No, I don't have a puppy, and no, I'm not planning to get one. But I was excited for this book anyway because the original Control Unleashed is one of my five favorite dog books. Well, it was, because The Puppy Program has totally taken its place. Let me tell you why.
While the original CU was targeted towards distractible and reactive dogs, CU Puppy is written as more of a prevention manual. It's meant to help you give your puppy a foundation of coping skills by teaching him confidence, relaxation, and trust in you to deal with things that might concern him. It does this by systematically teaching attention skills, self-control skills, and arousal regulation skills. In the process, it also creates rule structures that will help your dog make sense of an often chaotic world by letting him know what to expect, and what is expected of him.
Many of the key concepts and exercises from the original book are present in this one, although they've obviously been rewritten with puppies in mind. There are also some new concepts and training exercises. Perhaps my favorite chapter was the one on social pressure. Whenever you ask your dog to do something, Leslie says, you put pressure on him. This is true of all dogs, but some will be more sensitive to it than others. A wise trainer will not only recognize how social pressure is affecting her dog, but will also find ways to relieve the social pressure, and incorporate it into the reinforcement process.
I also really liked the chapters on the economy of energy and the bite threshold model. “Everything affects everything,” Leslie writes, and it's so true. I have experienced this time and time again- and it's why I've been so slow and methodical about reintroducing Maisy to trials. I've tried to write about some of these concepts here, but Leslie does it much better than I have. In fact, she does such a lovely job that everyone with a reactive dog should buy this book simply for the first 100 pages.
Finally, I really enjoy Leslie's repeated emphasis on treating your dog like an individual. You cannot get bogged down in who you think your dog should be, whether that's based on his breed type, your past experiences, or your own desires. When things happen, when your dog behaves in a way you don't expect (or don't like!), that should be seen as information. Your dog is telling you what he needs to be successful. Address those things, not by mindlessly following some pre-determined training method, but by really paying attention to who your dog is. Like Leslie says, “We can spend so much of our time wishing that our dogs were different, rather than appreciating who they are and just working with what we've got.”
There is so much more to this book- I didn't even tell you about the new exercises and games!- but suffice it to say that I really liked this book. In fact, I think everyone with a dog should read it. If you have a puppy, performance prospect or not, this book will give you the tools you need to raise a well-adjusted adult. And although this book is geared towards puppies, that doesn't mean it can't be applied to our adult dogs- especially nervous, worried or even reactive ones.
In fact, I much prefer the organization style in the puppy book; it covers one concept or exercise per chapter, and does a much better job of explaining how they each build on one another. To me, this makes the book far more user-friendly, especially for novice handlers.The only downside is that its natural focus on puppies means that it doesn't explain how and why each exercise is so good for treating reactivity. Still, the book is absolutely amazing, and I think pretty much anyone reading this blog would find it helpful.
So what are you waiting for? Go buy it already!
For the record, I was not paid or compensated in any way for this review. I even bought my own copy of the book!