A Dog Is a Dog: And That's Why He's So Special

A Dog Is a Dog: And That's Why He's So Special

by Clarice Rutherford

Middle grade school children's book covering why dogs act like dogs and how to work with them.

A Dog is a Dog is an excellent book for young children to read, especially if they are interested in having a dog. The author, Clarice Rutherford, brings her many years of experience with dogs into this book, and explains dogs, how to manage, train, as well as


Middle grade school children's book covering why dogs act like dogs and how to work with them.

A Dog is a Dog is an excellent book for young children to read, especially if they are interested in having a dog. The author, Clarice Rutherford, brings her many years of experience with dogs into this book, and explains dogs, how to manage, train, as well as understand them. The book is written for the middle grade school level. The reader will learn the basic history of dogs and their relationship to the wolf. How the dog's brain develops and the importance of early socialization and basic training is explained, as well as how the genetics and instincts of the wolf play an important role in the behavior of the dog to some extent. Establishing one's self as a leader is discussed. Training the dog to be a well-mannered companion is also explained, with good advice on why dogs do some of the things they do, and what can be done to correct those actions. Reading and understanding the body language of the dog is covered and how correct reading will help the person interact with dogs better. Tips are included for basic training. Sidebars offer more detail or stories to add more information that the reader may more easily relate to. The book finishes with a tribute to the wolf.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4�8—This is a unique and engaging exploration of the world of dogs. The book begins with their evolution, their "wolfness," and the origins of different breeds. It provides insights into their instincts and senses, which can help humans to better understand canine behavior. The importance of socialization is clearly explained. What their gestures, such as lip-licking and yawning, are saying is identified, enabling readers to interpret them to improve their communication with their four-legged companions. There are also chapters on teaching good manners and playing fun games. The writing style is enthusiastic and highly readable. Many attractive and appropriate color photos and black-and-white drawings are included. Family dogs would certainly put this book on a recommended reading list to ensure that their people become wiser and better "pack leaders" in their daily lives.—Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA

Product Details

Alpine Publications, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.30(d)
990L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


Some dogs seem to have a higher energy level than others. This can be part of the normal behavior for their breed, which also depends upon their size and the job they were bred for. Terriers, for example, are quick on their feet and always alert for anything they might want to pounce on and grab when out for walks. They are full of energy and love to be around their people. Dogs are continually being stimulated by their instincts. Whatever the basic energy level of any dog, it will be increased whenever the dog is stimulated by an instinct. This includes seeing people and animals who "need" herding, small animals who "need" to be chased, a mailman approaching the house who "needs" to be barked at, or a stream or puddle that "needs" to be jumped into. When Corky isn't allowed to use his instinct, he still retains the physical energy that the instinct aroused. He doesn't know what to do with all that energy. Some families have a phrase for this: "There goes Corky, flying around the ceiling." He runs around the house; he bounces off his family pack members. He wants to go on a walk when everyone else is watching TV. When he does go for a walk, he bolts out the front door. The unlucky person at the end of the leash flies into space behind him. Add this energy to a high-energy personality and you've got a super-powered dog.

How can you help Corky release the extra energy that comes from suppressing his instincts? You can do fun games which imitate in some way a part of the behavior that an instinct creates. Whether your dog is a high-energy type or not, these games are fun. Enjoy playing with your dog, and be careful not to overdo. He'll let you know when he's had enough by not paying attention. Learning tricks can be mentally tiring to a dog.

1. At home, you can play the find it game.

• Use the "stay" or have a friend hold the leash, or tie it to a chair leg.
• Hide a biscuit or a toy. Let Corky watch you the first few times.
• Walk back to him, release him and tell him to "find it." Until he reaches the point where he doesn't need to watch you hide it, help him if necessary.
• Stand close to the place and point. If he begins to lose interest, clap your hands to get him excited.
• Praise him vigorously when he finds the object.

2. Bounce a ball.

• Get in front of Corky.
• Bounce a ball, one that fits in his mouth, so that it comes down close to him. He learns to catch it in mid air. If you bounce it too hard it will go too high and be difficult for him to keep track of and catch.
• When you begin, stay just a few feet away and bounce it so it will not go far over his head. This game is best played outdoors, in a fenced area.

3. Play hide and seek. Even though this is a fun game, don't expect Corky to know how to play without some practice first.

• Have someone else hold his leash or distract him while you go out of the room or behind a piece of furniture when he isn't looking.
• Call him: "Corky, come." Repeat, "come."
• Make some noise. If you're behind a piece of furniture, pat the floor (but not so hard that the lamp wobbles back and forth).
• If someone else is in the room, he can direct Corky toward you. As soon as Corky stumbles into you, give a treat and lots of praise. You can gradually go farther away when you hide. You and Corky will love this game. But if you go too far, such as into one room and through a door into another room, before he understands the game, it won't be fun for Corky any more and he'll stop looking for you.

4. Let Corky retrieve. Some dogs are born chasing a ball; others have to learn what fun it is. Here are some tips to help him enjoy it.

• Get Corky excited by waving a ball or a soft toy in front of his nose. Toss it a few feet. Every time he sniffs or touches with his nose, praise and treat.
• Play this way each day until he picks up the ball. Make a big happy fuss when he does this.
• If he begins to grab the ball and run off with it, tie a 20-30 foot cord to his collar.
• Hold the line loosely, close to the dog. Don't wrap it around your hand.You might get pulled down on the ground.

• Drop the line on the ground as soon as your dog takes off. Run after it. When he reaches the ball or toy, pick up the line or stand on it. The purpose of the line is to keep Corky from running farther away. Talk to him.
• Try running in the opposite direction to see if he will follow you. Whenever the line gets a little bit loose, gather it in until you've folded the looseness in your hand. Don't pull him in like a fish, because he won't learn anything that way.
• When Corky finally gets to you, take a treat from your pocket. If he drops the ball on his way back to you because he's in a hurry for a treat, don't scold him. You're teaching him to return to you. After he learns that, you won't give him a treat unless he brings the ball with him.

5. Teach the box game.

• As your dog sits and watches, put a treat in one of two boxes (or bowls) that are different in size, not too large, and different shapes if possible.
• Repeat the treat in the same box several times while Corky is watching you. Then put the treat in the second box several times. You might want to do one box one day and the second box the next day because with too much repetition he might get tired of it.
• Then on another day put the treat in one box at a time, with your dog watching each time. Corky will learn that the treat can be in either box.
• The next step is to let Corky watch while you put it in one box and move the boxes around in circles, back and forth, so they're not in the same place next to each other.
• Tell him to "search." Let him find the treat. When he understands this, put a cloth over the top of the box after the treat goes in and move the boxes to different positions. He will use his nose to choose which box has the treat and will get under the towel, newspaper, or whatever you use as a cover.


Tricks are fun. Dogs like them because the people are happy and the dogs get treats and/or praise. There are many tricks you can teach your dog, like rolling over, playing dead, sitting up on his haunches, walking on his hind legs, barking on command, learning to count (bark the number of times you ask), dancing, catching a frisbee, and more. Following are just a few of the tricks you can teach Corky.

1. Biscuit on the nose

Most dogs with long enough muzzles seem to like the biscuit-on-the-nose trick. Have your dog sit. Tell him to "wait," which is a good command to use for this. Put the biscuit on his nose, repeating "wait." In a few seconds tell him "O.K.," or "get it." Dogs have different ways of tossing the treat and catching it.

2. Shake

Here's a quick way to teach "shake hands." Put a treat between your thumb and your fingers and put it down next to his foot. When his paw touches your hand, immediately give the treat. If he hesitates, touch his paw first with your hand. Begin to say "shake" or "high five" each time. Advance to giving a treat only when he raises his paw when you ask him to "shake." When he raises his paw every time, give a treat every few times and finally, praise only. He will act like he's done something wonderful, and he has.

3. The crawl

Put your dog on "down." Be on your knees beside him, with a treat on the floor just in front of his nose. Slowly move the treat on the floor a couple of inches. He will stretch to reach it. Move it just a little bit farther the next time until he has to crawl to get it. If his rear end pops up, push it down with the palm of your hand. Be patient until he learns what you want him to do.

4. Winding between the legs

Teach your dog to circle your leg by guiding him with a yummy treat. If he quits, put the treat at his nose. You have changed hands. Now you can go around your other leg if you want to.

You might think these games and tricks don't have anything to do with a dog's instincts. But finding a hidden dog biscuit or toy or person uses scenting and hunting. Playing with a ball relates to retrieving game (meat) and bringing it to the den. Waiting at the front door, staying in his place and other commands you've taught him relate to the pack instinct and paying attention to the pack leader. These games and commands can help your dog overcome his high energy and learn to live more calmly with you.

What People are saying about this

Polly Walters
After reading this book, children will be eager to share their lives with The Best Dog Ever, mutt or purebred. ...Rutherford conversationally unfolds the dog's fascinating history and its unique place in our lives, skillfully guiding a young reader to becoming a responsible pet owner of a civilized, friendly, very companionable 'best friend forever.' (Polly Walters, teacher of grades four through six)
Gary Raham
If we expect the family dog to 'behave like a littler person in a fur coat,' we not only miss out on a great deal of fascinating doggy behavior, we also do the dog a great disservice. As she points out in entertaining prose aimed at the... student, our modern domestic dog is really a modified wolf and must be 'taught how to live with people.' (Gary Raham, author of The Deep Time Diaries, The Restless Earth: Fossils, as well as articles in Highlights for Children, Cricket, and other children's magazines)

Meet the Author

Clarice Rutherford has co-authored two books, How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, and Retriever Puppy Training -The Right Start For Hunting. She has lived with dogs much of her life and been active in obedience, hunt tests, field trials and tracking.

She says she is continually amazed at the variety of abilities and the wide range of personalities that exist in the dog world. They have been her best teachers. The canine friends she has rescued, rehabilitated and given a foster home have been both purebred dogs and those of mixed ancestry. Some have taken weeks to overcome the physical and mental abuse from their previous humans. A few have stayed and joined her family. Their problems and age were too deep for them to be able to adjust to another new home.

She lives in Colorado with her husband, Bill, and two Labrador Retrievers, Patrick, a yellow, and Brenna, a black.

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