Customer Review

140 of 149 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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Location: Virginia

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