Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Book Review: Do Over Dogs

I haven't blogged about books for awhile, but yesterday I finished Pat Miller's Do Over Dogs. With baited breath I have been awaiting a positive book addressing the concerns of adopting a new-to-you-dog.

Like many of Pat Miller's books I was impressed with the content.  Do Over Dogs is filled with useful advice and  I  was enamored with the section on selecting a dog, something that I think is often almost never addressed outside puppyhood (probably because so many people look for resources after they have adopted a dog not before they get a dog). In careful detail Miller goes over many of the challenges (all of the problems I've ever had fostering) of adopting a dog and then how to approach those problems.

I love how she doesn't dwell on the potential cause of those problems, but instead is firmly planted in the present focused on the future; concentrating on fixing those problems instead of dwelling on what could potentially maybe caused them.  Unfortunately the book was not organized in way nearly as useful as the content itself so instead of reading it cover to cover like I did, it might be better suited for a more targeted approach reading the chapters that interest you.

Most of the information in Do Over Dogs I've picked up along the way, from my adoption group, trainer, other books, ect.  I was able to put a word to a common problem I've had with Beckett for years," isolation distress."  Beckett is often distressed when alone in a new place.  Something I've dealt with when I first got him and then something I dealt with again when I moved.  I usually named it separation distress though in actuality Beckett didn't care who was with him.  So as you can imagine when I moved from my tiny city apartment with four other people in a building with 12 other people to our current suburban home that had just my husband and I he was not impressed. However, since the same techniques can be used to deal with isolation distress as separation distress I wasn't to bad off (another story though).

In general Pat Miller was preaching to the choir (me).  I did disagree on one point.  When discussing stress Pat says that the more shut down a dog is the more challenging the dog will be. Beckett used to shut down and yes it was challenging, but actually I've always thought of it more as an appropriate reaction to what must be an incredibly high level of stress.  Here was a dog in a completely new environment, encountering things he has never even imagined, things I can't do anything about because they are everywhere, floors, stairs, reflections, cars, and at the time the scariest of all, non-greyhound dogs.  Of course I did what I could to manage these things, but instead of lunging, biting, barking, or any of the other outlets available to him he just let me know that he can no longer handle things, by not doing anything.  Of course it would have been far better if he didn't have that level of stress, which is probably Miller's point, but it seems to me like a fair way for a dog to communicate that he or she is simply done.

Now for my confession.  This is one of four or five of Miller's works I've read.  In this book I was more emotionally attached to the subject then any of her previous books and it was still so dry. I've read scientific papers that are more engaging.  Personally I just find her writing style boring. And as such hard to read. The book just never engages me, even sprinkled with personal notes and ending with a  succession of success stories it lacks charisma.  Again, its just a personal preference, but it was disappointing.  I was looking for book that was more of guide to gift to new adopters; something for everyone not just the die-hard dog people. This books feels more like a reference then the new adoption guide I was hoping it to be.  Still it filled with awesome advice and I would not hesitate to suggest it to anyone.


  1. It is one book I have not purchased. May I read yours?

  2. Of course! I was thinking we should start a lending library.

  3. I've heard that Patricia McConnell is working on a similar book.

    Your review is very good. I suck at writing book reviews, which is why I never do it.

  4. Thanks for the book review. I might have to wait for Patricia McConnell's book since she has proven to be entertaining.

  5. I think you saved me a purchase, so thank you! My husband loves reading training books, but I doubt this would be up his alley.

  6. I think if he liked other Pat Miller books he'd love this one too.