Raising puppies and kids together

silvani raising puppies and kidsAUTHORS: Pia Silvani & Lynn Eckhardt


SUMMARY: Preparation checklist and training manual for parents caring for dogs and (human) children.

AUDIENCE: The book predominantly targets owners, with no jargon and basic explanations. As a pro, I found it a useful reference to prepare for those: “Help, am getting a baby and my dog is out of control” consults.

01 Owner



I was familiar with Pia Silvani’s articles on dominance, which crystallized some of the subtleties on this tricky topic beautifully. I was looking forward to an entire book written by her and, what can I say. The lady did not disappoint. The book was written in her characteristic breezy, but well-researched, style.

The book is also beautifully designed: plenty of breathing space between paragraphs, short and powerful chapters, simple but elegant fonts. This attention to layout made the reading experience even more pleasant.

The technical stuff

In ‘Raising puppies…,” Pia Silvani and Lynn Eckardt focus on the practical side of things. Don’t expect a treatise on subtle ethological points.

The authors summarize tricky concepts at the right level of details: simplified without sacrificing important subtleties. Both authors are clearly experienced with dogs AND well-read – an all-too-rare combination. So I got relief from my sadly familiar face-palming/page-turning conflict. With the Silvani-Eckardt team, it was page-turning all the way.

I disagreed with the authors on just a couple of minor subtleties:

  1. The pervasive use of the word ‘leader’: I find the word too charged with remnants of the pack theory, and its possible abusive interpretations;
  2. Not condemning e-fencing outright: I fail to see the advantage of appearing open-minded about e-fencing when we know the damage this tool can bring;
  3. At-times excessive concern with letting the dog take control: The authors warn us of pups who stop playing when they’ve had enough; who tell us when their water bowl is empty; who nudge us for affection. The authors are trying to prevent demanding behaviour from setting in, but there are less excessive solutions (e.g. just respond within one request, or not at all.)

The book is (rightly) wary of the frequent abuses committed in the name of the pack theory, and busts dog training myths (e.g. alpha roll) matter-of-factly, rather than by ranting on. This is a more effective approach: it wastes less ink and energy, and focuses on the essentials. We should all take a leaf out of their book.

I was inspired by the summarized formulations the authors used to describe classic topics: e.g. “Punishing after the fact teaches your dog that your behaviour is unpredictable.” Their summarized approach to the age-old question: “What is normal behaviour” was inspiring for the same reasons.

A note about content

The book was torn between overly different focal points: puppy care and behaviour, and dog-child interactions (even adult dogs, that is.) As a result, some puppy chapters felt rushed (e.g. socialization) and out of place. I would have strictly restricted the puppy stuff to behaviours/care routines posing challenges to families with children. I guess a book called “Raising Dogs & Kids Together” would have been more focused.

I particularly enjoyed their classification of behaviour between ‘normal’ and ‘call someone now.’ For each ‘normal’ problem, they summarize a DIY solution/prevention tip. True to style, the tips were given in this incredibly condensed, but clear, style. In future editions, it might be nice to see the tips expanded a notch to remove any ambiguities.

It was GREAT to see a book dedicate an entire chapter to the behaviour of adolescent dogs. This topic does not get enough attention, leaving countless owners unprepared for the hairy hormonal ride.

Small improvement suggestions

The authors occasionally mention studies without referencing them. It’s not an academic textbook, granted. But referencing through endnotes would not have jeopardized the friendly look-and-feel, and would have given the advanced reader some breadcrumbs.

Leaving the “pure pup – no kid” stuff out would leave more space for the body language section – an essential safety element to prepare for safe kid-dog interactions. The explanations in the section were right-on, but it could have done with more illustrations.

Professional trainers will get 99% repetition of things they know. A format similar to Grisha Stewart’s Behavior Adjustment Training book (2012) would be great: creating special pro-corner boxes. This would allow the authors to advise practitioners on likely compliance complications and their solutions, and would increase the readership.


The beauty of this book is the client-friendly way in which it formulates well-researched concepts, and its niche focus on tips for a safe and pleasant dog-child co-habitation.

I liked it so much that I am talking my associate into integrating many of its to our puppy curriculum at the training school!

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Author: Eckhardt Lynn, Silvani Pia
Genre: owner manual
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