Review: “Don’t Dump the Dog” by Randy Grim with Melinda Roth

Reading is a favorite activity here at Play Hard, Bark Often. In fact, for Rosee it ranks right after napping and going on walks. Whenever I have my e-reader or a paperback book out she tries to steal it from me to read it for herself.

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Sometimes she enjoys a book so much that she can’t help but take a bite out of it.

I sort of happened upon Don’t Dump the Dog when I was surfing the internet and came across an article on something dog related and a commenter on the article recommended this book. Initially, the title was enough to peak my interest which led me to Amazon and after perusing the sample and finding the first chapter named “ADD Dog”, I knew I had to read it. In case you didn’t know, my mother has always called Simon an ADD dog. Mostly, he earned this nickname from her because he can never seem to focus on one thing. He is always getting distracted, running off to do something else, and can never seem to just sit down and relax. One of the hardest things to teach him has been to relax, and while most days it’s still difficult, if we all remain calm and stay consistent in how we act and what we expect of him, he eventually does settle down. Of course, it also helps if he gets his daily walk and play session. So, when I read “ADD Dog” as the first chapter title I knew that this was a book I needed to read, like yesterday.

What I enjoyed about reading this book was that it was not necessarily a book about training your dog, although Grim did impart pieces of dog training wisdom at the end of each chapter. Rather, it was more focused on why your dog may engage in a certain unwanted behavior. It was a book to help pet parents understand their dogs better. Each chapter focuses on a particular issue, and he opens the chapters with a letter he has received from a dog owner who complain about said issue with their dog. Most of the issues are common ones including, but not limited to, energetic and/or excitable dogs, separation anxiety, dogs that don’t get along with other dogs, excessive barking, dogs that go in the house (you get my drift here), and fearful dogs. Grim does his best to explain the reasons behind why a dog may exhibit various behaviors, and offers advice on how to deal with them. It’s pretty straight forward, and Grim is extremely blunt in his own remarks in answer to the letters he presents. Although, I have to say, it wasn’t easy reading about people wanting to give up their dogs so easily. I know rescue dogs often have some issues, some great and some small, but the idea that dogs could be so easily disposed of was sort of disheartening. I know some dogs’ have issues that require a lot of attention and patience, but that wasn’t necessarily the case in this book. Grim focused on the more everyday problems dogs and their owners may experience. In the end, reading this book was interesting because it really made me look at my dogs and try and understand the reasoning behind some of their actions.

My favorite chapters were “Chapter Two: Escape Artists,” “Chapter Six: Cujo in the Dog Park,” and “Chapter Nine: Bullies with an Attitude.” Chapter Two was a much loved chapter because it taught me to reject the “rejection of the herd”  if it means giving up such a significant friend (aka: the dog). Chapter Six was a favorite chapter of mine because it reminded me to acknowledge the small victories I have with my dogs. Instead of only seeing what my dogs are not really good at yet, I need to start seeing what they are accomplishing and realize that we’re getting there. Lastly, Chapter Nine was an interesting chapter because Grim explained this whole “dominance theory” and basically how the pervading popular theory is really not correct. Showing dominance over your dog is not about overpowering them and proving who’s tougher and stronger, but it relies more on one’s ability to command respect from them.

The main reason I really loved this book was that it got me. It really, really got me, and more importantly, it got my dogs. All the feelings I’ve had while dealing with Simon’s endless bounds of energy or with Rosee’s anxiety and fear issues, which pretty much left me feeling like a complete failure as a dog owner, were understood. The fear I’ve had of my dogs never being considered “normal”, the utter despair I’ve felt over Rosee being thought of as aggressive (and all the negative stereotypes that follow) due to her anxiety and fear of other dogs, and my own anxiety over not doing enough to let my dogs know that they could trust me to protect and take care of them (this is mostly coming from learning to deal with Rosee’s issues) were understood. I felt validated, and more importantly I realized that my dogs are pretty awesome. Instead of fretting over my dogs not being considered what others may deem as “normal” (rejecting the herd here) I should strive for them to be good dogs. Maybe Simon has a jumping problem that we’re still working on, but when I can tell him from across a room to lie down and he obeys I feel pretty darn proud of him. The point I’m trying to make is just because your dog may not be great at one thing doesn’t mean he/she won’t be amazing at others. Training is a continuous process that takes time and effort. Reading this book simply reminded me not to give up on my dogs because as long as I don’t they’ll learn what they need to.

And what is “normal” anyway? (Not exactly a new question I know, but humor me.) It’s a notion we strive for, and yet it’s hardly definable. However, after reading Grim’s book I decided that I would never want my dogs defined as normal because then they would lose the things that make them distinctly Simon and distinctly Rosee. Simon’s 23-hour energy and all around exuberance for life encourages me to stay active, to live in the moment, and to find joy in the little things (i.e. a squeaky toy being thrown around in the backyard over and over). This doesn’t mean that Simon can’t be a well-trained and behaved dog; it just means that he needs a few extra play sessions a day to deplete his over-abundance of energy. Whereas Rosee’s journey to overcome her anxiety and fear encourages me to overcome my own fears in life, be more patient with others, and understand that anything is possible as long as I have the support of the people who love me. So, I’ll take Grim’s advice and mark it as a victory when I walk with Rosee through a park where other dogs are running around and she doesn’t freak out, but walks beside me.

In conclusion, if you’re a pet parent and need some encouragement when it comes to dealing with your unruly dog or if you just want an interesting read about dogs I would absolutely recommend this book, and so would Rosee. Even if your dog is well-behaved 99.9% of the time I would say read this book because it helps us all appreciate the small things that dogs do for us. It’s not just the licks or other obvious gestures of affection that we should appreciate from our dogs, but it’s the little, unnoticeable things, like how they follow you from room to room just so they can stay close, that we should appreciate as well.

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