Book Review: Solutions For Your Dog – And You

Celebrated Los Angeles dog trainer Matthew Margolis has authored and co-authored a dozen books on pets. But in his latest work, "Solutions," he and his wife Rose have had the chance to live the words he wrote on doggie/owner do's and don'ts.

The couple brought home a Cardigan Welsh corgi puppy, named Melvin, to join a household already populated by another Cardigan, 3-year-old Pebbles, and a 10-year-old German shepherd named Ullie. They decided that Rose would raise the puppy. "Being married to a dog trainer has taught me quite a lot," says Rose, "and we have decided that I am going to train this puppy with his help, should I get into trouble."

"We're living the book," adds Margolis. "Solutions For Your Dog – And You," was co-authored with Mordecai Siegal (Simon & Schuster, $25).

Rose was worried about bringing Melvin into the household with two resident dogs. "Pebbles and I were very close. We traveled together, walked together and it was just the two of us for a long time. I didn't know how to divide the love between two dogs and I didn't want her (Pebbles) to feel left out."

With "Solutions," she followed the tips on bonding, i.e. laying on the floor with the puppy on her chest, lavishing kisses or crawling into the crate to rub his belly. "Going through the process, doing a personality test and selecting my own puppy (all detailed in the volume) has been a learning experience I wouldn't trade for anything."

Margolis said during the Seattle interview, "In this business, you can't be totally rigid. What works for one dog, might not work for another. What is successful for one breed, might not work as well for another. It's a matter of establishing common-sense guidelines in your training philosophy and being willing to be flexible." Recognizing this and adjusting your approach comes with experience, he emphasized. With his wife doing the training, Margolis admitted it is difficult to keep his hands off and watch. According to Margolis, the content in "Solutions" reflects the phone inquiries (25,000 to 30,000 annually), e-mails (almost 50 daily) and in-class questions he receives.

"More and more owners don't have the patience to work through a long training manual. They want quick solutions and a format where they can find answers quickly."

Firmly tethered to reality, "Solutions" is written in a breezy, stylish fashion designed to answer owners' questions directly and succinctly. "Dog training is not brain surgery," Margolis said. "It's common sense. Remember, dogs don't come with diplomas. They need to be trained in a humane, fun manner."

Here are a few of the subjects addressed: getting a dog, choosing a training method, myths of dog ownership, children and dogs, the indoor dog, the outdoor dog, getting along with other animals, first aid, traveling, to board or not to board and a lengthy chapter on behavior problems and how to a deal with them. While all of these have been fodder for countless training manuals before, the authors manage to present the subject with a stylized approach and a seamless earthy tone.

I found the chapters entitled Myths of Dog Ownership and Getting Along with Other Animals particularly insightful. For instance, how many times has the thought of getting a second dog or possibly even two dogs at the same time entered your mind?

The authors present compelling reasons against getting two at the same time, obtaining a second of the same sex or getting enemies. "Dogs and cats are not natural enemies. One of the secrets of enabling them
to live together is to bring in a kitten to live with an older dog or have an older cat and a puppy. it is a matter of socializing them together, allowing them to play with each other and allowing one or the other to be the dominant animal."

Margolis emphasized that "Solutions" was not designed to be a
cure-all, just a red flag to help owners before they make a mistake or a basic primer to help them through common problems.