Book Review: The Gifted Puppy Program: 40 Games, Activities, and Exercises to Raise a Brilliant, Happy Dog by Laurie Leach

Book Review: The Gifted Puppy Program: 40 Games, Activities, and Exercises to Raise a Brilliant, Happy Dog by Laurie Leach

I saw this book on the shelf at my library and had a good laugh. As a teacher in a more affluent part of town, I frequently hear how gifted some children are. Why not the family dog?

This book covers the basics for raising a good pup. Laurie Leach begins with her philosophy of high expectations for puppy and owner. I especially like how she encourages paying your pup in treats.

I don't work for free, so why should I expect my puppy to work for free? Eventually, I'll want to wean him off treat rewards, but while he's still learning, I like the idea of making the experience a positive one for him.

She breaks her 40 activities into five broad categories:

  • Relationship Building
  • Everyday Behaviors
  • Socialization and Confidence Building
  • Attention and Self-Control
  • Just for Fun

When I picked this book up, my initial impression was that the 40 activities would be brain games or out-of-the-ordinary activities for me to raise a pup worthy of the title gifted.

However, many of her activities cover basic obedience commands like sit, stay, lie down, come, and heel. She goes over crate training, exposing your dog to new things and experiences to help them adjust to the world, and desensitizing them to nail clipping and grooming.

She's comprehensive in giving a new puppy owner information about how to raise a good pup citizen. And the book is full of adorable pictures of puppies.

So what makes her book stand out besides the title?

For every activity, she follows a writing formula that I found useful:

  • The Basics: the goal, ideal age to begin, groundwork (prerequisite skills), and whether she prefers to use a clicker
  • Background: a description of what this behavior should look like and tips from setting up your environment to helpful reminders about pup psychology
  • Process: a series of phases that describe how to begin teaching the new skill and then ramp up the difficulty with potential distance, duration, or distraction.
  • Possible Challenges: an anticipation guide to what might go wrong and how to overcome that problem

This format works really well for me. Oftentimes, I find myself using the same strategies over and over to try to teach my puppy. But he's bored or beyond what I'm asking him to do. I need to up my game and move on to the next phase of the process.

Seriously, her differentiated formula allows for the beginner pup to achieve success early and then move on to the more complicated or gifted behaviors.

In the back of her book, she includes some good resources. She has one appendix highlighting appropriate socialization opportunities for puppies aged eight weeks old to one year or older. She includes an appendix on how to get your puppy prepped for agility early on with some simple exercises. And, of course, she has an index to make this book much more reference friendly.

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