BOOKS: Training the Best Dog Ever

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2013:

Training the Best Dog Ever by Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz & Larry Kay Workman Publishing (225 Varick St.,  9th floor,  New York,  NY 10014),  2012. 287 pages,  paperback.  $14.95

Training the Best Dog Ever is the paperback release of a manual originally published in 2010 as the Love That Dog Training Program. Co-author Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz,  who died in January 2011,  was renowned as trainer of three water spaniels for the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy,  and of Bo,  the current White House dog. Even before Sylvia-Stasiewicz and Larry Kay delve into training,  they ask the reader a basic question:  why are you getting a dog? Getting a dog,  they emphasize,  is making a commitment for the life of the dog. Like most handbooks about dog acquisition and training,  Training the Best Dog Ever includes a checklist of supplies and paraphernalia that should already be on hand when the new dog arrives. Stasiewicz and Kay suggest adoption as a good way to acquire a dog,  but recommend asking questions about shelter or rescue dog’s background,  and interacting with the dog before committing to taking the dog home.  All family members should be comfortable with the dog.  If there is already another dog in the home,  the old dog and the prospective new dog should meet.  If a shelter or rescue avoids truthfully answering questions,  or allowing old and new dogs to meet,  Stasiewicz and Kay suggest looking elsewhere. Stasiewicz and Kay warn people who want purebred dogs to avoid pet stores.  Nearly all stores that sell dogs get them from puppy mills.  A reputable breeder,  Stasiewicz and Kay say,  will invite a prospective buyer into her home and encourage interaction with the puppies who are for sale.  Some breeders will deny a sale if they are uncomfortable with the buyer. Dogs from good breeders are happy and healthy. Stasiewicz and Kay emphasize that a well-trained,  well-behaved dog is unlikely to be surrendered to an animal shelter.  They demonstrate positive reinforcement training methods.  They favor crate training,  however. Advocated for several decades as an easy way to house-train a puppy,  so long as the pup does not spend an excessive amount of time inside,  crate-training has fallen out of favor with many trainers recently because so often crating is misused as a punitive measure,  or busy people simply forget to let puppies out of their crates when they should. Stasiewicz and Kay provide lesson plans for teaching dogs to  sit,  stay,  and walk on a leash,  but suggest enlisting professional training help to cope with problem behaviors such as excessive barking,  digging,  or leash pulling.                                   ––Debra J. White

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