Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Review: Divine Canine

The Eyes Have It
With our own dogs, from the earliest days of puppyhood we stress the importance of contact between human and canine. Our puppies, after the first few weeks, are handled constantly and affectionately. But as important as this physical contact is, we put just as much effort into eye contact, which is key to establishing a relationship that will blossom as puppies grow into dogs.

Good eye contact serves several different purposes in the adult dog. A kindly, gentle look tells the dog that she is loved and accepted. But it is just as vital to communicate a stern reaction to bad behavior. A piercing, sustained stare into a dog's eyes tells her who's in charge; it establishes the proper hierarchy of dominance between person and pet. We don't do this with anger, but with firmness. Such eye contact rivets the dog's attention and can help curtail unruly behavior. It also encourages respect and ensures that the dog is paying attention. A well-positioned training collar is the key to establishing eye contact; lifting the dog's head up and keeping it firmly pointed at your face virtually guarantees the dog will look into your eyes.
I fell in love with this book. It is not just that it is packed with stories and photos of adorable dogs unlearning bad training. It is that it reminded me of how much there is to appreciate in the pets right in my own household. I have a bad habit of being too busy to properly pay attention much of the time. I have to remind myself to stop what I am doing and pay full attention to the business colleague or even family member who is talking to me at the moment. Our animals, especially our dogs, are so patient that they will put up with days when I forget to even pet them, although the food and water bowls are filled.

Every time I pick up this book and look through it, I see reminders of just how much there is to learn from our animals as well as how they enrich our lives ... if we let them. Whether you are preparing to train a dog or trying to work your pet out of bad habits and into good ones, I highly recommend this book for the monks' humane and unique approach to remembering that "a caring attitude and honest communication can turn any dog into a divine canine."

Oh, yeah ... and if you want to train your dog whether to new habits or out of bad ones, this has some wonderful techniques.

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