Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Perfect Puppy in 7 Days

Dr. Sophia Yin's Perfect Puppy in 7 Days is my absolute favorite book for bringing home a new dog. It's not just for puppies either, the schedules and training ideas she has work just fine for adult rescue dogs as well. Be warned though, it's a pretty intense method for training.
Photo by Erin Koski

My favorite dog training books all involve stories and anecdotes about the author's own dogs. This book is about Lucy, an Australian cattledog puppy. Dr. Yin was a cattledog lover, and part of my love for this book stems from it being written about my favorite breed.

At the beginning of the book, Dr. Yin tells about her father, the cattledog he used to have, and how he decided he wanted a new puppy. His daughter being an expert in dogs, dog training, and dog behavior, he asked her to find him a breeder and pick out a puppy. Knowing that her elderly father was unlikely to throw absolutely everything into training his new puppy, she decided to keep the little one at her house for a week of training to start her off on the right foot.

There is a lot in this book about early socialization for puppies, especially before they are ready to leave their mother. It was fascinating to read how many new experiences Dr. Yin recommends for baby puppies to help them learn that the world is a safe place. It also made me just a tiny bit sad, because I know that I didn't do anywhere near that much socialization with Brisbane. I did quite a bit with Ru when I got him at 14 weeks, but not nearly as much as I would have had I read this book. While it's important to drive home the message about early socialization and exposure to new experiences for anyone raising a litter of puppies, I think it's also important to forgive ourselves for not doing as much as we could have before we knew better. We can't go back and fix this learning period for our adult rescue dogs, and that's ok.

Photo by Erin Koski
Dr. Yin's week of training involves a whole ton of impulse control exercises, which aren't as much as rowdy playtime but definitely make for a liveable dog. Perfect Puppy provides plenty of different games to play, explains how to play them, and then includes them in a daily schedule. The daily agendas are pretty puppy-intensive, especially if you work full time. Were I to bring home a new baby puppy, I'd hopefully take a week off work. Otherwise, I see nothing wrong with modifying the schedule to fit my own life.

I think the main focus of Perfect Puppy is on controlling the environment so the puppy has minimal opportunity to make incorrect choices, and at the same time teaching the puppy to default to the correct choices. It's much easier to teach an enthusiastic puppy not to jump up on people when she's had a week of intensive training to sit every time she meets a new person. I think a lot of people don't think to use a leash in the house to keep their new dog from wandering out of sight and into trouble.

This would be my favorite book to recommend to new dog owners, but a friend has pointed out that it is pretty intense for someone new to the training world. There's a whole lot of information in there, and it's easier to absorb when you already have a working understanding of behaviorism. It's definitely the first book I'd recommend to other dog nerds, or nerds in general. Like knowing how things work? This is an instruction manual for puppies.

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