Elke pup een goede start (A good start for every pup)

Vol I of Sam Turner's and Martine Burger's illustrated series


SUMMARY: Richly illustrated week-by-week guide on raising a happy, well-behaved and orthopaedically healthy pup.

AUDIENCE: This books is aimed at a layman’s audience v

but, in my view, will great benefit professional dog trainers in charge of giving puppy classes.

02 Professional
The authors
Martine Burgers trained as a physiotherapist (for humans) then specialised in veterinary ostheopathy.

Sam Turner is a dog trainer in the Netherlands. She is also a trained ethologist.

Both are prominent figures on the Dutch dog welfare scene.

Style and contents: At over 200 broad pages, this book is quite a dense read. It can best be described as a complete, illustrated, week-by-week manual to raising a puppy responsibly. It forms volume I of III of a series of books that aims at giving responsible, ethical and well-researched information to dog guardians from cradle to grave.

The gems

Prepare yourself for an endless list of gems on this one:

  1. A unique focus on the prevention of orthopedic problems, not only writing of the behavioural, but also physical aspects, of raising a pup.
  2. The advice is ethically responsible and oh-so-well-researched. No speculation to be found here: solid research and extensive practical experience. I would recommend it to any dog trainer and aspiring puppy trainer with my eyes closed, including my own interns.
  3. It is richly illustrated with colour pictures of professional quality. I count this as a gem because this is a rare feature in a dog book. To top this, the pictures are not only attractive but they are also painstakingly selected so they lend the text the right visual support. Take the harness exercise, for example, which would have taken reams of boring description to describe as clearly as the set of pictures did.
  4. Even consummate dog trainers will find an interesting twist in the classic exercises, betraying Sam Turner’s field experience and handle of the theory. I often found myself taking notes to add this or that variation to our own puppy curriculum. The exercises on jumping prevention, the settle and loose leash walking, for example, were full of original suggestions.
  5. The book had a modern and sophisticated take on every exercise: favoring choice over blind obedience, ‘look at that’ instead of ‘look at me’, warning against the lure addiction, etc.
  6. The book touched on controversial points but did not fall for partisan thinking. It did not mock pack theory proponents, for example, but instead reviewed what is known and what is speculation on that hot button topic. The same objective approach was adopted when discussing breed loyalties and other controversial topics.
  7. The book used precise terminology to explain the scientific background of certain ideas. The concepts of exploration latency, habituation and coping styles, for example, were judiciously used. The chapter on developmental phases was also one of the most precise I’d read, with many more age subdivisions than you usually find in books.
  8. It explicitly tackled popular but misguided advice like ignoring fear, never picking up your pup and inviting every stranger pet your pup.
  9. It reviewed important practical matters like the long leash, chew toys and harnesses so even the inexperienced handler knows how to select and use this material.
  10. I found the charts about teething periods, and signs of puppy fatigue particularly useful.
  11. As a scientific skeptic, I often investigate pseudoscientific claims. As such, osteopathy has often been presented to me as a Trojan horse for vague energy healing claims. Thankfully, the osteopathy segments in this book mainly stuck to physiotherapy and sports-therapy.
  12. Despite tackling rigorous concepts and explaining the scientific reasoning behind the Best Practices advised, the book stayed clear of unnecessary jargon.

Possible points for potential optimization

For the sake of balance and exhaustiveness, no book review would be complete without some suggestions for potential improvement. Here goes:

  1. As a Best Practice manual, the book’s standards (which I share) can be lofty when condensed into one book. Following all these Best Practices can be a tall order for the average reader. The protocol for food guarding prevention, for example, had so many stages that most readers will take shortcuts. Along a similar vein, structuring each exercise by age is a good idea but only the most obsessive puppy guardians will stick to anywhere near the schedule.
  2. As a manual, the book is obviously not a beach read. Two hundred pages of descriptive prose can get to be hard work. The book could do with many more light passages to keep the layman enthralled.
  3. Research studies were occasionally mentioned but not cited. Hardly a critical point for a non-academic textbook but citing papers should become the standard in any genre in my view.
  4. What I loved about the book was partly what bothered me about it: its bulk. Some passages were unnecessarily detailed in my view. The passages on embryology (p. 67 ) and food dishes (p. 124) were particularly detailed, for example; too much so for a book of general interest. The size problem was worsened by some sections being near-exact copies of each other. It would be great to consider drastically trimming down the text for possible future editions.
  5. Like many modern books on dog training, it occasionally conflated evidence-based with reward-based. My problem is this: one is a matter of knowledge and the other is a matter of ethics. Science backing up the good guys is an appealing, but oversimplified idea. Reward and punishment science is devilishly complicated. My choice to reject fear and pain in training is primarily couched in ethics, not science or clinical effectiveness.

The verdict: I would happily put this well-researched, thorough, precisely illustrated and ethically responsible book in every client’s hand but it may be too detailed for all but the most dedicated puppy guardian. It is unique in its breadth, depth, and the integrity of its research so it is an incredible reference for the professional puppy trainer. An English translation could launch it into a classic professional reference worldwide.

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Author: Burgers Martine, Turner Sam
Genre: owner manual
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  1. Danielle Theule
    Posted 1 June 2017 at 16:13 | Permalink

    Is the book available in english?

    • Posted 19 June 2017 at 11:34 | Permalink

      Hi Danielle. At the time of writing, not. But it has been such a success in the Netherlands that I wouldn’t be surprised if a translation project was in the works.

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