Most helpful positive review
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Got a pup? Buy this! A life-changer. (No kidding)
on September 30, 2012
This book changed my life-with-pup immediately and my understanding of dog training forever. It is the best-written concise manual to basic training I've ever encountered. I recommend it to anyone, even an experienced owner, who has a dog and wants to understand him better.
It is divided into a set of progressive exercises and reviews, one major lesson per week. The authors briefly explain in the simplest, clearest manner possible both how to bring about a behavior---e.g., the sit or down or get-away-from-that-bottle-of-pills-that-just-spilled-onto-the-floor-and-will-kill-you-if-you-ingest-them---and why that particular method works. They explain precisely---step-by-step-- how to conduct the little exercise that will create the new behavior. The week is spent in short, repeated drills and practice of former lessons.
I felt confident, once again at ease with myself and pup, by the end of page one.
The basic message of the book? IT'S NOT MAGIC: dogs act from genetic, canine-specific behavioral patterns, just as human beings act from human-specific patterns. Learn those behavioral canine patterns and adapt your training to them. Then training will be easy, even fun for both owner and pup. It will be simple.
I was ready for simple. I've owned rat terriers all my life. I like their zip and feistiness and sharp features. I love their spirit and admire their sharp minds. I have taken all my dogs through their basic training without instruction or classes, and I've had few problems, none that did not resolve themselves pretty quickly. And I'd just had fourteen wonderful years with the gentlest ratty I've ever known.
So when The New Guy arrived, he was a mild surprise. I'd forgotten the all-teeth, all-chewing, all-running stage. The bounce. Nor was the New Guy was not the gentlest rat terrier I'd known. But we got along. He house trained quickly, learned the sit and the come and followed through on both about half the time. Not bad for a three-month-old. But soon, he began the "jump-on-her-and-lick-her-face" and the "mouth and snap at her hands and legs." One look at those little bared teeth and I called around for help, while I awaited an obedience class. Every trainer spoke of Alpha Animals and the occasional need kick or slap in order not "spoil" the dog. I'm a lifetime teacher and I'd never seen the equivalents of those recommendations work in my classrooms, but I was willing to try anything because daily The New Guy grew more defiant. I ordered recommended books and read them, marking key passages. I did things that ran against my instincts and tried some I simply could not pull off (the heel, for instance). Then finally, late on a day filled with frustration and punctuated by tiny canine teeth marks on my arm, I went to Amazon, seeking something simpler, maybe a set of progressive lessons. Something practical and simple. I wanted easy solutions, for I knew from past experience, they existed.
That's how I discovered "The Puppy Primer." It is exactly what it says----a primer, a set of basic training exercises that will take a dog through his first year and teach him to become a good companion and family member, while retaining his individuality. The author is an animal behaviorist who is an active researcher, and she is also an experienced hand-on trainer, and that combination separates her approach from a lot of well-known advice givers. She understands the mind of the creature at the end of the leash and her training techniques are designed to meet the needs of the canine mind. The training exercises work exactly the way she says they will work. Exactly. They are so simple, I marvel still. They use small treats as rewards because eating is the greatest pleasure pups know and hence best reward. Couple it with lavish praise, and the pup will gradually transfer the pleasure of the treat to the praise and chest and belly rubs and link all with the behavior being taught---sit, stay, come, or other. In time, the pup comes to see the behavior itself as pleasurable and seek out that pleasure.
My pup and I are not to the heel command yet, but I think that lesson illustrates the superiority of this book's method of training. The other books I've read start this exercise with the dog on leash. The authors do not start with leash. They begin with a set of preliminary exercises that reward the dog for following closely the feet of trainer. Ingenious and simple. Then they move to the leash, recommend chest "halter" at first because it is less likely to harm the head or neck. Then they build on the already-present skills taught in the preliminary exercises to teach the dog to heel. Such an approach just makes sense.
As a teacher and student I learned two important things: one will never (possibly can never) learn from someone who he believes does not like him and a teacher cannot teach a student whose motivations and being she does not understand. We cannot beat or frighten or harry any student into learning. This understanding lies at the heart of "The Puppy Primer and accounts for its successful teaching.
In fact, were I teaching pedagogy in an education school, I would assign this book as required reading. It would teach the importance of addressing human needs, the value of exercises that prepare students for mastering a skill, the value of rewards besides grades, and the great pleasure of teaching and learning that can bind student and teacher.
This little book is witty, clear, engaging, and right. I will give it to the dog owners I know. And I shall always be grateful to it for helping me reach my pup before bad behaviors had become confirmed. Usually the best of anything is simple. This book is no exception. Thanks!