Book Review: How to Have a Very Bad Dog

This book was given to me as a gift and I imagine that's how most people acquire their copy of How to Have a Very Bad Dog: 8 Proven Methods To Help You Raise and Ruin Your Pooch Deliberately and With Skill. Knock Knock is a publisher of witty books on various subjects and that is how I would describe this book's intention; witty.

You'd expect this book to be filled with humorous cartoons, funny stories and crazy lists for how to have a very bad dog. A fun read to pass the time over a few lazy hours perhaps? However...

The book is very light on cartoons, limiting them to chapter beginning splash pages, drawn in a fairly static style, suited more to subject matter of a more serious nature.

There is the occasional funny anecdote and witty one liner on dog behaviour from well known celebrities but these are so sparse they become a welcome break from the instructional tone of the majority of the content.

How to Have a Very Bad Dog reads exactly like an instructional manual for how to have a very bad dog. If you actually tried the methods described you would indeed end up with a dog with very poor behaviour.

For example, the book helps you choose the right breed of dog to ensure you elicit bad behaviour. If you have a small apartment buy a big dog that requires plenty of exercise. It's funny because it's true doesn't exactly apply. It's just true. You would be off to a good start if you followed that advice.

Much of this book is like that. Real advice that would actually work. So much so that, what I took away from reading it, was recognizing things that I might be doing that are causing my own dogs to behave in less desirable ways.

You could easily retitle the book to something like Why Your Dog is Behaving Badly and sell it as a self help guide to correcting bad behaviour in dogs. A book that shows you what not to do if you don't want a living nightmare for a dog.

As a gift, I enjoyed receiving this book. The title promises a humorous read and I'm sure any dog lover would get a laugh from the title alone. I certainly did.

Once you start reading though, it really is a manual on how to have a very bad dog. The methods don't come across as particularly humorous. You may even recognize some of the techniques as things you're actually doing yourself, not realizing it's encouraging bad behaviour.

It's a book that's trying to be funny because it's true. As I said earlier, it doesn't really succeed because it comes across as just true. There's nothing outlandishly funny or so crazily extreme that you would never consider trying it, and no parody that is rediculously, laugh out loud silly. It's all practical advice that would probably work.

On that level, you'd only buy How to Have a Very Bad Dog as a gift for the comedy value of the title alone. It's not the type of book that I can see anyone re-reading to revist some great, slap stick, dog humor. Seems a bit of a missed opportunity in that regard.

2 comments:

  1. As I don't have a dog, I don't think I'll bother, but as you know, we have had a variety of dogs over the years, which I think we (your Dad and I) trained quite successfully to do as they were told, except for a bit of sudden barking at noises or visitors knocking on the door.

    The things in the book would seem to be a reverse of common sense. The only dog we had trouble with was one called, Chips, a black, glossy smooth-furred part terrier and I think part Doberman(or donkey judging by the size of its paws) with tan floppy ears. (don't know if you remember him as you were only about 2yrs or less at the time. (We have photos)

    It reminded you of a Doberman in the body and colouring but didn't have the pointed face and ears. We only had mongrels and mixed breeds anyway, as your Dad didn't believe in pedigrees. That one was very destructive in the garden with digging up plants that I replanted numerous times, and chewing anything dropped, such as washing, and pulling apart anything out of the rubbish bin indoors if the lid wasn't shut properly. It was only about less than a year old but already medium size! It drove me nuts, as I was looking after two children at the time, as well as dealing with shift work and cooking meals etc.

    I wish Dr Harry had been on TV at the time with advice, as all that was matter was that it was bored, hence all its seemingly 'bad' things it was doing. I didn't have time to see to it, like I usually did over the years.

    That finally ended up ripping our side gate to get out and the dog catcher picked it up, as we saw a photo in the local free paper of it being picked up, but it didn't have a disc on as I don't think it was old enough to be licenced. I won't say what the end of the story was, but we didn't have it anymore. I'd have to tell you privately on FB maybe.

    Mainly, though, our dogs were quite well-trained to behave on commands, just by a stern voice, which might have been raised sometimes depending on our stress levels at the time! Even you and Lesley learnt the 'stern voiced' method which worked also.

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    1. I don' actually remember Chips, except from photos but I'm guessing he never came back from the dog catchers. Chips was definitely old enough to be licensed based on your description, I'm guessing the kennel fees and fine you would've got for not having him registered probably helped decide his fate.

      Anyhow, both our current dogs are as trained as any dog we've ever had. They'll mostly do as they're told and neither seems all that interested in running away... so that's not much of an issue.

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