Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: Dog Tricks (traditional training methods)

Dog Tricks, Step by Step, by Mary Ann Zeigenfuse and Jan Walker (Howell Book House, 135 pages, 1997/2009, $19.95)

Written by the trainer of President and Barbara Bush’s dog Millie, Dog Tricks has plenty of photos and cute little dog drawings as well as a cute little personality test for your dog.

Sounds good, eh?

DogEvals does give this book some leeway since Dog Tricks was written in 1997 using outdated dog training methods but Amazon told me there is a new book out or a new version (hard to tell with Amazon) or something – new cover (shown here) - a few more pages anyway. (We searched and searched and finally discovered it is a revised edition.) We believe the softcover came out in 2002 and a revised edition in 03 and in Kindle in 09.

DogEvals looked up the author onlin and find she still trains and uses a rather old-fashioned method (according to her webpage) so I am waiting for a call-back to find out if that is still true [decided to post this anyway since I haven’t received a reply].

Old-fashioned trainers use the words, obedience and command, they jerk (however slightly) on the leash and often use some physical means, not all of which are aversive, however, to all dogs.

What’s New

Trainers who have kept up to date with new advances in dog training over the past few decades no longer use those words, no longer push down on a dog’s rump to get a sit or push down on the dog’s shoulders to get a down – these old methods show the dog what passive learning is. Today’s trainers use active training methods that are hands-off.

Old-fashioned traditional methods work, of course and have for a long time, but the newer methods are quicker, more fun for dog and person alike, and teach the dog how to learn. What could be better?


Now, back to Dog Tricks.

The first two of five chapters deal with basic obedience (Let’s Start Tonight and What Every Good Dog Should Know) rather than jumping right in to tricks (which can be done).

The personality test in chapter one is outdated and sorts dogs according to ‘drives’ – prey drive, pack drive, and defense drives (either fight or flight). The current dog training world has left these terms way behind in the dust a couple of decades ago because they are not useful.

The other three chapters focus on tricks (practical tricks, useful tricks and Hollywood bound) and how to teach them according to your dog’s personality (based on traits no longer useful – see above paragraph), so in order to use Dog Tricks, I would have to rewrite each trick in modern words which would take quite an effort.

Dog Tricks is well-organized, as are the instructions for teaching the tricks. You must, however, begin at the beginning since many tricks follow from earlier basic skills.

What To Do With This Book?

Should I sell it to a used bookstore? Should I give it away to a student or shelter with the caveat that it is old-fashioned and espouses a non dog-friendly way of training? Should I burn it? (Maybe wait for Banned Books Week in October?)

So, . . . .

DogEvals will continue to evaluate other tricks books and we are sure we can recommend some very good ones. Stay tuned!

Caveat: This book was purchased for review.

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