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Dog Training for Dummies by Jack and Wendy Volhard

Today is the perfect day to finish up our dog days series here at Of Print and Prose.  Today, Reeses and I drove to Richmond to officially complete her adoption!  We got to see some friends from Houlagan’s Rest and hear that all of Reeses’s siblings have also found good homes!

Wallace is a well-trained dog!

Wallace is a well-trained dog!

I feel a little bad reviewing two “for Dummies” books at once, but it’s what I’ve been reading.  This one was recommended by our dad, who has already used it to train his dog Wallace.  I ordered a copy, and we’ve already started using it in training sessions with Reeses.

I really like the way the authors laid out the section on basic training.  They give multiple steps to teach each command, which I find very helpful.  Everything is very specific, with details such as how often to give rewards, how many times per training session to practice a certain command, and so on.  Then, they offer steps to help your dog learn the command with distractions.  After that, they sometimes suggest common sense ways to test your dog’s ability to perform the command, and suggest which step to return to for extra practice.

I was also intrigued by the chapters on nationwide dog training programs.  These were created by the American Kennel Club to promote responsible dog ownership, and unlike many of their competitions, any dog can participate.  The main one is the Canine Good Citizen certificate.  After training, the dog and owner participate in a test.  What I like is that the test is for very sensible skills that help a dog be a good neighbor, such as greeting a friendly stranger.

I have mixed feelings about the range of topics in the book, which didn’t always relate directly to training.  On the one hand, I appreciate the information on grooming.  I can see why this was included, since it is possible to train dogs to get used to having their ears and paws handled, so that they will behave better when they are being groomed.  On the other hand, there was tons of information about nutrition, which seemed a little excessive.  I’m not questioning the importance of good nutrition, but that’s something I would prefer to ask my vet about, as opposed to consulting a reference book.  Plus, it seems only marginally related to training.  That said, the layout of these books makes it very easy to skip past the portions you don’t find helpful and focus on the ones you do.

Some helpful tips I learned from this book are:

1. Use basic commands like “sit” and “stay” to help your dog behave politely in a wide variety of situations.  Reeses is learning to “stay” after she comes in from a walk (instead of climbing under furniture to take a nap.)  It’s a lot easier to take her leash off that way!

2. You can clean your dogs ears with a cotton ball and a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water.

3. The Volhards give specific recommendations for how to help shy dogs get used to meeting new people.  Basically, you have the new person walk by a few times, pausing to toss the dog a treat.  This way, they can gradually get closer without approaching the dog directly or bending over her, which can intimidate a shy dog.

4. Clean your shoes and your dog’s feet when you get home from the dog park.  This helps prevent your dog from catching infections, and they can still make friends.

I’d recommend this book to anyone with a dog.  It is a well-organized reference that would be helpful no matter how old your dog is.  It also has information about advanced training and competitions for those who are interested.  I give this book three and a half stars.  I will be referring to certain chapters regularly, and I definitely think it is worth buying.  ★★★1/2

Elizabeth and Reeses reading together

Elizabeth and Reeses reading together

I hope you enjoyed the Dog Days series!  Please stay tuned for a return to our regular posts!



Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck

To break up the research books, I am reposting my review of Travels with Charley.  We road tripped to Richmond to get Reeses, and she and I will be headed back next week (so we can complete the adoption!)  Planning our drive south reminded me of this book.

When my friend decided to organize a summer book club, I was excited to join.  I hadn’t had a chance to be in a book club since I moved to DC.  The theme of the book club is road trip memoirs, and Travels with Charley was the book for June.  I was initially hesitant, since I had read several of Steinbeck’s novels for English class assignments and, to say the least, he is not my favorite author.  Fortunately for me, this memoir feels very different than Steinbeck’s novels.  It was written late in the author’s career, and for the most part it is less serious than his other work.

In 1962, John Steinbeck decided to take a road trip around America.  He traveled in a camper truck and took one of his dogs, a poodle named Charley, for company.  Starting from his home in New York, he travelled up to Maine, and then across the northern states.  He continued through his former home state, California, and then back through the south.  Steinbeck had already achieved a lot of success by this point in his career and was considered a quintessentially “American” author, but he was concerned that he was falling out of touch with the “real” America, partly because he had been living in New York for a long time and partly because of all the social changes that were taking place at that time in our history.  The point of his road trip was to rediscover the country he had made a career of writing about.

I particularly admired Steinbeck’s prose, especially the descriptions of some of the places he visited.  Thanks to this book, I definitely want to see Wisconsin and Montana someday soon.  As a Californian, I also enjoyed his descriptions of the Redwoods.  Another thing that stands out about the book is that he records very specific interactions with individuals that he met in his travels and then reflects on them, instead of trying to give the reader a more generalized picture.  I appreciated that.  A book like this could easily have become a series of generalizations about Americans and the states they live in, but by writing down small slices of experience, Steinbeck made this book a lot more honest and enjoyable to read.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is planning a road trip (or maybe just daydreaming about one).  I would also recommend it to people who are fans of Steinbeck’s novels, because you get a chance to see a completely different side of the author.  And if you are interested in the civil rights movement during the 1960’s, pay special attention to the last part of the book, where Steinbeck and Charley travelled through the American South.

Personally, I would give this book three and a half stars.  I would probably reread it if I was ever planning a road trip, and I would definitely recommend it to a friend!  ★★★1/2

I borrowed Travels with Charley from my local library, but you can also find it here.


Puppies for Dummies by Sarah Hodgson

Puppy research

Puppy research


To prepare for a new puppy, I did some research at my local library.  My dad had actually recommended Dog Training for Dummies, so I ordered that but decided to check Puppies for Dummies out at the library.  I don’t often use the For Dummies series, but I did read one a few years ago and found that the structure is helpful when you need a lot of information about a topic and aren’t sure where to start.  I also thought the short sections would make it easy to share useful information with my husband.

This book is not just a training manual, but a more general guide to puppies.  In addition to training, it also contains good information about what to expect from each age level of puppy development and some useful health information.  Sarah Hodgson uses positive training methods, which was important to me.  One critique that I had was that she talks a lot in terms of dominance, a concept which I think gets exaggerated when talking about domestic dogs.  I completely agree that structure is important for puppies, and I try to behave like a confident leader so that Reeses will gain confidence in new situations.  However, I really don’t buy the idea that she would interpret me looking at her as looking to her for leadership.  (I’m just making sure she doesn’t chew on something she shouldn’t.)

I found that the layout of this book made it very easy to look specific things up.  It has also been able to flip back and find specific information in a section if I wanted to refer to it later.  There are a lot of headings, which make the book easy to navigate.  I did find that these small sections made it a little harder for me to read the book cover to cover-I think all those logical stopping points slowed me down a bit-but overall the book is easy to use and packed with information.

Step one: give the dog toys so she doesn't chew on books!

Step one: give the dog toys so she doesn’t chew on books!

The nice thing about reference books like these is that you can skim or bypass information that is already familiar in favor of reading information that is useful to you personally.  Some helpful tips I learned (that we are implementing with Reeses are:

  1. treat cups filled with Cheerios (quick rewards/encouragement to keep in easy to reach places).  She loves the Cheerios and since they are small and healthy, we don’t have to limit them too much.
  2. What skills to work on at each age  This has been especially helpful since we originally thought Reeses was three months old and now know that she is six or seven months old.
  3. Tips for socializing to strangers, children and other dogs  We live in a big apartment building and want our puppy to be a good neighbor, so these were a must!
  4. Puppy first aid kit  This section had a lot of practical, helpful, and user-friendly information.  It’s good to be prepared!
  5. Play on the grass  Young puppies grow fast, which means their bones and joints are a lot softer than ours.   Too much time walking on sidewalks or streets isn’t good for them.


I would recommend this book to anyone thinking about getting a puppy.  The book has advice for all stages of puppy development (up to two years.)  It would be equally useful if you were purchasing from a breeder or adopting a rescue dog.  I give this book four stars.  I have referred back to it repeatedly over the past few weeks.  (And after renewing it once already, I’m a little late returning it to the library…Sorry!)  ★★★★



Meet Reeses!

We have a new reading buddy here at Print and Prose!  Her name is Reeses, and she is a puppy from Houlagan’s Rest rescue organization in Richmond, VA.  We’re fostering her for now, but we are hoping to officially adopt her soon!

Reeses reading on her first night at home

Reeses reading on her first night at home

Reeses has been feeling pretty shy as she settles in to her new home, but she did take a quick peek at the articles my husband was reading on his tablet.  Now that she is more comfortable with sitting on the couch, hopefully we’ll have lots more reading time together!

In honor of Reeses, four-legged reading buddies, and the dog days of summer, I am starting a week(ish) long series of posts about books that are somehow related to dogs!