Head of the Pack
By: Christina Potter
Publisher: Aperture Press
Publication Date: August 2017
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 19, 2018
Dog trainer and author Christina Potter, in her third book in the “Chester Gigolo” series, delivers a book that is a lot of fun to read while, more importantly, giving readers a lot of very useful information on dog training.
Head of the Pack is divided into sixteen chapters that examine various aspects of the dog world that will help you train your dog. The book opens with an introduction that shares how much dogs enjoy human companionship and how it works best when both dog and human understand each other. So, how do you improve your ability to communicate with your dog? That’s what the book is all about.
Right away in the first chapter, the author offered advice that drew me in and made me want to read the rest of the book. “Blur the lines between playing and training, and you will have a dog that is delighted to work with you any time.” From there, she goes on to explain that you must be firm but not too firm. How? She uses an analogy of a spaghetti noodle that works perfectly to get her point across. The chapters are fairly short – most are three or four pages – and everything is very easy to understand.
Head of the Pack is “written” by Chester Gigolo, a Berger Picard, and he’s one smart dog. Chester shares his training expertise on a broad range of topics from knowing what each breed has been bred for (and using that knowledge to select the proper dog as well as using their innate instincts to advantage when training) to how often to give treats and even what kind of treats work best. And unlike many dog training manuals that offer tips in a dry, dull manner, Chester is quite funny and entertaining. He livens up each chapter with commentary – for example, when talking about getting treats, “march into the kitchen, load up on yummy treats – in your hands, not in your tummy – and let’s get started.”
There is a lot of useful information in this book that both first-time dog owners and more advanced canine fans will learn from. What I particularly appreciated is that the author didn’t just share her views and say “it works for me, it’ll work for you.” Rather, she backs up her statements with research from around the world, noting the researchers/institutions/journals, how the tests were conducted, and the results. While I’ve had dogs all my life and like to think I know what I’m doing when training, I definitely learned a lot from this book. Did you know that tail wagging doesn’t always mean a dog is happy? What about growling? For tricks, the author advises using your dog’s breed to help determine what tricks will be easiest for your dog to learn and then follows up with several real life examples that show how different breeds react to the same situation. And speaking of tricks, chapter ten (smack dab in the middle of the book) is dedicated to trick training. There are 25 tricks dissected in such a way that again, it’s easy to see how to teach each trick. Most are also accompanied by a picture of a dog performing the trick. I “dog-tested” several of the tricks on my dog Rocco (a dachshund/yorkie mix who is lovable but not the brightest light bulb in the pack), and he was able to follow my lead and do the tricks. That is itself is worth the price of this book!