How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Puppy Training Reference

How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)

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For nearly a quarter century, How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend has been the standard against which all other dog-training books have been measured. This new, expanded edition, with a fresh new design and new photographs throughout, preserves the best features of the original classic while bringing the book fully up-to-date. The result: the ultimate training manual for a new generation of dog owners – and, of course, for their canine best friends. The Monks of New Skete have achieved internationa

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3 Responses to “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)”
  1. A reader says:
    161 of 163 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Good resource for the new dog owner, June 21, 2006
    By 
    A reader (New Zealand) –

    This review is from: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)

    “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” is an excellent reference book for the first time dog owner and trainer. As well as the normal chapters on how to choose, socialise, feed, groom and train a puppy, the Monks cover topics as varied as how to read a puppy’s pedigree, how to massage your dog, and how your dog’s living environment will impact upon his training needs.

    Unlike many training manuals, the Monks of New Skete strike a nice balance between “dominance” based training methods and formal training. The Monks stress the importance of earning your dog’s trust and respect and the importance of being a strong pack leader for your dog; they also recognise the need for formal training, and spend several chapters explaining how this is best accomplished. Most training books are heavily biased towards one or other method, so it is nice to read a book which realises that both are ingredients in successful dog training.

    The training methods discussed are fairly traditional, with the Monks either luring or gently moulding the dog into shape, then praising. However they also advocate classically conditioning a positive reinforcer (keys jingling), which can then be used at strategic times to help a dog relax; and they do discuss and recommend clicker methods for “sensitive” dogs.

    Contrary to some reviews posted below, the Monks of New Skete do in fact advocate using plenty of positive reinforcement in their training. Confusion on this issue probably stems from the fact that the Monks do not advocate constantly using food treats while training. However, food treats are not the only positive reinforcement method available to a trainer. As the Monks point out “Food treats are an extremely effective motivator to help dogs learn…however, they are not meant to replace sincere verbal and physical praise.” The Monks advocate that puppies are regularly praised, petted and played with during training. Punishment only ever comes after a dog has been shown an exercise multiple times and fully understands what is required of it, and far from being harsh or abusive, is normally limited to stern eye contact or a verbal growl. Scruff shakes and chin cuffs are reserved for the worst transgressions. The Monks take care to emphasise that any punishment used should be immediate, fair and consistent.

    There are certainly gaps in this book. The “Problem Solving” section is rudimentary at best (for example, the section on interdog aggression only recommends limiting the dog’s opportunity to mark territory, desexing him and muzzling him!). Readers with a problem dog would be well advised to get some more indepth resources regarding their dog’s particular problem. The obedience exercises covered are quite limited, covering only the sit, down, stay, heel and recall. Owners wishing to teach their dogs more advanced exercises will need to seek additional resources. It is also disappointing that the Monks only discuss one method of teaching each exercise. With the plethora of options available today to teach even something as simple as a sit – for example, shaping, luring, capturing – it is a pity the Monks did not discuss several options for training each behaviour.

    Despite such flaws, “How to be your Dog’s Best Friend” is one of the three training books I generally recommend to new dog owners (the other two are “The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia McConnell and “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson). These three books complement each other very well. “The Other End of the Leash” is a great primer on canine-human communication, whereas “The Culture Clash” is an excellent manual on operant conditioning-based positive training. “How to Be your Dog’s Best Friend” both fills in important gaps left by the other two books, and puts the case for kind and fair “traditional” style training.

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  2. Good Brother Cadfael says:
    106 of 113 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Bless the Monks!, February 3, 2005
    By 
    Good Brother Cadfael (Virginia) –

    This review is from: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition) (Hardcover)

    Our dog Cadfael, a 190-pound English Mastiff, is a great example of what the Monks’ training can do for a dog and his owners. He is our first dog and _Best Friend_ came through for us time and time again. While I read many books about dogs before Cadfael came to live with us, the Monks’ book and _Dogs for Dummies_ proved the most helpful both in practical and philosophical matters. I also recommend the Monks’ book on puppies and their videos.

    I think one of the most important services the Monks offer to future dog owners is their attitude that the dog represents a major, major commitment on your part, in terms of time, money and emotional involvement. If you are not willing to invest in the dog, you will shortchange the relationship on all levels. The relationship will suffer. We feel this is particularly true in the case of a dog that is expected to spend most of his time outdoors. The monks are right: if you want an animal to live outdoors in a pen, get a cow or sheep or chicken that has not been bred to be social with human beings.

    From the very beginning, before we brought Cadfael home as an 8-week-old, 18-pound puppy, we incorporated the lessons in this book. We followed the monks’ advice as far as finding the right breed for us and the right breeder. We bought our supplies well in advance, including the enormous crate (which we used for the first year). We both took vacations so that we could be with him constantly for the first three weeks or so, to focus on housetraining and socialization. From how to keep a dog from jumping up on you (who wants a dog who’s taller than you and outweighs you by 60 pounds jumping on you?), to providing the right toys so the dog won’t be interested in chewing the wrong things, to keeping the dog quiet at night, the monks were there with the answers.

    We like how the monks encourage you to get physicial with your dog, even giving massages. Cadfael loves that. He lets us clean his ears, clip his nails and brush his teeth, too, because, as the monks suggested, we started all these activities very early on. He is so accustomed to being bathed that he just stands there and lets him soap him down and rinse him off. (Have to do that outside, because there’s no way he’d fit in the tub.)He is a pleasure at the vet’s, too. He has been so used to being handled that it makes the doctor’s work much, much easier.

    The monks stress the importance of training, and my husband and I cannot agree more. The monks do a great job explaining how to train the basics: sit, stay, come, heel, lie down. While we did a lot of home training, we also enrolled Cadfael in a series of obedience classes, as well as allow him as much social interaction as possible. We can walk Cadfael on a busy city street and not worry. We can leave him in the car in appropriate weather and know that he will be all right. We can let him off the lead on a trail and know that he will come back when we call. We can have fun playing ball with him because he will fetch the ball and drop it on command. We can take him to an outdoor restaurant and trust him to sit under our table while we eat lunch.

    One of the reviewers I read seems to have real problems with the discipline tactics the monks employ. We used both the shakedown and, once or twice, the alpha wolf rollover. Neither is about hurting the dog physically or mentally; used with proper timing and drama, they are designed to immediately get your dog’s attention and let him know that whatever he’s doing is a definite no-no. They are designed to let your dog know you are in charge. And, regarding the reviewer’s claims that the monks are indiscriminate in their discipline, here’s what the monks themselves have to say about the alpha wolf rollover: “Let us note that many dogs may never need such physical discipline. But if you have a dog that does, it seems better to administer discipline effectively and meaningfully once, rather than dozens of times in an ineffective way.” Amen!

    The monks are quick to point out the fact that a dog is not a person and certainly not a child. But a good dog is a wonderful companion whom you want to have around and who wants to be around you. It is up to the dog’s owners to work with him and provide him with the things he needs to make him a good dog.

    Well, Cadfael has turned six, and it is time to go back to the breeder to get a friend for him. Our breeder tells us she will have puppies this spring. So I’d better get reading and get the crate out of storage!

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  3. Anonymous says:
    177 of 198 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Still the best of all dog books after two decades in print., September 18, 1999
    By A Customer
    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

    My wife and I first used this book in 1980 with our first German Shepherd, a beautiful, gentle and easy to train dog despite strong alpha characteristics. We’ve given away many copies because it is about so much more than training. The monks have worked with each of our German Shepherds but their approach works with other breeds. Yes, there is a section on physical discipline but there is also a stern caution. This book deserves to read as a whole. We’ve read it and re-read it over the years, most recently on the death last week at 14 of a great, sensitive and intelligent old girl who was a loyal companion every day of her life. We used the monks excellent puppy book with our other dog, an aging male GSD, and soon it will be time for it again as another companion enters our home. Monks? Dogs? Religion? Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing to offend anyone. New Skete takes its religious life very seriously, but they are not intrusive. On the other hand, if you drink beer but won’t drink the best beer in Belgium because Trappist monks brew it, then you probably won’t buy this book and don’t deserve a great dog anyway.

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