abusive, is normally limited to stern eye contact or a verbal growl. Scruff shakes and chin cuffs are reserved for the worst transgressions. The Monks take care to emphasise that any punishment used should be immediate, fair and consistent.

There are certainly gaps in this book. The "Problem Solving" section is rudimentary at best (for example, the section on interdog aggression only recommends limiting the dog's opportunity to mark territory, desexing him and muzzling him!). Readers with a problem dog would be well advised to get some more indepth resources regarding their dog's particular problem. The obedience exercises covered are quite limited, covering only the sit, down, stay, heel and recall. Owners wishing to teach their dogs more advanced exercises will need to seek additional resources. It is also disappointing that the Monks only discuss one method of teaching each exercise. With the plethora of options available today to teach even something as simple as a sit - for example, shaping, luring, capturing - it is a pity the Monks did not discuss several options for training each behaviour.

Despite such flaws, "How to be your Dog's Best Friend" is one of the three training books I generally recommend to new dog owners (the other two are "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell and "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson). These three books complement each other very well. "The Other End of the Leash" is a great primer on canine-human communication, whereas "The Culture Clash" is an excellent manual on operant conditioning-based positive training. "How to Be your Dog's Best Friend" both fills in important gaps left by the other two books, and puts the case for kind and fair "traditional" style training.
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146 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bless the Monks!, February 3, 2005
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
Our dog Cadfael, a 190-pound English Mastiff, is a great example of what the Monks' training can do for a dog and his owners. He is our first dog and _Best Friend_ came through for us time and time again. While I read many books about dogs before Cadfael came to live with us, the Monks' book and _Dogs for Dummies_ proved the most helpful both in practical and philosophical matters. I also recommend the Monks' book on puppies and their videos.

I think one of the most important services the Monks offer to future dog owners is their attitude that the dog represents a major, major commitment on your part, in terms of time, money and emotional involvement. If you are not willing to invest in the dog, you will shortchange the relationship on all levels. The relationship will suffer. We feel this is particularly true in the case of a dog that is expected to spend most of his time outdoors. The monks are right: if you want an animal to live outdoors in a pen, get a cow or sheep or chicken that has not been bred to be social with human beings.

From the very beginning, before we brought Cadfael home as an 8-week-old, 18-pound puppy, we incorporated the lessons in this book. We followed the monks' advice as far as finding the right breed for us and the right breeder. We bought our supplies well in advance, including the enormous crate (which we used for the first year). We both took vacations so that we could be with him constantly for the first three weeks or so, to focus on housetraining and socialization. From how to keep a dog from jumping up on you (who wants a dog who's taller than you and outweighs you by 60 pounds jumping on you?), to providing the right toys so the dog won't be interested in chewing the wrong things, to keeping the dog quiet at night, the monks were there with the answers.

We like how the monks encourage you to get physicial with your dog, even giving massages. Cadfael loves that. He lets us clean his ears, clip his nails and brush his teeth, too, because, as the monks suggested, we started all these activities very early on. He is so accustomed to being bathed that he just stands there and lets him soap him down and rinse him off. (Have to do that outside, because there's no way he'd fit in the tub.)He is a pleasure at the vet's, too. He has been so used to being handled that it makes the doctor's work much, much easier.

The monks stress the importance of training, and my husband and I cannot agree more. The monks do a great job explaining how to train the basics: sit, stay, come, heel, lie down. While we did a lot of home training, we also enrolled Cadfael in a series of obedience classes, as well as allow him as much social interaction as possible. We can walk Cadfael on a busy city street and not worry. We can leave him in the car in appropriate weather and know that he will be all right. We can let him off the lead on a trail and know that he will come back when we call. We can have fun playing ball with him because he will fetch the ball and drop it on command. We can take him to an outdoor restaurant and trust him to sit under our table while we eat lunch.

One of the reviewers I read seems to have real problems with the discipline tactics the monks employ. We used both the shakedown and, once or twice, the alpha wolf rollover. Neither is about hurting the dog physically or mentally; used with proper timing and drama, they are designed to immediately get your dog's attention and let him know that whatever he's doing is a definite no-no. They are designed to let your dog know you are in charge. And, regarding the reviewer's claims that the monks are indiscriminate in their discipline, here's what the monks themselves have to say about the alpha wolf rollover: "Let us note that many dogs may never need such physical discipline. But if you have a dog that does, it seems better to administer discipline effectively and meaningfully once, rather than dozens of times in an ineffective way." Amen!

The monks are quick to point out the fact that a dog is not a person and certainly not a child. But a good dog is a wonderful companion whom you want to have around and who wants to be around you. It is up to the dog's owners to work with him and provide him with the things he needs to make him a good dog.

Well, Cadfael has turned six, and it is time to go back to the breeder to get a friend for him. Our breeder tells us she will have puppies this spring. So I'd better get reading and get the crate out of storage!
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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't misunderstand the monks!, November 30, 2003
By 
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
Don't let the bad reviews scare you... this book is too valuable to allow yourself to be dissuaded by politically-correct morons who take the monk's ideas out of context. Truly, every bad review I have read on Amazon completely overstate and misrepresent the monk's ideas on physical discipline. The monks do NOT advocate beating your dog. They also ONLY support physical discipline for SEVERE transgressions, such as violent behavior by the dog or serious household destruction, NOT as a way to teach your dog to sit or stay. Also, they are very specific about how to use physical discipline, which is helpful... for instance, they say you should never use an object to hit your dog, you should never hit a dog from behind or above, and in fact you shouldn't need to hit your dog unless ABSOLUTELY necessary, when other methods fail. Physical discipline is NOT a first recourse for the monks.
Having said that, they also try to emphasize (in a very helpful way) that a dog is not a person! All too often, people anthropomorphize their dogs. They are DOGS! The monks understand the animal that is a dog, and try to have this understanding be as independent as possible from humanity, aside from the human-dog relationship. Therefore, dogs expect a certain degree of physical discipline that is entirely appropriate (look at how a mother disciplines her pups) which MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR HUMANS! Do not mistake dogs for people... the monks are not suggesting that you use physical discipline on your children!
You may well find an effective approach that does not involve physical discipline... which is fine. According to the monks, however, this only serves to alleviate your own HUMAN feelings of guilt. The monks simply believe that physical discipline is appropriate and non-cruel when done appropriately and with a high level of respect for the dog.
As far as the rest of the book goes, it is a complete tome of all aspects of the human-dog relationship. Even if you don't agree with physical discipline, there is no other more complete book touching on each subject. Do not deprive yourself of this excellent overview of dog raising. The monks may not go into many details for some of the subjects, but they provide an extensive list for further reading on specific subjects, which is much appreciated. All in all, an outstanding reference book. Highly recommended to anyone to read cover-to-cover before even getting a dog, regardless of your agreement with them on all issues.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best single book on raising dogs, March 1, 2003
By 
T. A. Smith (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
This book is full of great advice. Some of it will be of use for all dogs, and all of it will be of use for some dogs. Please, don't be put off by other reviewers that felt the methods advocated by the book are too harsh. Use your judgement and choose the methods and tools provided by the book that fit the situation and the dog.
I've owned dogs most of my life. I have owned and showed Bouviers -- large, powerful dogs. Some were gentle, some were timid giants, and some were strong and bold. This book is my favorite, and years ago it helped turn around the family/pack dynamics between us and Kassi a young, very strong Bouvier. We might have had to get rid of her because she was starting to develop serious dominance problems, but in the end, after having to resort to every trick in this book, Kassi settled down and accepted her place in the family (the pack from her perspective) and became the most remarkable dog I've ever owned. She went on to become a champion in the show ring, but more importantly she became a steady, trusted companion that traveled to my wife's office with her every day. Rascal, Quincy, Poca, and Yena (the others) all have their own personalities, and none of them required the "scruff shake" as Kassi did, but Kassi was always our favorite -- a loving, affectionate, wonderful family dog full of personality, yet completely fearless and in control in every situation.
If you have more than one dog, or a large dog, or you don't want your dog sleeping on the sofa or intimidating your guests or barking at your neighbor's children or growling over the food bowl, it will be necessary to understand dog psychology and communication. This book really will help you become your dog's best friend. Every dog is different, and there are a number of good books on dogs so I wouldn't make any one book my only book on dogs, but don't pass this one up.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the NEW EDITION before you criticize, July 11, 2006
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
I am astounded at the number of negative reviews of this book that blithely ignore what's actually in it. As others have stated, the recommendations to hit a dog come with plenty of warnings and caveats that it only be done in extreme situations and only if you're comfortable doing it and only if that's how you chose to deal with some specific, serious problem your dog may have. They never, ever recommend hitting a dog for say, simply refusing to come, the way some of these reviews make it seem.

Also, many people keep harping on the Alpha Dog Roll. Here's what the 2002 edition states, verbatim: "(in italics) We no longer recommend this technique and strongly discourage its use to our clients. Though it can be argued that it has a natural basis in pack life, in a dog-human context it is potentially very dangerous and can set up the owner for a serious bite on the face (or worse), particularly with a dominant dog. The conditions in which it might be used effectively are simply too risky and demanding for the average dog owner; there are other ways of dealing with problem behavior that are much safer and, in the long run, just as effective.

Let us repeat: the disciplinary techniques explained in this section should not be applied haphazardly and for a slight misbehavior. There is always the chance that autocratic dog ownders, having learned discipline techniques, will misuse them. Watch yourself - owners whe are physically or verbally domineering wind up with cringing, neurotic dogs. Discipline, like praise, must be meaningful. It must communicate the owner's displeasure clearly, and on the dog's level of understanding and perception, for unacceptable behavior."
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common sense and uncommon sensitivity, March 22, 2003
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
The Monks of New Skete have great respect for their dogs, and truly enjoy them. Their socialization and obedience training methods are based on common sense and on innate wolf/dog behavior. They drive home the point that our dogs are *not* people. If you try to housebreak a dog as you would potty-train a toddler, you'll end up frustrated, to say the least.
Note: They only advocate "hitting" in extreme circumstances where the dog shows serious aggression against a human. And they have based their under-the-chin cuff on disciplinary measures used by wolves and mother dogs to curb behavior that is unacceptable to the pack. Even if I can't imagine smacking my dog under the chin, I understand their reasoning and trust their judgment. They exude both sensibility and sensitivity when it comes to discipline. Beyond that, the rest of their advice is based on benevolence and a thorough understanding of how dogs think and react.
I recommend this book ("The Art of Raising a Puppy" even more so) to anyone who is serious about having a happy, well-socialized, well-trained dog.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dog Lover, August 6, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
The best dog book on the market.
It's hard to imagine that the folks who wrote negative reviews of this book actually read it!! They have taken a very small portion of the training philosophy -- the notion that SOMETIMES it is necessary to punish a dog, so here's how to do it properly -- and ignored the true emphasis of the book, which is developing a strong, positive relationship with your dog.
We have owned two Labs. One was pretty sure he was the alpha dog up to the day he died at age 15. We on some very rare occassions had to punish him and found the techniques extremely effective and, if followed correctly, very humane. The one we have now is a more submissive dog and can be corrected with a firm "NO", and, yes, even an occassional growl. It works very well.
The Monks address these differences between a dog's temperament and how to adapt your training. It was one of the many things I liked about this book -- no "one size fits all".
Before we adopted our current dog, I spoke with numerous breeders and discussed this book with each of them. Every one felt it was an excellent book.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights into the dog mind, December 30, 2005
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
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.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being part of the pack, November 25, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
This is an outstanding book on dog training and how to train a dog to be well behaved and happy. It is based on years of experience as well as natural dog/wolf behavior. I am disappointed to see how many people have given this book bad reviews becuase they are upset about the disicpline techniques used. If they carfully read what the monks have to say about physical disipline they would understand that this is not about "beating" your dog. It is instead a very positive approach showing humane ways to get your dog's attention, love and trust so that you can live and work together in harmony. No human dog relationship can work well if the dog does not see people as leaders of the pack. The person using the training tips givin in this book that complained of their dog becoming a scared tremmbling mess must have missused this book. It does NOT recomend beating your dog!!! However, it does show you ways to communicate your wishes to your dog and become the pack leader so your dog will love trust and look to you for leadership. I have seen too many people with horribly behaved dogs beucase the dogs see themselves as the pack leader.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn How Your Dog Thinks, November 21, 2004
By 
J. Cravens (Portland, Oregon (or there abouts)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)
This book changed the way I relate to all dogs, not just my own. This is a book by true dog lovers -- people who don't see dogs as human children but, rather, complex creatures descended from wolves, now reliant on humans, and with their own unique way of thinking and perceiving the world. I loved my dogs before I read this book, but after reading it the first time, I felt that I actually *understood* my dogs, and felt that I knew what it took to make them not just happy in a moment, but content for a lifetime. I've had three dogs now, each from a shelter or on his or her way to one, and this book helped me address different behavior issues with each. I wish everyone who is thinking of giving their dog up, particularly because of a behavior problem, would read this book. Our animal shelters would have a lot less dogs, and a lot more homes would have dogs, as a result.
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