If you want a realistic approach to choosing, training and living with dogs, “Katz on Dogs” by Jon Katz is a good book to start with. It’s perfect for someone thinking of getting a dog, a first-time dog owner or someone like me who has lived with dogs all of her life. I read it just before adopting my mutt Ace, and it reminded me of some very basic but important ideas to follow such as doing research before getting a dog and making lifelong commitments to training and exercising a dog.
Jon Katz stresses how often people make the mistake of running out to the pound and “rescuing” just any dog. A common mistake people make is feeling sorry for an abused or unsocialized dog and therefore adopting it only because they want to save it from being killed. These dogs often end up returned to the shelter because the owner was not prepared to take care of a dog, especially a dog with “issues.” So in my case, it was important that I took the time to really think about what kind of dog would be right for me before I adopted just any mutt. This was hard because I like all dogs.
Katz on Dogs includes Katz’s own examples of training his dogs by using food, positive reinforcement and repetition. He says we should practice patience, consistency and determination while training dogs. I found his advice easy to take because he comes right out and admits his dogs are not perfect, that he has made mistakes. I agree with him on almost all his ideas, such as the importance of daily walks and challenges for a dog, the positive side of using crates and remembering that dogs think like dogs.
A big problem between humans and dogs, Katz says, is how humans fail to understand dogs. It’s easy for us to humanize dogs, to believe they understand our conversations, to treat them like children, to spoil them. But Katz reminds us that dogs are dogs, and we should treat them like dogs. My mutt loves me, but it’s probably because I pay attention to him and feed him. He got along just fine in his previous home and adapted just fine to my home. I’m sure he could learn to love anyone who offers him a tennis ball. His mind is not all that complex. He wants rules, routine, exercise and food. Katz says we should provide our dogs with these basic things. He says there are no “good” dogs or “bad” dogs, it’s just that some dogs understand how we want them to behave and others don’t.