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Good Owners, Great Dogs: A Training Manual for Humans and Their Canine Companions

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Good Owners, Great Dogs: A Training Manual for Humans and Their Canine Companions


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Good Owners, Great Dogs: A Training Manual for Humans and Their Canine Companions by Brian Kilcommons
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Renowned dog trainers Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson share their knowledge and skill gained in over twenty-five years experience, focusing on the two areas of most concern to dog owners: effectively changing unwanted behavior and preventing bad behavior with methods that are fun, that work, and make the dog even more loyal to its master. The key ingredient is becoming a good owner, someone who knows how to communicate with patience, praise, and clarity. With this in mind, GOOD OWNERS, GREAT DOGS trains you. As no other dog book has, it teaches you to read canine body language and to give your pet commands with the help of wonderful instructional photographs. With specific tips on housebreaking, food stealing, barking, aggression, and a host of other issues, GOOD OWNERS GREAT DOGS will show you how to give guidance that leads to years of loving, trouble-free companionship.

Author Biography

Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson have authored several books on pets and live in Bedford, NY.

Reviews from epinions.com

pearannoyed's Full Review:

Last summer I got a puppy. She was a beautiful, friendly, energetic little pup, and soon I was wrapped around her little finger. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know much about border collies; their personalities and habits can be a little overwhelming for someone who is more accustomed to submissive miniature poodles. My mom, herself a poodle owner, decided to help by sending me a book about dog care. Unfortunately, that book wasn’t of much use to me. Fortunately, after spending a little time in the book aisle at our local PetSmart, I found a book that is much better.

Good Owners, Great Dogs is the kind of book that every dog owner should have on the shelf. It covers all the aspects of having a dog from choosing your new companion to solving behavior problems. Dog training experts Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson have created a comprehensive manual that would be helpful to dog novices and experienced pet owners alike. Brian Kilcommons is the only American protégé of the famous Barbara Woodhouse, and this book is based largely on her ‘train the owner and the dog will follow’ approach.

The Book is divided into four major sections as follows:
Part 1—Required Reading
Part 2—Puppyhood
Part 3—Caring for and Training Your Adult Dog
Part 4—Understanding and Solving Canine Problems

Required Reading

This section is intended for people who have not yet been acquired by a dog. It discusses the commitment that it takes to raise a healthy, well-adjusted pet. It covers information about canine temperament, how to judge what a particular dog’s personality might be like, and ways that dogs communicate with each other as well as their 2-legged friends. It talks about places you might go to find your furry friend, including obtaining your dog from a shelter or rescue group, how to locate reputable breeders, and signs to watch for to avoid puppy mills and other unhealthy dog-breeding situations. It also talks at length about determining what kind of animal might be a good fit in you home—it’s not just about what you want in a pup, but does that puppy respond well to you?

Most importantly, it talks about training the newest member of your family. In large, boldface letters at the bottom of one page it states, your job is to be a good teacher. His job is to be an attentive, obedient student. Your job is the harder one. Consistency is stressed as the most important aspect of dog training—the more consistent you are the faster your puppy will learn. It talks about TEAMwork consisting of Tone of voice, Emotion and showing pleasure in your dog, Attitude and remaining positive, and Movement and physical signals that will help reinforce what you are teaching your dog. It also includes a list of training tools that may be used with your dog as well as explanations of when and why you might choose them.


This section is set up a little like a baby book for new parents. It covers a myriad of information about preparing your home for its new occupant, and what you should be prepared for once they move in. The authors are realistic about what it’s like to have a new puppy around—The sweet moment with the warm puppy sleeping on your lap will be balanced by the warm puddles you step in.—and they take lots of time to talk about the challenges of raising a puppy. But there is never a doubt that a deep warmth and love for their canine friends is a very important force in their lives.

Some of the important information covered in this section includes housebreaking tips, preventing bad habits, and what to expect on your puppy’s first trip to the vet. Also included are the puppy’s developmental stages, information on socialization and ‘Puppy Kindergarten,’ and some training techniques for the vital commands sit, come, down, no bite, off, and let’s go. There are two ‘case histories’ of puppies with common problems and how they might have been avoided, and a FAQ that answers a few of the most common questions new owners have about puppies.

Caring for and Training Your Adult Dog
After you’ve had your pet for a while, things inevitably start to settle into a routine. That routine is what this section is all about. Brief discussions are included on feeding, grooming and health care; and it talks about the stages that will (not might, but will) affect your dog—early adolescence (9-12 months) brings disobedience and testing of boundaries, later adolescence (around 18 months) brings more independence and aggression. Serious problems such as biting are most likely to surface between one and three years of age, and the authors try to give you the tools needed to avoid these issues.

Most of this section consists of more advanced training and how side-step potential problems. Again, consistency is the key. The authors reinforce the need for consistent training and correction of inappropriate behavior. They stress that training needs to happen and boundaries need to be set before there are problems—you can’t teach a dog not to jump up just when company is at the door. Daily reinforcement of expected behavior is the best way to insure that your dog will be well behaved. More detail is given about the commands sit, down, off, come, and let’s go covered in the Puppy section, along with more information on how to solve problems related to those commands. It also adds commands for out, leave it, wait, stay, and place. The section ends with several pages of stories about ‘real life’ dog problems and how to solve them, and another FAQ page answering questions related to adult dogs and training.

Understanding and Solving Canine Problems

Unfortunately, most dogs are a problem for their owners at least once in a while. This section covers many of the issues that may occur for owners of dogs, what the origins of those problems might be, and how they might be solved with appropriate correction, patience, and (say it again) consistency. It is clear throughout these pages that the best way to solve problem behavior is to recognize it early enough to prevent it from becoming an ingrained habit. When that doesn’t happen, it may take a very long time to re-train an older animal to stop digging, chewing, marking, begging, and other socially unacceptable habits.

According to the authors, the best way to halt unwanted habits is through rigorous training. Make the offending dog obey commands. Give him tasks to do. Organize his time. Don’t give too much ‘un-earned’ attention. Basically, let your pooch know that you are in charge, and if he (or she) wants something, they have to do your bidding first. This kind of consistency makes the dog realize that you are the alpha dog. Once that is established, everything else is a little bit easier.

Some of the specific problems covered in this section include: housebreaking problems, separation anxiety, chewing, excessive barking, whining, digging, fear, jumping up, inappropriate sniffing, eating nasty things (kitty roca anyone?), aggression, and a host of others. Each problem is described followed by really good information about how to address the problem. For example, a chewing problem has a threefold solution: prevention, direction and correction. If you crate the dog, they can’t get to your shoes to chew them up. If you give a dog chew toys they learn what they are allowed to chew. Correction includes stopping the behavior with a shake-can or bitter apple spray—not just saying no and taking away the object. Anywhere from half a page (digging) to ten pages (housebreaking) is spent on each problem, giving very comprehensive information on solving each problem. Included in this section are two case histories detailing behaviors that have gone beyond problems and become dangerous. Sadly, sometimes the only thing that can be done for a dog that has been mistreated and made overly aggressive is to euthanize the dog.

This section also includes tips about living with an older dog. Older dogs often have special needs pertaining to deafness, blindness, and diet, just like older people. There is good information here about how to enjoy your pet in his golden years, and how and when to make the decision to end the life of your old friend. A brief section is also included on living with a ‘special needs’ dog such as the different techniques that might be needed to train a blind or deaf dog. And, as with the other sections, this section ends with a FAQ.

My Thoughts
It may seem that the majority of this book is dedicated to dog problems, but that’s only because it is. People who don’t have dog problems, whose dogs are all perfectly behaved, don’t bite, don’t bark excessively, and never, ever piddle on the floor don’t need a book about dog behavior and training. They should probably be writing a book about dog behavior and training.

I have found this book to be entertaining to read as well as extremely useful. Each section is filled with excellent information that is pertinent to each covered dimension of dog ownership. Children as young as 10-years would easily be able to understand the instructions on dog care and training. There is a generous peppering of black-and-white photographs to illustrate the various topics covered, as well as sidebars that include tips and special information related to the current subject. The layout is conducive to a straight read-through to familiarize yourself with the basics of dog care and training, but the included index also makes it very easy to find specific information you might be looking for.

This is a much better book than the other dog care book I have. I would eagerly recommend it to anyone who currently owns a dog, or to anyone contemplating dog ownership."

chibolove's Full Review:
"When I first bought Chibo, my now 12 year old shih tzu, to my home, I did not have the first clue about dogs. Her first groomer told me to buy this book, because, she said, it had everything I needed to know. No truer words have ever been spoken!
I feel so strongly about the value of this book, that I have loaned my copy to every single person I know who gets a puppy. (In fact it is on loan right now). Brian Kilcommons has made "The Dog Bible" here, to me, with every possible question answered with wit and easy directions, along with adorable and humorous pictures. This is very easy reading, and so informative.
I truly wish every person on this planet who ever thought about getting a dog for a pet would first read this book. Brian Kilcommons is a dog genious, and everything he does is fair, fun, and leads the dog to love him (or the reader) even more.
We all want a pet we can love who will love us back. Read this book and you will get not only that, but a pet the whole world will adore too, because if you follow the strategies Brian lays out, you will have a smart, socially appropriate, obedient, loving dog, who you will be proud to take anywhere."

WarHoover's Full Review:

When my wife and I bought our first dog, we took the decision seriously. We wanted to be responsible owners.

My best friend's family raised Rottweilers in Long Island, and had several high-ranking dogs and champions. They also had some personal help from one of New York's leading authorities on obedience training, Brian Kilcommons, and were very pleased with the result. My friend recommended I check out his book, "Good Owners, Great Dogs."

The book approaches dog training from the owner perspective. According to the book, most dogs are very similar in their habit patterns and how they view the world, yet very sophisticated and adaptable when it comes to learning to interact with their human owners and understanding their verbal and body language. Put simply, the important part is educating owners on what goes through a dog's mind so they can more effectively train their pet rather than simply confusing them with conflicting messages.

Does this really work? I found that for the most part, yes. The first thing we tried was the crate method of house training. It involves a lot of work on the owners part initially (waking up three times a night - good rehearsal for a pre-baby couple). But when our little pup ambled to the door and gave us "The Look" just 1 week later, we felt like parents of an M.I.T valedictorian! I couldn't believe how fast the little guy picked up the general idea.

Other parts of the book weren't as helpful. While the leash-training methods probably work for the most part, I found them based a lot on "surprising" your dog with the quick (but not hard) snap of a special choke chain. The idea here is for the dog to associate the correction coming from the choke collar rather than you. This involves a seemingly complex, sneaky method where the dog isn't supposed to notice you. I never entirely got the concept, I must admit, and therefore stopped using the method with my dog to avoid confusing him. This would probably work better for me if physically demonstrated by a dog trainer. I will also admit that I probably let myself get discouraged too easily. I feel that if the owner is willing to put the time into these techniques, most of them will work.

Overall, I recommend the book. Just as with any other form of obedience training, it requires consistent effort from the owner to get consistent results. I enjoyed the author's attitude and philosophy towards dogs."
Release date NZ
September 1st, 1999
Country of Publication
United States
Grand Central Publishing
Product ID

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