Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: The Bedtime Book for Dogs (dogs)

The Bedtime Book for Dogs by Bruce Littlefield (Grand Central Publishing, 2011, $15.95, 28 pages, ages 4 and up) 

You do read to your dog at bedtime, don’t you?

I do and I’m proud of it. Sam loves being read to. This book is in my Top Two of all dog books - for dogs.

At bedtime, I bring The Bedtime Book out, Sam The Dog comes over to me, and I pet him with one hand while the other turns the pages. Sam is a good dog, just like the dog in the book, and he knows it because I tell him so, all the time. Sam loves being told he’s a good dog.

The Big Lesson

Dedicated to “Westminster and all good dogs,” this is the only book I have counted the number of words in – 191 short words, many of which your dog can recognize. So, it’s a short book that covers a lot of material – things good dogs do - but the best, being the Big Lesson which is unintrusive. When the dog comes home after getting out, instead of punishing him, his friend says, “You came home! You’re a good dog!” 

We have much to learn from this – basically to never punish a dog for coming home, no matter how long he has been gone.

The Story

The Bedtime Book is a story within a story - about a good dog, and a treat, of course. The dog has heard the story before, knows how it ends and still loves it (just like your child).

The story is about a dog, a good dog who wants to go to the park, but his friend is busy so the good dog goes by himself. He has various short adventures and then decides that everything is more fun with his friend. So he returns home. . . . because he left his heart at home with his friend.

Why I Love The Bedtime Book for Dogs

The inside covers show many dogs of all makes and models with even a place to put your own good dog’s photo. The good dog illustrated in the book could be any dog, if you use your imagination.

I simply love The Bedtime Book for Dogs! It’s the best feeling to end your day with, along with your best friend.

Watch Bruce Littlefield read part of The Bedtime Book to his own good dog, Westminster, here: http://bedtimebookfordogs.com/?page_id=83

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: Dog InSight (dog training and behavior problems)

Dog InSight, Pamela Reid, PhD, CAAB (Dogwise Publishing, 216 pages, 2012, $12.95) 

At First Glance
Glancing at the organization, Dog InSight is excellent, covering Behavior (normal everyday dog behavior, ethology), Training (skills), and Behavior Problems - each with an introductory page and suggested books.
InSight is a Dogwise book and that means quality! Wonderfully easy to read and entertaining as well as informative. Unfortunately, the fact that these 43 short essays are previously-penned columns is apparent neither in the description nor on the cover. A few were updated in 2011, though the original year of publication is not noted.
Handy Chapter
The selection ‘Dog Behaviour Professionals’ (yes, Canadian spelling was kept intact) discusses certifications and trainers, veterinarians, veterinary behaviorists, and applied animal behaviorists. Astute readers will notice the bias towards professionals with postgraduate degrees (Pamela Reid has a PhD herself).
Reid and McConnell
If you liked Dr. Patricia McConnell’s Tales of Two Species, you will like Pam Reid’s book! Both are collections of canine columns from lay periodicals: McConnell’s behavior columns appeared in The BARk, while Reid’s columns are from Dogs in Canada (no longer available). Both books are uplifting and will bring a smile to your reading and warm memories to your heart. McConnell’s love for dogs shines through her essays while Reid successfully educates and supports dog lovers of all ilks. Read in any order, InSight chapters appeal to the average dog person, breeder, canine competition sports enthusiast, and especially beginning dog training and behavior professionals.
More Topics
Reid masterfully tackles canine issues from dominance, learning theory, play, packs, calming signals, temperament, separation anxiety, and shyness, to thunderphobia - all with aplomb, sensitivity and often humor. ‘Hush, Puppy! Controlling Canine Noise Pollution’ is very thorough but also states the methods will not solve every noise problem. My favorite chapter is ‘Saying “No”: How To Tell Your Dog He’s Done Something Wrong.’
Reid's Experience
Reid has owned unusual breeds with fascinating issues: knowing this tells us she understands, is experienced, and that this book is the next best thing to a private consult!
Intrique, Drawbacks
The title, Dogs InSight, intrigues me still (similar to Excel-erated Learning with the hyphen). What is meant by ‘InSight’? Information about dogs or is the book about dogs that are ‘in sight,’ the dogs we live with, who live onsite, in sight of us? The intriguing cover photo requires more than a quick look as well!
I prefer books that cite references, particularly studies mentioned: here InSight falls short. Yes, there is one page of Recommended Reading but the books listed include some from back in the ‘60s and no peer-reviewed papers (many readers are self-learner ‘education hounds’) are cited, even those referred to in the text.
Reid’s writing has vastly improved since Excel-erated Learning(1996) perhaps because the readership for InSight is wider. Each essay begins with an attention-grabber and ends full-circle. I dog-eared many pages and highlighted liberally.
Now, if I can only remember to grab this little book when I have a specific question that it answers!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: What Puppies Do Best (puppies, children, families)

What Puppies Do Best, Laura Numeroff *(Chronicle Books, 32 pages, 2011, $14.99, ages: preschool and up) 

Almost a book without words, What Puppies Do Best is a first big kids’ book to enthrall your young one.

Boys and girls with long hair, short hair, red hair, brown hair, blond hair, black hair, curly hair, pigtails.

Dirty puppies, kissing puppies, hugging puppies, big puppies and little puppies and long puppies, tired puppies, puppies at play, on walks, at sleep, and cuddling.

If your child can’t find a picture of himself or herself and the family puppy, I’ll be doggone!


With the unfortunate inclusion of the girl taking two puppies for a walk on flexi-leads (never recommended for children or even for adults who are not dog trainers) - the illustration shows the two puppies tangled up in their flexi’s around the little girl – a very dangerous situation indeed.

Other than that, a fun book to share with your youngster! But because of the tangled flexi’s, I can only give it four stars, not five.

*What Brothers Do Best and What Sisters Do Best are also by the same author as well as the new and popular If You Give A Dog A Donut

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Review: Skunkdog (dog, children)

Skunkdog, by Emily Jenkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, 30 pages, $16.95) 

Just what is a skunkdog, anyway?

Dog Gets ‘Skunked’ by New ‘Friend’

Little girls will love the sweet story, little boys will love the ribald ‘skunkiness,’ and parents will commiserate with the foibles of having a dog in the family – the exuberance, the throwing up in the car, . . . .

The Star of our Story – A functionally noseless, definitely friendless, but nicely obedient and brave Dumpling!

Every human and animal character in the book has an unusual nose – usually a big one – even the skunk.

Dumpling the dog, however, even with his oversized canine nose, smells nothing. . . .nothing - which gets him into trouble and helps him  find a friend. How can that be?


The only drawback to this book, which can serve as a conversation starter for the family as a whole, is the dog’s living arrangement - in the backyard in a doghouse rather than inside with his boy. Also talkable aboutable is why not to drag a dog by the collar.

The Lonely Dumpling Finds a Friend at Last, But. . . .

The family moves to the country and Dumpling makes a new friend, a skunky friend. But is the skunk really a friend?

The family learns by trial and error, the best way to deskunk a dog. You will too (added bonus).


Cute illustrations – the inside cover shows a bush with a wagging tail and two shoes (obviously on an upside-down kid) poking above it.

Whimsical phrases to savor on your tongue.

Lovely book about friendship.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: Muddypaws (2 titles) - (dog, children)

Muddypaws and the Birthday Party, A Story about Birthdays, Balloons and Best Friends, by Deborah Chancellor, Parragon, 2009, 7.99$, 32 pages. (The sequel to Muddy Paws, by Moira Butterfield, Parragon, 2008, 5$, ages 4-8)

Muddypaws? What kind of a name is that for a dog?

What child doesn’t understand a birthday party to which the family pup is not invited? (It’s boring outside alone.)

How the day turns out, turns out to be a test of hope, faith, and love for both Muddypaws and her boy, Ben, who have always done everything together – until today, Ben’s birthday.

Adorable watercolors of this little Golden Retriever in a large sized book which beg the little reader to reach out and pet her may be glossed over by your child but the antics of those muddy paws will elicit giggles on nearly every page. Your child will easily identify with this little puppy’s always-muddy paws and also with the pup’s now 6 year-old boy, Ben.

Even the language is fun – “splashy-splashy,” and “a  smallish, normalish boy.”

What are those strange shiny things? Your child will know. And when the young guests are shown in costume but only from the waist down (a puppy’s eye view), your child will be able to tell you who they are – from princess to pirate and more. What does Mom carry that twinkles brightly? Young readers will know.

And the Muddypaws books are child-sized – big enough for a child to easily turn the pages for you.

The illustration of Ben walking Muddypaws on leash can spark conversations of loose leash walking, how to hold the leash safely and, since the book is by a British author, you may have to explain why Muddypaws likes sausages rather than dog biscuits! Or that British children dress up in costume to attend a birthday party (like we do on Halloween) – maybe your young reader would like to adopt that custom of costumes.
Muddypaws Goes to School, by Peter Bently, Parragon, 2011, 7.99$, 32 pages.

Muddy Paws and his boy Ben do everything together, except for baths and school., but, . . . one day Muddypaws gets out of the backyard and follows Ben to school (remember, they do everything together) - but the little pup can’t find his best friend.

How he searches for Ben everywhere and the fun-trouble he gets in to at school make for a laugh a minute for young readers and old, alike. Your child will love holding her breath with suspense, wondering how Ben and Muddy Paws will ever find each other!

Muddypaws finds that digging is hard work when he buries the flowers in the sandbox. He also finds paints and sandwiches and . . . .

Illustrated again by Simon Mendez but with a different author, Muddy Paws Goes to School has delightful primary color illustrations of school antics that will have your youngster laughing with glee! The words are a bit more fun (lollopped, scritch-scratch) but the plot is a bit less “plotty” than the birthday book.

I first read these books at the library, then went out and purchased them. I have now made a very difficult decision – to give them to my favorite three-year old. Oh, they will be hard to part with but will give much reading pleasure over and over again to Naomi who already knows "all about Golden Retrievers."

Note: Also available are Muddypaws' First Christmas (2012) and Muddypaws' New Friends (2013)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: Walking in Circles Before Lying Down (dog)

Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, Merrill Markoe (Random House, 270 pages, 2006, $22.95) 

Walking in Circles Before Lying Down starts out like a book you simply can’t put down. A riotous family of four, now all grown up, with one family member crazier than the next except for our almost normal narrator who may be writing a side-splitting book about her family and her several loves, as well as those of her mother, her father and her sister.

You would almost think Walking should be set in the Hippie Era of the 60s and 70s, for all the moving around from one abode to another and one hair-brained money-raising scheme to another.

However, after just a few chapters, the fast-paced conversations and plot twists become exhausting. Each short chapter begins with a few paragraphs about the book being written (or not), then advances the plot and ends with a few wise interpretations from the major canine character who saves the storyline.

Chuck is a pit bull type who talks (as do all the other dogs) but only to our major character (who may be the only sane human in the bunch). Unfortunately, the adorable canine on the cover doesn’t resemble a pit bull in the least but is adorable and adorably posed.

Now, if only the entire book could be written from the wise point of view of Chuck the dog. . . . 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review: City Dog, Country Frog (dog, animals, seasons of life)

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems (Simon and Schuster, 2010, 64 pages, $17.00, ages 3-6) 

A city dog first visits the countryside in the spring, off leash, and spies a country frog waiting for a playmate: the city dog ‘will do,’ so they play country-frog games. When the city dog returns in the summer, they play city-dog games. During the fall, the country frog tires and slows down so by the water’s edge they soak up the autumn sun’s rays while playing ‘remembering games.’ City dog cannot find his friend during the winter or when he returns the following spring but he meets a country chipmunk and says that he ‘will do’ for a friend.

And so the cycle of life begins once again.

Adults will simply love the delightful watercolor illustrations (check out the cover illustration).

Kids will love the lack of adults and will learn about friendship with those different from us. 

For a deeper meaning, children and their adults can talk about the passing of life, the continuation of life, and the short lifespans in the animal world, including those of our pets. 

On a lighter level, City Dog is all about sharing games and life - with those who are different from us.

City Dog, Country Frog reminds one of a Charlotte’s Web for the younger set: good friends can be found everywhere!

And so can good books.

(Both author and illustrator are New York Times’ best sellers and Caldecott honorees.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Widget and the Puppy (children, dogs)

Widget and the Puppy, by Lyn McFarland (Farrar Straus Giroux, 32 pp, 2004, $16, age: 3 – 6 years, preschool – grade 2)

This little book is a fun, giggly read and loquacious conversation-starter for your youngster, starting with the cover: two dogs – one is Widget and the other is the puppy, but which is which? One looks surprised at being licked/kissed by the other.

Widget lives with a little old lady and six cats when who comes in by way of the dog door but a puppy. The little old lady puts Widget in charge of the puppy while she goes searching for the pup’s person. (Actually, Mrs. Diggs tells Widget to watch the puppy. . . . and so Widget does – watch as the puppy gets into one rip-roaring adventure after another.)

Widget and the cats give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Watch the puppy.“ Like many adults, they can’t keep up with the antics of a puppy until the puppy gets into trouble.

Will Widget save the day before Mrs. Diggs comes home? Or will the puppy win out?

(Second in the Widget books)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review: A Vacation for Pooch (children, dog)

A Vacation for Pooch, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Henry Holt, 2013, $16.99, 32 pages, children 4-7, preschool – grade 2. 

Separation. Love. Dogs and their kids. Grandpa. Snow. Florida. Surely here is enough to keep your child entranced and on her toes waiting for the exciting, heartfelt climax!

Emily is going on vacation to Florida to escape the snow but her pooch, Pooch (of course!), will stay with Grandpa on the farm. Emily packs identical backpacks for her and Pooch. She puts in Pooch’s sleep toy (a cat), Pooch’s red ball, blanket – everything to make Pooch feel at home on Grandpa’s  farm.

Florida is so much fun but Emily misses Pooch so she calls Grandpa to find out about Pooch’s day.

And then they discover the mix-up! Which turns out for the best!

A lovely little book about a girl and her dog and missing her dog on vacation. How grandparents know a lot about taking care of dogs just like parents know a lot about having fun with Emily.

And a surprising ending that your little one will look forward to each time you read it together.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Review: Botswana, Travels with Gannon and Wyatt (teen, Africa)

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt – Botswana, by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet, Claim Stake Publishing, 2009, about 19.95$, 144 pp (with DVD) 

Twins Gannon and Wyatt from Colorado are home-schooled – or, rather, world-schooled.!

They actually travel the world with their parents to learn geography and natural history firsthand - then write up their adventures for credit in English.  And adventures they are!

Meet the Big Five of Africa – the Lion, the Leopard, the Cape Buffalo, the Elephant, and the Rhinoceros: the twins manage to see them all while on safari – some of them too much up front and close. Like the time their jeep is charged by a mother rhino or they see a dust cloud in the distance that soon surrounds them only to discover that the dust is kicked up by 500 Cape Buffalo!

Wyatt and Gannon’s photographs are interspersed throughout the book and their very professional videotaping is included in a DVD that features a narrated interview with the twins as well as a videotour of the boys visiting Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years) and Capetown, South Africa (and additional photos).

It is hard to believe that such wild and exciting adventures are still possible in today’s world (picture two young Indiana Jones types). Wyatt and Gannon experience what most boys only dream about – but now you, too, can join YES, the Youth Exploration Society.  (www.travelswithgannonandwyatt.com)

Toss in some hippos, a small tribe of Bushmen, a black mamba snake, Wyatt’s mysterious malady, a wounded lion with four lion cubs and an eye-patched poacher, armed and dangerous!

Botswana is the first in a series that will take the twins to the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada, Egypt, China, the South Pacific, Antarctica, the Australian Outback, Machu Picchu – just for starters. I can’t wait!

(Also see www.gannonandwyatt.com for lots of action and an interview with the boys while they were visiting their aunt in my  hometown of Spokane! Small world, eh?)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review:: Dark Summer

Dark Summer, by Iris Johansen (St. Martins, 2008, $7.99, 378 pp.)

This book has everything and most of it is in the first 20 pages! More action than in most mystery adventure novels I have read. I simply could not imagine what might possibly happen next - how could Johansen keep up the fast-paced suspense? 

Well, she did it with the anticipation of sex and the sexual banter - this borders on a romance novel. And I thought it was a book about dogs! It is, and more. Much teasing and seemingly double-crossing and a few murders and fights and a lot of violence along the way as well as international intelligence missions but overall a woman's book. Even with the body counts and near misses. . . .

Dark Summer or, as I call it, The Dogs of Summer

Four special dogs with special abilities whose ending may astound you. One black lab, Ned. One golden retriever, Addie. A GSD (Germand Shepherd Dog) and an all-American. A greyhound belonging to the female protagonist. A half-breed hunk and a female veterinarian who meet on a search and rescue mission in a foreign country where Ned, the dog, is shot (but recovers).

I keep searching for excellent books about dogs with dogs I like, dogs on every page. Dark Summer mentioned the four dogs often but I never felt that I knew them. I never felt I was part of this book.

Ms. Johansen is probably the most prolific writer of our day - I couldn't even count the books she has written!  Well over 70. (http://www.irisjohansen.com/book_list.html) Reviews on Amazon.com were mixed but most of them panned the book even those who are or were Johansen fans. 

I was not one of them and still am not. 

I do like the cover photo, though!

(This review first appeared in GRREAT News, January 2010.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

DVD Reviews: Pet Video Library Breed DVDs (golden retriever, labrador retriever)

Pet Video Library - “Books on Video”

The long wait is over for pet families! Pet Video Library (www.petvideolibrary.com) has finally come out with informative basic DVDs (dogs, cats, turtles, fish, birds, and small animals - rabbits, hamsters and ferrets). Unfortunately, the dog videos are not the best. Many of our readers are interested in Labs and Goldens so those DVDs comprise the following review.

Breed DVDs

The breed DVDs cover history and development (who really cares?), exercise and nutrition, characteristics and temperament, everyday grooming, health and aging, and helpful training tips as well as a bonus section on training.(Other DVDs in the dog series cover fundamentals, entertainment, and training and sound interesting.)

Value of contents?

I like to know how many minutes of video are on the DVD I am purchasing – I couldn’t find that information anywhere on the product box so I felt I was taking a chance with my 15$ each (they turn out to have more than 20 minutes of content plus the bonus interactive (?) training section). The back of the DVD box does describe the bonus section of live obedience instruction by renowned canine behaviorist Shannon Holstein (why is a canine behaviorist needed for training a dog rather than a dog trainer?), someone neither I nor any of my dog training colleagues have ever heard of.

Identical scripts?

The two DVDs I purchased had almost identical scripts all the way through (not necessarily a bad idea, though) but the announcer was quite good. He spoke v-e-r-y slowly and used constant facial expressions to make his points. 

Good, but. . . . 

These are good first books or videos on breeds and show a lot of great puppy photography that you will want to see again and again (although there is a frequent disconnect between the script and the photography). And while you are viewing and reviewing, more of the information will sink in. For example, at age 2, your dog is a teenager; at 3, an adult; at 7, a senior (for some breeds, however).


An excellent vaccination chart is part of the health section but if you follow it, you will be taking your dog to the vet 7 times from 6 weeks to 20-24 weeks old (and more, counting deworming)!

Viewers will hear many good ideas, including the advice to take your dog to the vet twice a year and to never hit your dog (do we really need to be told that today?). You will generally feed your best friend a pound of dog food a day which amounts to about 25-30 pounds a month at a cost of about 30$ for premium dog food on a monthly basis.


A couple of things to warn new dog families about in this DVD – too many small children are shown hugging their dogs, a practice good dog trainers never recommend because even most good dogs only tolerate a miniscule amount of hugging. 

And, secondly, the ever-present pups were shown chewing the bark of trees, a strange practice that I don’t recommend – chew toys are abundant.

Training a smart border collie

The bonus training section covered Sit, Down, Stand, Come and Stay – all the basic skills. Unfortunately, both videos demonstrated with the same dog, a border collie, rather than a golden or a lab, so I suspect that all the breed videos have the exact same bonus section. That is not bad, unless you expect to see goldens on the golden DVD and labs on the lab DVD! The trainer is fairly good and I recommend watching this section over and over.


All in all, with the above caveats, a pretty good buy for the new dog family if you don’t mind being called a ‘master.’

(This review first appeared in GRREAT News, March-April 2010.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Cowboy and Wills (dog, boy, autism, puppy mills)

Cowboy and Wills, A Love Story, by Monica Holloway, 2009, 279 pp., about $24.00.

I really must stop starting books at 10 pm: this is the fourth book in a row, the fourth night in a row, that I have not been able to put down a book until I finished it in the wee hours of the morning. And I am pretty selective in the books that I love. This one I love.

There are several titles currently in bookstores about autistic kids and their dogs. Perhaps you have read Nuala Gardner's A Friend Like Henry: The Remarkable True Story of an Autistic Boy and the Dog That Unlocked His World. Just like Henry, Cowboy unlocks the world for Wills.

Cowboy Carol Lawrence Holloway is a female golden retriever puppy who owns Wills, a young kindergartener with an autism spectrum disorder. In many ways, Wills is brilliant but he is also inordinately shy and simply overwhelmed by noises (like at birthday parties and Halloween) and by changes in routine. Cowboy doesn’t care. She loves Wills anyway and because they are inseparable, Cowboy brings Wills along with her out into the world and shows Wills that he can survive – she gives him the courage. He follows her because she is his ‘sister.’

Wills was diagnosed at age 3 and wanted a puppy from that time on. Instead, he got a  fish and a hamster and a turtle and a bunny but it is not until Cowboy entered his world that little steps became big steps. Cowboy finally arrived on Christmas when Wills was 6 and both he and his mom had the flu.

Mother Monica has done her research and decided NOT to get a puppy from a pet store for fear it will be a puppy mill puppy, but she has promised Wills a puppy before she has located one and there are just no puppies to be found as Christmas fast approaches. Therefore, Monica goes to an upscale pet store that locates a puppy from Missouri. Cowboy turns out to be one sick little puppy but the family loves her and nurses her back to health.

Cowboy is not a trained therapy dog (she is not even trained!) but she nevertheless works miracles for Wills by just being herself. She sleeps with Wills (for the first time, he can sleep in his own bed in his own room because Cowboy is there), she runs around the backyard like a zoomie and digs in the dirt and swims in the pool: eventually Wills relaxes and doesn't let the dirt bother him. He even jumps in the backyard pool (to save Cowboy) for the first time!

Cowboy is so cute and huggable and adorable that everyone loves her on sight - all the kids in Wills' class especially, and, because of Cowboy, Wills ventures out of his shell and really becomes an accepted member of the class. Cowboy brings him right along with her because “Cowboy needs me,” he says.

This is a book you will like - you will like Wills and Mother Monica and Father Michael and you will love Cowboy. She is rambunctious - just what the doctor would order to bring Wills into the world. And that is what happens, slowly. This is a heart-warming story that you just won't be able to put down. I couldn’t.

Interspersed with photos of Wills and photos of Cowboy and photos of Wills and Cowboy, Monica's story is actually two stories: the story of Wills’ awakening and the story of love by and for Cowboy. Cowboy stays around just long enough to complete her work.

In many ways, this is also Monica’s story: even Monica changes from an overly protective mother who cleans and cleans and cleans again (compulsively) to that hardest role of all – a mother who lets go.

I can’t think of a better name for a female golden retriever than Cowboy!

(This review first appeared in GRREAT News, March-April 2010.)