Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Review ~ Brad Pattison's Synergy

Yay! I'm in Month 4 of my quest to read and review 13 Canadian dog books, and for the first time I'm doing two reviews in one month (a good thing since the one book/month thing ain't gonna cut it in terms of the ultimate "13" goal). This time I've read Brad Pattison's Synergy in Training between Man and Dog. Pattison is well known from his television show At the End of My Leash, which airs on Slice in Canada (apparently my favourite network). According to Wikipedia, Brad was born in Calgary, so he is, yes, a bona fide Canadian author.

Let me just say that I have a love/hate relationship with the Brad I see on At the End of My Leash. He is extremely opinionated and comes across as confrontational. But, he's easy on the eyes and (most of) his advice makes sense, so I remain a loyal viewer of his program. However, Brad the writer is different from Brad the tv personality. His no-nonsense, in-your-face attitude is still very apparent, but the book has quite a bit of humour. And, surprisingly enough, Brad the writer anthropomorphizes. Who wudda thunk it?

I have a few quality issues with the physical book. Some of the black and white photos that were intended to be diagrams, I frankly couldn't make noses nor tails of. Also, I'm not sure if this was just my copy or if it is a prevalent problem, but the text was clearly formatted beyond the acceptable borders of the finalized printed version, and alphabets are missing along those edges. Some short words were missing entirely as a result of this, making it necessary to puzzle out the sentences.

But those are just quibbles. This is a great book about dog training; supplementing what you may have already learned from Brad the tv guy, or introducing you to his unique training methods and his thoughts on our canine companions. Two particular points of interest for me: Brad argues that changing dog food frequently is a good thing (which I've always believed) and that dogs do have memories. Dog trainers often subscribe to the belief that dogs have very short memory spans, and that it's pointless to incorporate mistakes (such as chewing your shoe while you are at work) into training, as the dog's memory of the shoe will only last for about 2 minutes after the last bite is taken out of it. I pretty much accepted that as gospel, but Brad feels differently and after reading his examples, Brad's theory makes total sense. My own two clearly remember where certain things are on our walks as well as where things stay in the house. They can gauge where I am off to (walk time, play time, Jacki time) based on which jacket I put on at the door. I would also argue that they do remember routes on our drives, as they become increasingly excited the nearer we get to our destinations.

I visit Brad's website on occasion, and I was also suprised to see that he advocates for clothing and booties for dogs in extreme weather, which I thought were a big Brad no-no. On one episode of his program, he berated a woman for putting clothes on her dog, telling her that if her dog is cold, she shouldn't get his coat cut so short. As Archie is always cold - and has never had his coat cut - I was a little peeved. It was a relief to find out that Brad the tv guy might be amping things up a bit for the sake of ratings.

My love/hate relationship with Brad may have a little more love in it these days.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Review ~ The Dog who Wouldn't Be

Month Four of my quest to read and review 13 "Canadian" dog books brings me to a classic - Farley Mowat's The Dog who Wouldn't Be. Mowat is, of course, one of Canada's most beloved authors, who penned forty-two books. The Dog who Wouldn't Be was his fourth, first published in 1957. The book takes place in the gritty 1930s, when Mowat was a child. It chronicles the adventures Mowat and his dog, Mutt. Let me just say that I have no idea how I avoided reading this book up until this point. It's a great story; it's about dogs; and not only is it Canadian, but it's primarily set in Saskatoon and surrounding areas, where I've lived my whole life.

According to Mowat, Mutt decided that he didn't want to be a dog. Mutt was definitely a character and definitely whippersnapper smart. I think he was also definitely a dog. Some of his feats were amazing but believable - such as scaling a ladder. Others feats would be considered neat conversational starters, but actually pretty commonplace - such as eating cherries and spitting out the pits. Some of the tales are most likely yarns, or at least embellished (a lot). I'm not a fan of tall tales, but I kept reading because the writing style is familiar and engaging; the stories are fun to read; and there's a fair share of history too - although secondary to the story of a boy and his dog, you certainly do get glimpses of the Depression years on the Canadian prairies.

I read the Emblem edition (pictured above) which was published in 2009.

First snow ~ Dogs on Thursday