Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Bonding with Your Dog: A Trainer’s Secrets for Building a Better Relationship, by Victoria Schade.  Howell Book House (2009), 212 pages.

The premise of this book is that no matter how much training you put into your dog, if a strong bond is not built between the two of you the training will not result in the behavior or the relationship you are hoping for.  In the first part of the book, Schade does a good job explaining the difference between the love a dog feels for his person, versus the bond he feels (or doesn’t feel) and why the presence of love does not necessarily mean the presence of a bond.  She uses examples of clients and their dogs to further explain how this difference manifests in various dog/person relationships and thoroughly succeeds in making the “bond” clear to readers.

Though much of the rest of the book duplicates the information one would get in any other dog-friendly training manual (housebreaking, use of treats, recall, etc.) Schade writes each chapter from the point of view of the bond, and, in doing so, sheds new light on old ideas.  A section on leash walking, for example, points out that your dog pulling on the leash is more than simply annoying, or bad manners—it is indicative of the weak bond between the two of you.  The author explains that a constantly pulling dog is really on a walk by himself.  He is not noticing, or caring, that you are on the other end of the leash.  Why does he not want to move forward with you?  This is a dog who finds everything else—the bushes, the sidewalk, the parked car—more interesting and compelling than you.  In other words, a dog with a weak bond.

Schade also uses many photos throughout the book to good effect.  Where it is not entirely clear what she means by stepping on half of the leash with a strong, pulling dog, for example, there is a helpful photo that clearly explains what she is saying.

This book is not great literature—the writing is merely serviceable—but the ideas the author describes are worth putting up with a less-than-perfect reading experience.  I highly recommend Bonding with Your Dog for every reader with a dog companion.  Whether you are experiencing dissatisfaction and frustration with your dog, or a deep and loving relationship, this book will help you see more clearly what is happening between the two of you.

Reviewed by Cindy Blackett