How to choose a Dog book/training class

Valuable training articles posted by Victoria and other Positively members.

Moderators: emmabeth, BoardHost

Post Reply
Posts: 8894
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location: West Midlands

How to choose a Dog book/training class

Post by emmabeth » Mon May 10, 2010 7:59 pm

Dog Books -

There are hundreds of books out there on training dogs, thousands!... How do you know if the author is up to date, has good methods, or is recommending out of date stuff or unpleasant or dangerous methods?

One of the first things to do is look at the book and see when it was originally published and it should tell you this inside the front cover - look for the first edition date, NOT the current reprint date.

Not all old books are awful, and even some of those that have their 'awful' elements have their uses - but if its more than about 20 years old and its just been reprinted and not revised/updated.. theres a fairly good chance the information inside is a bit old hat, at best!

Next - who wrote it? Find out more about them - not everyone writing a book about something really knows what they are talking about, so do a google search and find out what their background in the subject actually is. Is their background in dog handling/owning/training actually relevant to your sort of dog and lifestyle? It may be wonderful that the author has 40+ years experience in Schutzhund and protection dog training and handling for police and military - but if you have a pet dog, in a pet dog lifestyle... its potentially not going to be particularly applicable to you.

Genre - what SORT of dog book is it. Who is it aimed at?

There are a LOT of 'big book of dog breeds' and 'book of xyz breed' type books around which may well have useful information on dog breeds (though don't take that for granted either, I have a 1980s book of dog breeds here that has a whippet photo instead of a greyhounds and the staffie photo is wrong too...) but very frequently any training information included is very generic and outdated. The first kind of book (big book of dog breeds type) are often edited by someone with very little knowledge of dogs at all, they just collect and put all the information together from other sources. The second type tend to be put together by someone who knows that particular breed really well.... but often from a point of view that may not be particularly useful to the average owner (ie, especially the older ones, written by some big show breeder who has had hundreds of that breed.. but not actually shared his household and lived a normal, average life, with any of them!).

Then there are the 'how to' books which tell you how to train your dog - its usually easier to assess how good these are. If they are fairly recent, if you can get some background on the author, and then skim through the contents table. Is there any mention of dominance or dominant dogs. If so, flick to that section - are they talking about dominance towards humans? If so - this is probably not a great book.

Take a look at what they say about problem behaviours, such as pulling on the leash or food aggression - if theres any mention of choke chains, e-collars, correction, taking food away to punish the dog for growling, or taking it to 'prove' to the dog you will give it back - put it down and walk away from that one.

If you havent found mention of any of these things - pick a couple of sections to take a look at - is the advise given clear and easy to understand. Does the author explain WHY the dog may be doing whatever it is doing, as well as how to fix it? Think through the fix offered in the book - does it seem logical? Does it seem like something you would be happy to have done to your dog... a good rule of thumb also, given the similarity in communication ability between say a small child and a dog... would you be happy to apply this method to a child? If the answers to these are no.. then it probably isnt the right book for you - maybe you need things explained/laid out in a different way - maybe the methods are not as positive as they first appear.

All the above is something of a generalisation as to get more specific I would have to outright name good books and bad books. When you have a good understanding of dog behaviour and how/why things work and happen, even the bad books can have their uses in showing what other people do, why certain odd behaviours can occur in dogs due to the methods that have been used on the previously etc.

Do make note of a book title and author and ask around - does someone you know like that book - ask them why. Look at how their dog behaves and if you like it, do some more research on that particular author and their methods.. Ask, ask and ask some more!

Dog training classes -

As with some of the dog training books stuff, there are things to look out for and avoid such as mentions of dominance in relation to dog/human interactions, punishment/corrections etc.

A good trainer will be happy for you to come along to a class without your dog, and see what is going on. Watch how they work with the other dogs owners - even if they are the worlds greatest positive trainer, they need to be good at talking to and working with people, because they DONT train your dog for you - they show YOU how to train your dog.

Look at the dogs and how they are training them - do you want your dog to be trained that way. Does anything about the method feel uncomfortable? Would you be happy to do that or let someone else do that, to your dog? If the answer is no... just leave.

Look at the environment also, how many dogs there are in a class - does every owner seem to know what they are doing or is there a queue of people trying to get the trainers attention. Is it calm and fairly sensible or is it a bit chaotic, is there plenty of room for the dogs or is everyone crammed together.

If you like what you see, talk to the trainer - ask them questions about the methods they use. They should be willing to discuss things and leave you understanding how they think. if they are not willing to discuss, or make you feel stupid for asking or as if you have crossed some sort of boundary, then this probably isnt the right class for you (though, dont pick on a harrassed and busy trainer the second class is over!!).

Do ask them about their experience and any qualifications they may have - qualifications are NOT the be-all and end-all, and there are a lot of 'qualifications' out there that in my opinion (and in the opinion of a lot of others) are not worth the paper they are written on. Ask the trainer what books they recommend, do they go to any seminars and workshops by other trainers? Get a feel for them - if they tell you they have 40 years of experience, thats all wella nd good but if its 40 years of doing things their way without any interest in research or updating their methods, thats not so good at all! Talk to the people who attend too if you can, ask them how they feel and how the trainer helps them with their dog.

Again as with books - ask ask ask. No trainer or author is above being questioned on their methods or their experience. They are NOT GOD!.. they are a normal person just like you, they werent born on this planet knowing how to train dogs - a good trainer (who isnt pressed for time!) should be passionate about what they do and more than happy to tell you how, why, how they got there, why they do it.
A bad trainer may not be..but its your money, your dog - you are the client!

Dog training articles - in magazines and on the net.

As with authors - ask who is this person, what do they know, what is their experience and background and.. especially on the internet.. what is their agenda, what do they seek to achieve by this article.

Is it clear how much of what they write is personal opinion, versus fact. Can you verify what they say elsewhere, do they back up what they say with references you can follow and check out?

Again as with books and training classes - does what they say sound like something you want to do to/with your dog. Is it likely to cause your dog any harm? Are other people acheiving success and are they happy with what they are doing?

Does what they say stand up to the test of science, is it backed up by science... or is it out dated?

I do think on the whole people are a little more sceptical about things they find on the internet - less so these days compared to 10 years ago, but... its worth bearing in mind that just because something is in a book, or a trainer says it in a training class, that does not mean it is gospel. It is just somehow more 'official' coming from a book or a person in a position of authority. So never forget to question whatever you hear or read!
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

User avatar
Posts: 5872
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:21 am

Re: How to choose a Dog book/training class

Post by Mattie » Tue May 11, 2010 1:38 am

A very good post Em, :D

What about a sticky thread in the training section on which books members have found useful? This may help others as well.

User avatar
Posts: 514
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:21 pm
Location: Danville, VA / Foxboro, MA

Re: How to choose a Dog book/training class

Post by forkin14 » Tue May 11, 2010 1:14 pm

Thanks! This helped clear a lot up for me :D

Post Reply