on 4 January 2016
I bought this (large format, hardback) book as a refresher guide book, when I had the very happy addition of a Lhasa Apso puppy to the family, last year (2015). As a dog owner, I know that every dog has his or her own personality, and sometimes, what has worked for other dogs when it came to early behaviour and training, might not work for another! I am happy to admit that I felt I could benefit from going back to basics, and this is exactly what this useful book does.
First of all, anyone thinking of buying this book should know that it is a concisely written book. Each chapter addresses a different subject about ownership and training, in a very brief and easy to digest format. However, it does not go into subjects in any great depth. My first concern is, it begins with a chapter 'Starting Off Well' that generally outlines your relationship with your puppy in its first year - there is nothing here about actually preparing your home and family for the practical and emotional experience of bringing a puppy into the family. So, for someone who is thinking about getting their first puppy, I would suggest also buying a book with more content, and certainly one that address the vital preparation needed before thinking of buying a puppy. From my own experience, I cannot personally emphasise how VERY important it is to puppy-proof your home and garden first, and to have everything that you are going to need to care for a new puppy properly ready, before you ever bring a puppy home - the book really should have addressed this as an opening chapter, in my opinion.
You will, however, find this book deals with all the basics to early-stage puppy ownership. I would suggest that it's a very handy book for a child to read (or have read to them) as part of the preparation process, if you are thinking about owning a puppy, as it certainly deals with each subject in a way that is clear, brief, and gets all the important main points over to the reader. It could be very helpful for a child as an introduction to the responsibility of having a puppy, as it explores things like how to address play biting, responsible (basic) puppy training, and valuable tips on helping a puppy get used grooming and veterinary care, as well as what the basics of responsibly socialising your new puppy. It is a clearly written book, with positive reinforcement as a key to training, and to building a relationship and bond with your puppy that is founded in love, respect, and careful handling - the puppy 's welfare is always put first, and for this reason, I feel it's an excellent starter for children to be given, and worked through with. Too many accidents happen because children are not taught to handle a puppy or indeed, older dog carefully and responsibly, and a hurt or badly frightened animal will sometimes bite out of fear and pain - nothing to do with aggression.
The author states that this book is aimed at working with puppies aged between three to five months old, to hopefully establish good and wanted behaviours, and help avoid unwanted habits taking hold.
Looking at the book, it is laid out with the information about every subject placed on two pages, facing each other. This means that everything is laid out so that all the examples, tips, and a question and answer sections, are directly on view, as you go through the book. There are a lot of large, clear photos, too, in fact, there are photos on every page, so it's obvious that the amount of text given on each subject isn't exactly exhaustive! This book really isn't the most in-depth puppy training book you can read, but it certainly does deal with the basics in a very accessible way.
Examining the book in more depth, there are seven subjects (the ' 7 Steps' of the title) in this book, which starts with Step 1: Early Lessons. This covers 1) starting off well, 2) building a good relationship, 3) play biting, 4) children and dogs, 5) house-training, 6) teaching "off", 7) chewing, and then is concluded with a 'problem solver' section - this format is the same for each 'Step' in the book. The problem solver sections give brief solutions to common difficulties most likely to be faced by puppy owners.
Next, we get to Step 2: Positive Training. This introduces 1) reward-based training, 2) getting attention, 3) coming back when called, 4) getting used to being handled, 5) car travel, 6) learning to be alone, 7) socialising with people, 8) animals, environments and noises, and again closes with the problem solver section.
Step 3 tackles Essential Exercises, with sections on 1) sit, stand, down, 2) coming back on a walk, 3) greeting people without jumping up, 4) learning to walk next to you, 5) preparation for vet/groomer, 6) food, chew and bone manners, and then the problem solver section for the third step.
In Step 4, Good Practice is discussed, through 1) teaching hand signals, 2) recall work, 3) handling by strangers, 4) frustration and attention-seeking, 5) walking on a loose lead, 6) boisterousness, and the problem solver section for step 4, concludes here.
Step 5 moves into Extra Lessons, 1) coming when called, 2) positions, different places and random rewards 3) greeting strangers in a sit, 4) getting used to vet examinations by strangers, 5) getting used to all types of humans 5) traffic and walking with turns, and finally 6) wait and stay. The problem solver for step 5 follows.
Step 6 deals with Further Education, through 1) sit, stand, down - voice cues only, 2) coming back from distractions when called, 3) getting used to being handled on a table, 4) barking, 5) walking on a loose lead with distractions, 6) wait- while owner moves away, and finally looks at 7) finding a training class. The expected 'problem solver' section closes the chapter.
The last Step, 7, deals with Advanced Training, and is the shortest section of the book, with just three topics - they are 1) walking beside you without a lead, 2) waiting with distractions, 3) tricks, and a final two page section briefly touching on adolescence. The book concludes with a 'congratulations' on finishing the course, an index, and acknowledgement page - this gives the book 128 pages in total.
Bear in mind, of course, that the format for almost all the 128 pages have large photos on every page, and advice and guidance is presented by and large, in simple brief paragraphs. This does limit the text, so the book is probably most helpful as a quick refresher, a basic introduction, or as a child's first book to help prepare them for (some!) of the things to expect when bringing a puppy into your life. It's certainly an easy to access book. Everything can be taken in at a glace, then quickly referenced again as needed.
There are also some very useful tips in the 'problem solver' sections that close each 'step'. The problem solvers are written as scenarios which may present a common problem, and relate to the information and guidance suggested by that chapter. So, for example, the problem in the first 'step' is that a puppy makes a mess when left in the kitchen at night. The author goes into reasons why the problem might have occurred, and suggests ways to deal with them, in this case, suggesting taking your puppy into your bedroom at night, during early stage housetraining. This way you (should be!) more easily alerted when your puppy needs to be let out to relieve themselves. I can say from personal experience, that establishing a good housetraining system can take much of the stress out of puppy ownership, and I have always done this myself - using child gates, and a small purpose built puppy pen with lino placed under it, keeps your bedroom clean when little 'accidents' happen, and I have always found that a new puppy will settle in so much better when it isn't left to howl on its own in a kitchen all night! Maybe some dog trainers would disagree, but I feel that putting a puppy through unnecessary distress isn't the best way to form a loving bond, if you can do things in a more humane way. This is my own opinion, here, by the way, not necessarily the author's, I'm just using the example to relate to something mentioned as a 'problem solver' mentioned in the book.
So, given everything that is good about this aspect of the book, I would still have to honestly say, for an in-depth guide, or a book which explores subjects listed her in any great detail, you really need to look elsewhere. There really is so much that is just touched on, that would be more helpful discussed at greater length - for example, barking. This is possibly one of the greatest sources of potential nuisance behaviour for dog owners, excessive barking can cause all kinds of issues for the owner, the dog, and of course, anyone who lives within earshot of a constantly barking dog! Yet, not once does the author suggest that excessive barking could be a sign that your puppy is in some kind of discomfort, or indeed, be in pain. Novice dog owners need to know this, as well as many more very important things not looked at here. So, while it is certainly useful as a brief guide to puppy training and ownership, please don't think that this is the only puppy book you will ever need. It is fine for quick reference, but the very brief ways that subjects are covered, really limits the information included.
From the biographical information on the back flap of the book cover, I read that the author, Gwen Bailey, is the founder and managing director of Puppy School, which is apparently the 'UK's biggest network of puppy class trainers'. She has written nine animal behaviour books, and was once head of Animal Behaviour for one of Britain's largest animal welfare charities. This book was first published in 2005, by Thunder Bay Press, an imprint of the Baker and Taylor publishing group, and printed and bound in China. ISBN-13: 978-1-59223-306-9, or ISBN-10: 1-59223-306-6.
My opinion is that 'Puppy School - 7 Steps To The Perfect Puppy' is a good, concise, book, presented in an easily read format. The book deals with (most) of the basics to responsible, humane and kind puppy ownership and basic training. Reading this book will certainly help prepare you for knowing what to expect if you haven't had the joys of bringing a puppy into your life, before now. However, you will need to be aware that this book does not guide someone in many important ways - for example, how you need to puppy proof your home first before bringing a puppy home, neither does it look at how to responsibly source a new puppy, or look at homing a puppy from a rescue centre. Nothing is mentioned regarding vaccination, microchipping, and nutrition, either, and could certainly have been improved upon, if it had. Looking at which breed of puppy/dog is best suited to your family, home, location, and resources, could also have been included as a foreword, and again is something that you will need to find out elsewhere. For those and other reasons, this book is a limited puppy owning guide book, but there is much that the new or prospective puppy owner can find here, and I would conclude that this is still a very useful book.
*Please note - I have written this review simply as an interested dog owner, who has bought and read this book. I have not received any reward, payment or other inducement and I am no relation to the author/publishers. I write this review as someone in their 50's who has been blessed by having dogs almost all my life; currently sharing my home with a 14 year old (blind) Lhasa Apso, my retired service dog and friend, a Tibetan Terrier who my son owns, a cheeky little Shih Tzu/Lhasa Apso cross who is 6 years old, and our newest addition (who came to join us last September) in the shape of a little Lhasa Apso - now 7 months old. They are all adored! I hope that I am, and always will be, a loving and responsible dog owner, and I have used the experience of the accumulated years of having dogs, to comment on this book, and have given it 4 stars out of 5.