Divine Canine: The Monk’s Way to a Happy, Obedient Dog by The Monks of New Skete

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Stars: *****

I received this book for review and I also read it for the Four-Legged Friends Challenge.

I’ve read lots of dog training books (although they haven’t been reviewed here) and have tried different training plans as well as none. Although I know what needs to be done, I don’t have the ambition and determination required to properly train my dogs. However their misbehaviour is getting to me so I’m going to start working with them.

When I got the review request for this book, I was intrigued for two reasons. The first is just because it’s a dog training book which I love reading and the second is because it was written by monks. I’m fascinated by the idea of living simply in a communal setting and adhering to strict rules and prayer. If I wasn’t destined to be a mother, I think something similar to monkhood would be right for me. When the book arrived and I thumbed through it, the first thing that caught my eye were all the large, full colour photographs of dogs and owners. There is nothing better than colour photographs to make a non-fiction book easier on the eye and more appealing.

The book claims it will teach you how to:
Master obedience basics
Understand your dog’s actions
Create a calm and stable environment
Learn the proper use of praise and rewards
Tackle problem behaviours
And enhance the bond between you and your dog.

Having the information spread out in different sections makes any non-fiction book easier to read and in my opinion, much more enjoyable. The layout of this book is well thought out.

First you are introduced to a dog who underwent residential training with Brother Christopher and the other Monks. You see a full-page photo, a quick paragraph stating name, breed(s), place of residence, owner(s), problem behaviour, what will be taught and which of the five basic commands will be taught, (Sit, Heel, Stay, Down and Come.)

Then there is a more indepth explanation of the dog, owners and situation, examples of behavour and how the owner has reacted to it. Then the dog’s arrival at the Monastery is explained including initial behaviour of dog and owner(s) and initial observations by Brother Christopher. There is also a little “What They’re Thinking” section that shows something the dog does and what the dog, owner and monks are thinking about it. Another feature is “The Monks’ Way” which is a medium blurb on a certain dog training aspect. (e.g. Eye contact, Jumping Up, Physical Contact and whether anyone can train a dog.) Then the training of the dog is talked about, what is done, how the dog does and how the monks correct their problem behaviour.

Scattered throughout the book are also “What If Tips” that cover topics such as dogs being aggressive upon awakening, getting too excited about the prospect of a walk, or they need lots of exercise but don’t like walks or playing with toys. Also throughout the training section are photos and captions showing the dog learning a certain skill so you can see the proper positioning of hands, dogs and leashes. Green boxes draw your attention to important things to remember when training a dog. Finally the dog is trained and well-behaved and the owner comes back. The owner is first shown what the dog can do and then shown how to get the dog to do it. Between dog stories are small Question and Answer sections on topics such as Your New Dog, Collars and Leashes, Exercise, Vets and Feeding. The last chapter is a little different, chronicling the arrival and departure of a dog at the Monks Kennel for training but not your usual dog and not your usual training.After all that is an 18 page section that is more like your typical dog training book. It goes over the specific procedure for teaching the five basic commands, things to remember and things to try.

It was really nice to read a book on dog training that wasn’t the same old dry instruction. Formatting the book this way helps us see common owner/handler mistakes and how to overcome them as well as dog misbehaviour. It reminds us that while all dogs are different and the training needs to be tailored to the individual dog, there are certain basics that all dogs need to learn.

Website of New Skete Monks:

Lots of photos and information!
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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.