Book Review: Dog Traing Books

In my recent post on dog training, I promised I’d write another post about dog training books that I found to be helpful. I begin by repeating what I said there, I didn’t find any truly great dog training books until after my dog had gotten by her first puppy training topics (crate training and house training in particular). None of the books I’m going to review today are truly puppy oriented. You may wish to read Ian Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog. However, I do agree with reviewers who say that the book is way over top in terms of realistic time commitment you can make to training a puppy and gives no comfort that even if your puppy has a few accidents all will work out okay.

I have three books that I think will help a new dog owner to train their dog. I think it would be wise to read all three, but time and funds might interfere with that goal so I’ll try to give you some tips on which to use for certain situations.

The book I suggest you read to set up a training program and get you going in socializing your dog is The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller. Miller will give you both the theory behind what you are doing and very specific steps and a plan to use with your dog. She even provides charts in the back to help you set up and keep track of what you’re doing with your dog. She’ll give you specific steps to train certain behaviors and often gives two different ways to get at that behavior. She gives some of the common mistakes that dogs and trainers make while learning these new behaviors.

Next, on my list is a short book, Family Friendly Dog Training: A Six Week Program for You and Your Dog by Patricia B. McConnell and Aimee M. Moore. This is the book for the impatient owner who wants results and doesn’t really care to know a lot of theory. The book will walk you through six weeks of learning with your dog. It replicates a real life training class for you. The book does include some theory and philosophy but not as much as The Power of Positive Dog Training.

My wrap up suggestion is The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs by Jean Donaldson. This books takes what you’ve learned in the previous two books and expands your knowledge and skill set. Ms. Donaldson sites studies of what successful trainers do compared to owners who are struggling. She spends time on the concept of shaping and she also talks about fading your reward program so this book is a great wrap up to a training program.

I hope that these books will help other new dog owners to train their dogs.
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Obedience Wars

Clicker-training a dog.Image via Wikipedia

Last year when we went to a friend's house in the country and picked up our cute little Labrador puppy, I had no idea that I was about to enter a battlefield over how to train a dog.
I soon needed help.

Although Sunshine proved a quick study when it came to toilet training and learning some commands. She was not a quick study in stopping annoying behaviors. In at least two instances I had to change my behavior so that she wouldn't have the object that made her so annoying. In one instance, I put away an outside chair that she had decided was hers and she should be allowed to defend by nipping at me when I sat in it. I also gave up wearing long nightgowns and bathrobes for the summer since she spent an inordinate amount of time hanging on those robes by her teeth. I'm happy to say that a year later she a fairly well behaved dog who doesn't mess with me in my chair and ignores my nightgown.

But along the way there were some frustrating moments and there is at least one pet store, I'll never go to again because of how rude they clerk was in part over issues of how to stop such behavior. The clerk who claimed to also own Labs, told me no lab every had such issues and it must be my lack of "command" that was causing this problem. I've since learned that many Labs are overly mouthy. The good news is they don't bite, but they do like to put their mouths on things and can be annoying especially as pups.

I began my summer with a couple of books and I slowly accumulated a large stack mostly picked up at the used bookstore. It turns out there's a brisk trade in used dog obedience books.
I also began my summer by taping every episode of Caesar Millan's Dog Whisperer. I admit I had an enormous amount of frustration over trying to apply some of Caesar techniques. I tried the "shhhh" and touch the neck concept over and over with my puppy to no avail. I had one episode where Caesar shows the owner right where to touch, I played that ten second segment over and over, but never got it.

Fortunately, I had a friend involved in a dog training club that my vet also recommended so I signed up for puppy obedience classes which were okay and even better Obedience I classes in the fall. One of the best things about the classes were the long lists of books and articles they gave us in handouts. In those handouts, I found books by folks I hadn't found at the used bookstore. I began to think about a different approach, and as it turned out one that worked for me.

At about the same time, my kids and I began to watch a new Reality TV show, Greatest American Dog. One of the judges was dog trainer Victoria Stilwell. After taping a couple of her show's episodes, I discontinued watching Millan and started watching her. One of the biggest differences between the two shows was how easy it was to take something Stilwell did on her show and use it at home. I didn't need to rewind and rewind to take a technique and use it. Neither did I need to have my special "energy" to be right to use her techniques. I even found a post on her forums that says the same thing:

the thing that speaks to me the most is the fact that most of Stilwell's
techniques can be taken straight from the show and used in the viewers' home
that day. my family does this all the time, and I've seen numerous posts on this
forum about what we've learned.

alternately, Millan's show begins with a "do not try this at home" warning
that makes me think it's more entertainment than education, and bears an uncanny
resemblance to the kind of show with stunts done by professionals that, despite
all warnings, viewers emulate and hurt themselves and others. it's dangerous.

It turns out I was in the middle of a the dog training battle. For the last several decades behaviorists had slowly been winning the day using mostly rewards based training techniques. Most of those in the United States looked to a San Francisco man, Ian Dunbar, as their inspiration. Dunbar had introduced many new ways of viewing and training dogs. He had pioneered puppy classes just like the one I enrolled in with Sunshine. I eventually read his two books on puppies, but sadly it was too late for me to try the techniques used in them much with Sunshine who was already long past crate training, house breaking, or many of the things Dunbar suggests.

This new style of training was going well until Caesar Millan's rise to fame on the National Geographic channel. His rise gave the dog training world much angst. Many who act as gate keepers for that world feel his emphasis on pack leadership to be a return to the dark ages of dog training.

Claudia Kawczynska, editor of Bark magazine, is one of Dunbar's many fans. "It's
irritating to see Millan treated as the expert. Ian is an animal behaviorist
with decades of experience," she says, "He should be where Millan is."
Kawczynska likens the Millan cult of personality and popularity to the
anti-science, anti-academic sentiment she sees prevalent in American culture and
politics. "Millan lived on a farm, so what? He's good looking, but he's not
smart about dogs. It seems people don't want their experts to be educated." 1

I think some of the remarks directed at Millan are unfair. For instance, even brief viewing of his show, will show that Millan is quite good with dogs. The real question in my mind is his ability to transfer that skill to other people. In my experience, he was not able to transfer that knowledge to me in any workable form.

So what's workable? In later entries I'll do some brief reviews of the books that worked for me.
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Book Review: St. John Chrysostom: Spiritual Gems from the Gospel of Matthew

St. John Chrysostom: Spiritual Gems from the Gospel of Matthew translated and edited by Robert Charles Hill.

This is the second book by John Chrysostom, I've used in my personal Bible studies this year. Compared to the first volume I used, I like this one much better.

Unlike the short Genesis series of sermons Chrysostom gave on Genesis, he preached a long (90 or more) series on the gospel of Matthew. Mr. Hill, the translator and editor, chose to exert various sections from this series.

In this way, the reader gets more commentary from Chrysostom on the passages on Matthew than they do in the previous volume I read. I also assume that Mr. Hill has chosen not to include any passages that are adverse to a more modern reading of the gospels.

It becomes clear that Chrysostom was a preacher who very much wanted to encourage his congregation to help the poor more than he felt they did. It also is clear that he sees his congregation as well to do with few monetary struggles. In this respect, Chrysostom resembles many modern ministers of the word.
It also is clear why he is known for his golden tongue. His passages are clear and easy to understand. They are about everyday life not theology (although sometimes a little of that slips in). No doubt, they were interesting and inspiring sermons to listen to.

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Book Review: Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis

St. John Chrysostom: Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis edited and translated by Robert Charles Hill.

This year in my personal religious studies, I've been focusing on one book of the Bible with a book of commentaries. I've tried to vary what kind of commentary I've read and chose a mixture of Biblical books. For the letters of Paul to the Corinthians I chose a volume from a series that draws together ancient Christian writers and commentators.
Since I was aware I'd need more commentaries later in the year I kept an eye out for any one person that seemed interesting and insightful to me. John Chrysostom was such a commentator and I noticed that many of the remarks he made that I liked came from commentaries on Genesis. After some research I found a small collection of just eight homilies on Genesis. This review is in response to that collection.

This volume proved to be not quite what I was looking for. First, it turns out Chrysostom preached two different series on Genesis. This was a short eight sermon series given during lent. His other series went through the whole book and was much longer. I had seen such volumes in my search but had not been interested since those I turned up initially had a rather high price tag and even cheaper ones came in more than one volume, all with many more pages than I wanted to tackle. It would have been wiser to have chosen one of those. This series confines itself to the first three chapters of Genesis.

Chrysostom proves to a minister much like others I've encountered who seems to spend more time on other sections of the Bible or topics than the verses that his sermon is supposed to be centered on. Much of the thrust of these sermons is focused on charitable giving a worthy topic but not one that leaps to the mind when one reads the first three chapters of Genesis.

Chrysostom also reveals some of his ancient prejudices by excoriating Eve for her actions in the garden while going on to gloss over and dismiss the sins of the patriarchal fathers such as Noah. The commentator feels sure that there were no women in the audience for these sermons. He uses various clues to establish this, and he notes that with no women in the audience Chrysostom didn't have to face anyone over his remarks about Eve's deficiencies. While this maybe true it doesn't make the ancient father any more endearing for his prejudice just a bit more cowardly.
Chrysostom does also hit some interesting points that remind me very much of current themes in protestant churches today. He calls on his audience of men to go home and be able to expound the topic he has taught them in their homes. He calls on them to create a small church in the home. His target home is probably a bit larger than the one envisioned by those in the modern patriarchal movement with servants included but his ideas remind of theirs.

In all I can say I understand why Chrysostom was known as golden tongue. His sermons are clear and simple with no passages that are difficult to understand. It maybe this owes itself to Mr. Hill's translation, I'm afraid I don't know.

What Not To Do

LONDON - NOVEMBER 10:  Troy the Yellow Labrado...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

  1. Take the dog to the beach.
  2. Stay in a pet friendly home.
  3. Let the dog go upstairs to the bed rooms even though she doesn't do that at home.
  4. Let her sleep on the floor in your upstairs bed room even though she doesn't do that at home.

What's left to do:
  1. Drag an 85 pound Labrador down the wood stairs she's sure she can't go down when she wakes the next morning.
  2. Barricade the stairs.
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What She Gave Up for Me

In my readings about dogs, I've had a reference to how dogs were brought into human society. Most folks know they originated as wolves but how did they come to live with men? Most scientists think dogs were the first domesticated animals. There is debate over whether humans domesticated them or they accommodated themselves to humans.

Either way dogs gave up their wolf brains to be with humans. Wolves are apparently much smarter than your average dog.

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You can do anything?

Elastigirl (The Incredibles)Image via Wikipedia

As a homeschool mom, I often think that if I can just get my children reading strongly that almost anything else they will ever want to learn will be available to them.

One of my friends had a son who wanted to study Akkadian when he was in high school. Akkadian was the language of the ancient Mesopotamians; he wanted to be an archaeologist. My friend told him, "If I can find a self study program for you, you can study it. Otherwise, you'll have to do something else." She figured that there was no such creature as self study Akkadian. It turns out there's around eight to ten such programs.

Certainly over the years, I have learned lots of subjects by reading about them. Including fairly tactile things like learning to quilt. Those books had a lot more pictures and I did take some classes along the way.

But there have been things I learned that only came from personal observation.

A few years ago, I participated in a homeschool PE class where the moms were expected to stick around and model good behavior for our kids by participating in a sport together. Now, I am often envious of the Delta Burke character on Designing Women who claimed she had her period four years straight to avoid PE. I wasn't smart enough to figure that one out.

But being married to a college athlete means I've watched him play a lot of athletic games. I don't think my skill set improved, but I did learn a few things like using your brain to come up with a workable strategy. I once shut down some other homeschool moms in a basketball game by having a man to man defense and putting our best player on their best player. While it worked out that neither of the good players scored much our team capitalized on this by having the rest of us schleps work to score while the other team kept working to get the ball to their best player. Later when the graduate student who worked with us, had had enough of our strategy she came in for their side. The next thing I knew rebounds were being taken out of the air from over my head (she'd played college basketball). After a few rounds of this devastating strike at our lead, I decide to employ another strategy I'd learn from watching my husband and other adults play sports. I trash talked! Yes, I called her Elastigirl. We still didn't win, but at least I'd tried all my knowledge out. (And yes I did make sure her feelings weren't hurt, but she liked it.)

So much as I'd like to think that reading is the golden road to learning, I will have to admit that on occasion there are other roads.
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History and Accuracy

Mosaic in the northern tympanon depicting Sain...Image via Wikipedia

Recently I've been reading collections of the homilies of John Chrysostom an early church father who lived during the fourth century. I began reading him and other early church writers in a collection of commentaries on the book of Corinthians with the idea that since these writers were much closer in time to the writing of the original letters they would have more to offer on the difficult contextual passages.

Unfortunately this has not been the case. The three hundred year gap is enough to make their lack of knowledge just as great as mine. I've learned more from the modern writer Ben Witherington.

Most recently in my readings, Chrysostom mentioned in a homily that the apostles were busy men who had established many monasteries and religious orders. As a modern I know this is incorrect the monastic movement didn't begin until the middle of the third century.

So sometimes what seems as an advantage, turns out not to be one.


Solzhenitsyn Exhibit at Meeting 2008, Rimini 2Image by *clairity* via Flickr

I love this quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

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I found both the following sites which have some interesting maps. This website uses Google maps, but the user puts in a Bible verse of a location and it is mapped on the Google earth map.

Civil War battle map of Kentucky, published in...Image via Wikipedia This site includes both historical maps of Civil War battle locations and more modern topographic maps which show battle and troop movements from the battles.

Cite That

I find when I'm trying to learn about a new subject that deciding who to believe about a specific set of facts can be difficult. The Civil War has a myriad of different opinions many of which back up their opinions with facts. But what to do when those facts don't line? Where to look for the correct fact?

Wikipedia has an article that identifies their prioritization of facts. This is useful when comparing two sources because you can begin to identify if one uses more reliable sources than the other. An important part of this evaluation would include checking some of those listed sources to make sure that the information cited is really there in the source and accurately contextualized.

Libraries almost invariably contain long aisle...Image via Wikipedia

I also like to see where links online take me. I can remember one article with a lot of facts but all their sources pointed to one other website. I found this concerning and spent only a bit more time in research which turned up that both websites originated from the same person.

Many people like to use Wikipedia, but there are perils there as well. Often articles don't include cites and even with included cites much depends on individuals who post to an article. Wikipedia editors do try to remove inaccurate or information without citations, but even so that doesn't always occur instantly. In a recent case a student was able to get quotes included in a composer's obituary that the student had written rather than the composer.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales had warned long ago against such usage of Wikipedia. However there's growing acceptance of citing the online cite and even guidance to be found on how to do so.

For folk like myself this seems an acceptable compromise, but with facts in dispute more extensive research is needed.

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Fireworks #1Image by Camera Slayer via Flickr

The Civil War seems to me to be filled with characters and contradictions. It was a time when soldiers were known for their dedication to one leader and sometimes when there was a transition in leadership the ongoing support of those under and above the new leader would be less than what in our modern armed forces. At the same time military punishment could be harsh. General Bragg is reported to have a young solder court martialed and executed for eating a few apples [1]. But the opposite is equally true as well. Soldiers were on occasion unexpectedly informal.

Which brings me to the story of Nelly. Nelly had been courted by and engaged to A.P. Hill, but shortly before their wedding, she broke it off. Some years later she became reacquainted with another West Point graduate George McClellan. She eventually married McClellan. During the conflict between north and south at one of the Battles of Seven Pines, Hill clashed with McClellan. Hill was known to be a tough and energetic fighter. McClellan's men who came in his way were sure that his energy was in part due to his desire for vengeance on McClellan for the loss of Nelly. They are said to have cried out in battle, "God's sake Nelly -- why didn't you marry him?"
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Do It Yourself Art

When we decorated a few years ago, I had some specific spots that I couldn't find art for and I painted my own art to fill those spots. While most of the other art in our house is older work mixed with more contemporary furniture, I'm not much of a painter so the art I painted tended to be contemporary.

In our living room we had a large blank wall behind a sofa. Once I had painted this double piece, I realized that dots appeared in lots of other items in my decor. I even worked on a brochure for a nonprofit that ended up with a dot theme.

In our den, things were more casual. One piece I did to fit in the back of a niche above the TV. The birds are a part of a sculpture that sits in front of the painting which has a heart in the center.

Finally, after having a mantel cluttered with small frames, I painted two very large paintings of our cat and dog. I had seen similar paintings on a vacation. I like the cat painting a lot. The dog
painting proved more difficult. The original painting had a black and white dog which really popped on the sky blue background. I also made our dog look fatter than she is. However since she is a one year old Labrador, it maybe that my painting will prove to be predictive of her future.