How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Manual for Dog Owners

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Manual for Dog Owners

3.7 19
by Monks of New Skete

For nearly a quarter century, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend has been the standard against which all other dog-training books have been measured. This new, expanded edition, with a fresh new design and new photographs throughout, preserves the best features of the original classic while bringing the book fully up-to-date. The result: the ultimate training

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For nearly a quarter century, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend has been the standard against which all other dog-training books have been measured. This new, expanded edition, with a fresh new design and new photographs throughout, preserves the best features of the original classic while bringing the book fully up-to-date. The result: the ultimate training manual for a new generation of dog owners - and, of course, for their canine best friends. The Monks of New Skete have achieved international renown as breeders of German shepherds and as outstanding trainers of dogs of all breeds. Their unique approach to canine training, developed and refined over three decades, is based on the philosophy that "understanding is the key to communication, compassion, and communion" with your dog. The importance of honest and effective communication with your dog is underscored throughout this guide, especially in the practical training exercises: a detailed, comprehensive, fully illustrated obedience course through which the monks lead you (and your dog) step-by-step. How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend covers virtually every aspect of living with and caring for your dog, including: Selecting a dog (what breed? male? female? puppy or older dog?) to fit your lifestyle Where to get - and where not to get - a dog Reading a pedigree Training your dog or puppy - when, where, and how The proper use of praise and discipline Feeding, grooming, and ensuring your dog's physical fitness Recognizing and correcting canine behavioral problems The particular challenges of raising a dog where you live - in the city, country, or suburb The proper techniques for complete care of your pet at every stage of his or her life In this new edition, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend has been expanded to encompass the latest equipment (e.g., retractable leashes, "invisible" fences); new trends in training and care (doggy day care, professional dog walkers, etc.); and dozens of new anecdotes and case studies, drawn from the monks' own experience, that bring to life the essential training concepts. In its scope, its clarity, and its authority, How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend remains unrivaled as a basic training guide for dog owners. Like no other book, this guide can help you understand and appreciate your dog's nature as well as his or her distinct personality - and in so doing, it can significantly enrich the life you share with your dog.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Monks of New Skete have been raising and training dogs for over 30 years at their Cambridge, New York, monastery, and this volume-updated from the 1978 version-offers solid insights on dog training, behavior, grooming, feeding and a host of other topics. Whether discussing country, city or suburban dogs, the monks dispense good advice on humane care, such as admonishing owners to avoid "canine incarceration," i.e., leaving a dog confined alone for long periods of time. While the book does contain many useful, tried-and-true techniques for obedience-stay, heel, down-stay, recall and the like-its unique value lies in the monks' insights and thoughts about the human-canine bond. Concepts such as discipline and praise are more than merely a means to an end, the monks maintain: they are extensions of a caring attitude and real communication with a canine companion. Without devolving into New Age psychobabble, the monks make philosophical and spiritual observations that no dog lover could resist, and which just might make a convert of the uninitiated. 87 b&w photos. (Sept. 23) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Having sold a half-million copies since its publication in 1978, this classic dog-training manual should attract a big audience with its revision. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Little, Brown and Company
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Revised and Updated
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6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

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How to be Your Dog's Best Friend

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2002 The Monks of New Skete
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-61000-3

Chapter One

Myths, Mutts, and Monks

It may strike readers as odd to find a book associating monks and dogs. Well, both have been around for a long time. Dogs, we must say, have monks beat by many a century, for according to some legends they even predate humanity.

American Indian myths furnish the most ready examples. For the Kato Indians of California the god Nagaicho, the Great Traveler, took his dog along when he roamed the world creating, sharing his delight in the goodness and variety of his creatures with his little dog. Among the Shawnee of the Algonquin nation who once inhabited the upstate region of New York where our monastery is located, creation was brought about by Kukumthena, the Grandmother, and she, too, is accompanied by a little dog (her grandson tags along as well). Creation in this myth is perpetuated by none other than this mutt, for each day Kukumthena works at weaving a great basket, and when it is completed, the world will end. Fortunately for us, each night the dog unravels her day's work. Those of us who have lost portions of rug, clothing, or furniture to a dog's oral dexterity may never be convinced it could be put to a positive use such as forestalling the end of the world. Still, the myth says a lot about the interrelationship between dogs and humans.

The place of dogs in mythology is by no means limited to North American Indian cultures. It appears to be universal. Greco-Roman literature, for example, features dogs in various roles. Think of Hecate's hounds; the hunting dogs of Diana; and Cerberus, the guardian of Hades. More well known is the tale of Argos, the faithful dog of Odysseus, which is recounted to us by Homer in The Odyssey. It is set in the context of Odysseus' return home after a twenty-year absence - ten years fighting at Troy, and the following ten trying to get back to his wife and son. Over the years, everyone comes to believe that Odysseus died in the war, though his wife, Penelope, continues to refuse the amorous advances of various suitors, always believing that she will see her husband again. The irony of the tale is that when Odysseus finally does arrive back home in the guise of a beggar, neither his wife nor his faithful servant recognize him; the only one who does is his old dog, Argos, who has been waiting faithfully for his master to return.

Then there is Asclepius, god of medicine, who as an infant was saved by being suckled by a bitch. As were, of course, Romulus and Remus, founders of the city of Rome (to stretch a point). Egypt's dogs have been depicted prominently in ancient murals, and many dogs have also come to us intact as mummies. Persian mythology features a dog in the account of creation. The Aztec and Mayan civilizations include one as well. Various tribes of Africa, the Maoris of New Zealand, and other Polynesian cultures, along with the venerable Hindu and Buddhist faiths, have all found some key place for a dog in the legends that have been handed down in both oral and literary traditions.

Stories about dogs abound in Zen literature since many Zen monasteries keep dogs, usually outside the gates. The principle koan "Mu" is used to foster enlightenment and involves a paradoxical question about whether a dog has Buddha-nature or not. In another story, a monk is caught in an ironical game of one-upmanship with a dog:

Once a Zen monk, equipped with his bag for collecting offerings, visited a householder to beg some rice. On the way, the monk was bitten by a dog. The householder asked him this question:

"When a dragon puts even a piece of cloth over himself, it is said that no evil one will ever dare to attack him. You are wrapped up in a monk's robe, and yet you have been hurt by a dog: why is this so?"

It is not mentioned what reply was given by the mendicant monk.

And in another, a continuation of the above story, the unpredictable nature of some dogs is equated with reality itself:

As he nurses his wound, the monk goes to his master and is asked still another question.

Master: "All beings are endowed with the Buddha-nature: is this really so?"

Monk: "Yes, it is."

Then pointing to a picture of a dog on the wall, the wise old man asked: "Is this, too, endowed with the Buddha-nature?"

The monk did not know what to say.

Whereupon the answer was given for him. "Look out, the dog bites!"

We should not shortchange the Judeo-Christian inheritance that many of us share. But in fact the Bible, for reasons we cannot examine here, has only an occasional mention of dogs - for example, "Lazarus' wounds being licked by dogs" or "even the housedogs get the crumbs" in the Gospels. However, the dog reappears in other religious literature, sometimes as a symbol of faithfulness, sometimes as a little detail that lends a warm and human touch to the story of a saint's life. Perhaps the most vivid example of this penetration of folk legend into church tradition is the story of Saint Christopher. Many people will be startled by the way he is pictured in Eastern Christian art. The Menaion, or Book of Calendar Feasts, includes a brief account of each saint's life. We learn from this book that Christopher was a descendant of the Cynocephali, a legendary race of giants with human bodies and canine heads. He is pictured thus in icons. He has the head of a dog but otherwise resembles the conventional image of a martyr, down to the cross in his hand. He was miraculously converted and baptized, and given the name Christopher, which means "Christ-bearer."

Many saints in the Orthodox tradition are called God-bearer or Christ-bearer, a salutary title meaning these saints carry divine qualities within and manifest them in their daily lives. In the West the title was taken literally with regard to Christopher, and the legend subsequently developed in which the man (an unattractive giant still) carried the Christ Child across a flooded stream and was transformed into a handsome brute instead. In Middle Eastern tradition he journeyed to Syria to attempt to make an evil pagan king, Dagon by name, see the light. The king was not impressed, even by so formidable a messenger as a dog-faced man. Christopher was imprisoned instead, and in the midst of his martyrdom (he was given the first hot seat on record: Dagon ordered him to be chained to an iron throne and then had a fire built under it - so hot, it is recorded, that both chain and chair melted) he was transformed and received the face of a man.

There is a story, perhaps still told in Romania, where it is thought to have originated, that gives a charming account of how the dog itself was created. It seems that Saint Peter was taking a stroll in heaven with God when a dog came up. "What's that?" said Saint Peter. God told him it was a dog, adding, "Do you want to know why I made him?" Naturally Peter was interested. "Well, you know how much trouble my brother, the Devil, has caused me ... how he made me drive Adam and Eve out of Paradise. The poor things nearly starved, so I gave them sheep for meat and warm wool to clothe them. And now that fellow is making a wolf to harass and destroy the sheep! So I have made a dog. He knows how to drive the wolf away. He will guard the flocks. He will guard the possessions of man."

Historically, two groups of monks have been responsible for breeding and training dogs. The canons of Saint Augustine (technically not monks, but members of a religious order) have raised Saint Bernards at their hospice in the Swiss Alps for more than two centuries. The dogs are still bred there, although they no longer perform their well-known rescues of travelers lost in the Pass - airplanes and snowmobiles have limited the need for dogs in that capacity. But occasionally the canons and their dogs still do go out on a search. The famed brandy cask is a myth. It is probably based on the fact that the lost traveler, once found, was usually offered brandy by the Brother who accompanied the search dog. But it was the Brother who carried the brandy, not the dog.

In Tibet quite a different group of monks developed the Lhasa Apso dogs. They raised them in their monasteries and frequently gave them as gifts to nobles. It's interesting to note the disparity in size between these two monastic breeds, as well as that two quite dissimilar groups of monks found working with dogs a fitting monastic occupation. We can attest that raising and training dogs fits into monastic life very well. Dog care takes a lot of labor and affection, and monks usually have both in abundance. On another level, the dog typifies in many ways the mature monk: loyal, steadfast, willing to please, willing to learn.

Monks should not be thought of according to the stereotype that no doubt rests in the back of the minds of many - otherworldly romantics, who with bowed head and folded hands walk in silent procession down medieval cloister walks. Nor does the Friar Tuck image apply, though good nature, healthy appetite, and a bellicose streak will be found to varying degrees in most monks. Actually, the best image to capture what a monk is can be found in the words of the Russian author Dostoyevsky, who remarks in The Brothers Karamazov that a true monk is nothing more than what everyone ought to be.

Still, that is certainly debatable: "what everyone ought to be." Obviously, he did not mean that all of us should be celibate. Instead, he was pointing to an attitude of heart that he believed was characteristic of monks. The key to human happiness and fulfillment - for monks and nonmonastics alike - lies in a wholesome spiritual understanding that is supremely rooted in reality. Though monks certainly have no exclusive claim to such an understanding, we do attempt to pursue this in a professional way, passionately searching for the truth of who we are and what life is all about. What we have learned is that for the person who is truly open, the whole of life has the capacity to speak, to become a word leading us to greater wisdom and understanding. We have but to listen. From such a perspective, it is hardly surprising that our dogs have taught us much about ourselves, in many subtle ways showing us how we ought to be, as well as how we ought not to be. Because of their association with humans, an association that the stories we mentioned above show to be as old as human consciousness itself, dogs are in a unique position to offer humanity a reflection of itself.

Anyone who knows someone with a pet does not have to search too far to find similarities between the two, in little things, perhaps, in behavior quirks, in outgoing friendliness (or the opposite, suspicious reserve), and even - and often the most amusing - in appearance. Some cartoonists (such as Booth and Price in The New Yorker) get a lot of mileage out of the latter. On a deeper level, when we pay close attention, dogs mirror us back to ourselves in unmistakable ways that, if we are open, foster understanding and change. Dogs are guileless and filled with spontaneity: unlike people, they don't deceive. When we take seriously the words they speak to us about ourselves, we stand face-to-face with the truth of the matter. We can easily learn to reflect on these words - they are inscribed on their bodies, in their expressions, in the way they approach and interact with us. There is more raw material for meditation here than in many a spiritual book, which is why we offer our experience with dogs not just for the bene- fit of your dog but in the hope that you, too, might learn something about yourself through interacting with your dog. A better insight into your dog may suddenly give you a glimpse of your own humanity. Just as important, it often heightens the sense of responsibility we humans have, not just for our fellow creatures but for one another and for all creation.


Excerpted from How to be Your Dog's Best Friend Copyright ©2002 by The Monks of New Skete . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Manual for Dog Owners 3.7 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 19 reviews.
JoanieGranola More than 1 year ago
This book is great for training a young dog or older dog. The Monks provide so much information, it can be a little overwhelming at times. This book si great to supplement with "The Art of Raising a Puppy", but it very good on its own. There are many training methods that trainers today don't agree with, but sometimes the old tried and true methods work for some dogs - not all dogs are treat oriented and receive positive training well. This is a book that I refer back to time and again. No one training method is correct, and I would suggest having more than one book on hand when training a dog. This, however, is definitely a must to any collection.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a proven book. Many great workable ideas. Very practical suggestions. Plan to implement many ideas with the dogs I have and the puppy I plan to purchase.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The 1st time I read this book it was recommended to me by a friend that had gone to the police academy and heard about the book from fellow officers. She got it, read it, applied it and the puppy was so well trained at 10 weeks it was absolutely amazing. Well seeing this first hand, I was a believer and having dog's in the past that were out of control, I had to check this out. I bought two new puppies that were G/S & Rott brothers and thought this would be tough to train two at the same time. Got the book. read it, applied it and was amazed at how easy it was to train them & how well they responded to tha training. No fussing, no fighting, the hardest part was training myself not to do the things that defer the training. I ended up with two of the best behaved companions for over 13 years. People were amazed at how well they behaved and listened. Now, they have passed and I have chosen another and will be doing this again to ensure our success as companions for life. It will change the way you think & interact with your best freind forever.
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If common sense were really common this book wouldn't have needed to be written. As it is, I think it is a must have.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not only is this book full of terrific information on how to communicate with and train your dog... it also has a spiritual feel to it without trying to. I enjoyed it very much. It made so much sense and helped me understand my dogs better.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Since I bought my first copy in 1980, I've recommended this book to every new and experienced dog owner I've known. The monks show not only how to train your dog while keeping its spirit intact, they gently teach the owner to open his/ her eyes to the gift of the bond that is created. Pragmatic as well as spiritual support for the dog owner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly a great book for dog owners and future dog owners. The Monks do a superb job guiding the reader through all aspects of creating a healthy dog-owner relationship. Very well written and easy to read.