Monday, October 1, 2018

Dog Care at Home: The Ultimate Dog Care Guide for a Happy & Healthy Dog at Home, by Gina Harding

PawLife, September 2018

Are you planning on getting a dog, especially your first dog? Dogs are a great addition to your family, bringing both a lot of fun and a lot of emotional reward, but they're also a lot of work. There's a lot to know, especially when you are just starting out as a first time dog owner.

This book is aimed at providing a convenient guide to what you need to know.

What this isn't is a breed guide book. Beyond a helpful overview of the various broad categories of dogs (terriers, hounds, herding dogs, etc.), Harding leaves that to others, concentrates on how to bring whatever dog you choose into your home, provide the care they need, and enjoy life with a dog.

It's a very helpful, straightforward guide, aimed at putting the information at your fingertips when you need it, as well as being readable enough that you can read through it in a few sittings. Even if not all the important details stick the first time, you'll know where to turn to look for them.

She talks about selecting the right dog, shelter, bedding, and food, as well as veterinary care, and something that hasn't been common in the US in the past, but is more common now: pet health insurance. Basic, practical considerations are covered, like leashes and collars, ID, vaccinations, and training.

It's all aimed at the average pet owner. What I might refer to as "serious dog people," those of us who are active in rescue, breeding & showing, dog sports, working with search and rescue dogs, and other such activities, may well find things to quibble with. The ideal age of neutering, for instance: Harding recommends six months as standard. People heavily into rescue may regard that as a bit late. People who are heavily into dog sports or other demanding physical activities with their dogs will, given a chance, talk about large breed or physically active dogs needing to wait for sexual maturity to let the growth plates on the long bones (i.e., the legs) to close. People who are involved in breeding & showing may want to see how the fully mature dog turns out before they make a final decision on neutering.

But that is mostly beside the point for average pet owners. Most people will be happier if they have their pet dogs neutered when their veterinarian recommends that they are at the correct age for it. With different dogs and for different reasons, over the years, I've neutered at six months, a year, and four years. A female dog in heat can absolutely be managed safely and successfully, if you have a reason to do so. And if you don't have a reason that you want to do so, it's a raging nuisance to deal with.

My recommendation is consider your dog's breed, what you plan to do with your dog, and talk to both your trainer and your veterinarian, and make the choice that's right for your dog and circumstances. And no, this is in no way a criticism of Harding for giving the standard recommendation that will be right for most pet owners, especially those without prior dog experience.

The other thing I want to comment on is that Gina Harding is Australian, and this book reflects that. All the basic advice is pretty much the same for US pet owners as for Australian pet owners, but the US reader may want to be aware of this before starting to read the book. Some of the terminology may be unfamiliar, though understandable in context, for instance, "de-sexing" rather than "spay/neuter." She talks about registering your dog with the "council" rather than licensing your dog with the "town (or city, or county) clerk", but it's the same thing, in practice. Some of the terminology in her discussion of pet insurance was unfamiliar to me, but it's still a good discussion of the reasons pet insurance is a good idea, and what kinds of questions you should ask.

I also get the impression that a lot more of Australia may be warm enough for larger, thicker-coated dogs to responsibly be housed outside. That really gave me pause; both Australia and the US have some really dangerous wildlife. In the US, though, a substantial part of the country is in the frost belt, too cold for any but working dogs who are bred for it to responsibly live outside. Without that, with a softer climate, it becomes a question of what's the distribution of that dangerous wildlife, and what kind of shelter and protection can you provide.

Overall, despite having some quibbles with it, this is an accessible, readable, useful guide for the new dog owner.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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