Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: Chill Out, Fido! (dogs, non-fiction)

Chill Out Fido! How to Calm Your Dog, by Nan Arthur (Dogwise, 189 pages, 2009, $15.95)*

Do You Have One of Those “Dogs Gone Wild”?
Do you know a dog who is unfocused, hyper energetic, wild and crazy, unruly, stressed, out of control – a dog who never listens or listens only when he wants to? Do you personally have such a dog or have some of them as clients?
The Author and Expert
Nan Arthur, certified veterinary assistant, freelance writer and columnist, CPDT** and CDBC***, has the training and behavior experience that shows in Chill Out, Fido!
Friendly, Positive Help
The following quote says it all: “. . . never a need for anything other than positive methods of training and behavior modification” (p. vii).
Arthur may be the big sister everyone wishes they had: patient, encouraging, wise – a trainer who believes in using gentle, dog-friendly, science-based methods. 
Her lovely writing style explains all the points a frustrated dog-owner could bring up: Arthur fully counters everything in easy prose – her experience shows. The science is also here, mostly in side-bars but also in the references and resources sections. Arthur has thought of everything and keeps the client in mind always.
Chill Out! is a Dogwise**** book, most of which are recognizable at a distance by their distinctive covers. In addition to the “meat” in the book, Dogwise and Arthur thoughtfully added 30 quick ideas to help you and your dog relax when you don’t have time to manage or train your dog, a stress test for your dog, resources and references, 10 tips for going through the exercises (e.g., be realistic, be consistent, set your dog up for success), as well as a handy list of other Dogwise titles.
Simple, Easy or Not?
This is that rare book that was written for the self-starter with a hyper dog as well as for the dog professional (especially a day-trainer) since each entire procedure is spelled out in easy steps.
At first glance, I thought it to be rather simple with four short chapters and 11 exercises but I was quickly converted to a fan. The chapter on diet alone is worth the price of the book (fully palatable for the non-scientist [pun intended]).
What’s It All About?
Part One, with its own introduction, covers 14 reasons a dog may not be able to relax, how diet can affect behavior, the road to relaxation (what is a calm dog, how calm dogs play, canine calming behaviors), and training concepts for novices (markers, rewards (and fading them), reinforcement schedules, your voice as a tool, body language).
Part Two consists of 11 exercises or problem behaviors, best learned in order, but not necessary.  Especially helpful for clients may be the sections on calm greetings, what to do when the doorbell rings and how to do it, getting out the leash, and paw desensitization.
Each exercise has the same format: goals, benefits, what you will need (equipment, assistant), pre-requisite skills (like SIT), training time (how many minutes/day, how many days of training to expect so people don’t rush through but, instead, build a solid foundation), getting the behavior started (the precise steps), building the behavior (more step-wise instruction), raising the bar (final steps), and, finally, problem solving if the steps need to be modified.
Arthur teaches RELAX without a verbal cue and explains why, she will convince you to train a release cue if you don’t already, and Chill Out has converted me from “Click, treat” to “Mark, treat” which should be easier for clients to learn. And, as she says, “Don’t forget to smile!”
Final Words
Chill Out! will become a must-have book on every trainer’s shelf.
I would have preferred a detailed Table of Contents (more subheadings) and tighter copy editing but these mere blemishes do not deter one iota from the profound change Arthur’s book will make in the lives of dogs.
A new classic about “Dogs Gone Wild!”
*The review first appeared in various publications and online early on, circe 2009, but it is becoming the Go-To book again, so DogEvals is posting it here.
**CPDT – Certified Professional Dog Trainer, by an independent organization
***CDBC – Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, an in-house certification by IAABC, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

****Dogwise is the premier publisher and seller of dog books. Visit the Dogwise site at

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