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How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) Hardcover – 5 Feb 1998

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Completely Rev. and Updated, 2nd Ed edition (5 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316610003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316610001
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.5 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


** 'It is the most readable book on dog training for the layman that this reviewer has come across. Any person who has ever thought of owning a dog should read this engaging book from cover to cover.' LIBRARY JOURNAL ** 'An excellent course in canine care and obedience... full of sympathetic details and well-illustrated chapters.' NEWSDAY ** 'The Monls of New Skete have turned out a book on virtually every phase of dog care, understanding and training. They have done so from a tremendous depth of affection for the animal- an affection that shows in phase after phase of the book. A fine book indeed.' WAHINGTON POST

About the Author

The Monks of Skete have lived as a community in Cambridge, New York for more than thirty years. They support themselves by breeding, raising and training dogs at their monastery. Their two books on dog training have sold nearly 1 million hardcover copies.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the reviews for this book mentioned that there is some outdated dominance techniques. If this is a reference to dominance being a fact or a fiction, I would like to say that it is a subject still highly debated among behaviourists and that nothing has been proved one way or the other, it is just a matter of opinion. The same review mentions a positive relationship with your dog; Yes positive reinforcement should definitely be used to train dogs. It should also be used to change an unwanted behaviour, but when positive reinforcement has failed, and a behaviour is dangerous to the dog, other dogs or people, 'reward good and ignore bad' is not an option and punishment or correction of the behaviour should be considered. Every dog trainer or behaviourist has different methods and the monks of New Skete are no different. For instance they teach the down position by either physically guiding the dog into the down position or using a treat, but there is no reference to the use of a clicker to reward a down position voluntarily offered by the dog. I have given this book only 4 stars because I am reading it in the context of my Dog Behaviour Diploma to write about the value of punishment or not, and it is not as informative and in depth on the subject of dog psychology and training as other books I have read. However as the Library Journal says it is a '...readable book on dog training for the layman' and it also covers every phase of dog care (Washington Post)
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Fyfer on 28 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Some outdated dominance techniques but some helpful information as well. This book focuses on getting your dog what you want him to do and it's effective in that. But some of the methods are simply outdated.

Look into clicker training (NOT covered in this book) if you want a positive relationship with your dog based on getting him to love what he does.
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By paul dawson on 2 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 314 reviews
238 of 243 people found the following review helpful
Good resource for the new dog owner 22 Jun. 2006
By A reader - Published on
Format: 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.
152 of 161 people found the following review helpful
Bless the Monks! 4 Feb. 2005
By Good Brother Cadfael - Published on
Format: 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!
90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Don't misunderstand the monks! 30 Nov. 2003
By Sannah Zay - Published on
Format: 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.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Best single book on raising dogs 2 Mar. 2003
By T. A. Smith - Published on
Format: 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.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Common sense and uncommon sensitivity 22 Mar. 2003
By MJ - Published on
Format: 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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