Heavily influenced by the likes of Silvia Trkman and her wonderful dogs, and Barby and her talented beagle, Xsara, Ellie and I are addicted to our dog tricks. There isn't a day that goes by where we're not learning or practising one trick or another. For example, last week, I taught her to open the fridge door for me "Fridge" and then close it "Shut the Door" when I'm done using it.
But when the cold and wet weather sets in, the choice of tricks becomes more limited and you have to begin to stretch your imagination a little more. Mine needed a little help, and so I decided on yet another book: 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance.
Finding books that are dedicated to dog training is a relatively easy affair, but finding books dedicated to the often maligned pursuit of performing dog tricks is a little more tricky. Thankfully Kyra Sundance has done such a magnificent job in creating this book, the relative absence of other titles doesn't seem to matter as much. It's one of the best books that I've ever purchased. In fact, I'll go one step further. In terms of practical 'how-to' books, it is THE best that I have ever purchased.
As the title suggests, the book aims to teach 101 dog tricks. It does this through the use of some truly stunning photography by an award winning photographer and some of the clearest instructional text that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The pages burst with vibrant colour and step-by-step instructions that are laid out so that even the more junior dog trick enthusiasts could follow them. Each trick is carefully broken down into its essential steps, and is accompanied by a "tip" section as well as a "troubleshooting" section.
The book doesn't pretend to be anything other than a book dedicated to teaching tricks to dogs. There are only four pages at the start which give a concise introduction to reward and motivation and then it's straight into the tricks. Lovely!
The tricks are graded according to their level of difficulty. 'Shake Hands', for example, is graded as easy. A 'leg-weave' is graded as intermediate, 'Turn off the Light' is graded as advanced, and a 'Limp' is graded as expert. There are some tricks that may not suit the smaller dog, such as turning off the light, as height is needed. Thankfully, there are very very few tricks that can't be accomplished by dogs of all heights. There are also some tricks that require props such as a hoop, a skipping rope, a Frisbee, a step-ladder, a basketball hoop and a drum, for example. The vast majority of tricks do not require props but I thought it worth mentioning that some do. Though, for the typical dog-trick enthusiast, props make up half of the fun anyway.
What shines through the entire book is the quality. It is plainly evident that a great deal of care and attention (and money I suspect) has been spent in ensuring this book delivers on what it promises. Easy to follow, clear instructions, beautiful to look at, and packed full of new trick ideas for inspiration. Some day all dog instructional books will be as good as this one. Until that day, this is the leader for me, by far. Worth every single penny.