As I sat down to write this month’s article, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write about. As I sat at my computer, I contemplated what aspect of canine training I wanted to discuss. I leaned back in my chair to mull it over, and it was staring me in the face… a bookshelf full of canine books. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing like being out on the training grounds with your canine and going through various obstacle courses, sniffing out drugs and getting the bite on the decoy, but there is a wealth of information available in books.
The canine books on my shelf vary greatly, such as books on specific breeds, dog health, breeding, kennel management, dog psychology, obedience training, protection training, etc., etc. Think about it, just like when you go to the police academy, when you go to canine training for the first time, there is a ton of information that they must cram into you in a few weeks or months. They can’t teach you everything in that short period of time. New canine officers can greatly benefit from purchasing books about canine training, or any of the topics mentioned above. When you do look to purchase some books, don’t just look at new books (currently in publication), look at used books. You can find good buys on Amazon.com and eBay.com. Just because a book was published 20 plus years ago, doesn’t mean that it is outdated.
There have been many times over the years while training, that a canine just wasn’t getting what I was trying to train it to do. After repeatedly going through drills and getting the same negative results, I went to my bookshelf. I would select a book, found the section that applied, and read through it. After reading the section, I would return to the training and either altering my training method slightly or completely changing it based on what I read and had positive results. Think about it this way, every trainer, no matter how similar their methods are, they are different. Just as every trainer is different, every canine is different as well, and you may not always be able to use the same methods.
I would recommend that any canine handler and trainer have a book about canine psychology. Yes, I know, they taught you in training how to read your canine…but, understanding canine psychology will get you past just understanding what the basic body language of your canine means. A good canine psychology book will be able to give you better insight into your canine and how it is feeling. Being able to thoroughly read your canine can let you know when s/he is sick before other symptoms show. It can also alter your approach to how you train a canine based on the canine itself. Understanding canine psychology can also help you in dealing with canines running loose on the street. Some agencies will dispatch you to deal with loose canines, because their thought is, you work with them and can probably deal with them better than a regular street cop. The thing is, you may know your canine very well, but doesn’t mean you know other canines. Understanding canine psychology can help you understand whether than stray dog is viscous or just showing a defensive front, which could be the difference between it getting shot or not.
Your canine is a big investment for your agency, so the health of your canine is very important. Having a few books on canine health and nutrition should be at the top of your list of to buy. If your canine is showing some weird symptoms or doing something out of the ordinary, it could mean there is something wrong with their health. Being able to quickly look it up in a book and determine whether s/he needs to go to the veterinarian is important. I’m sure your agency won’t want vet bills every time something is a little off with your canine. By having the books that I have, it has saved me several times in vet bills. At a fairly young age, my current canine started having runny stool, so I looked up the symptom and found several things that it could be. Of course with every issue, there usually are several symptoms, so I narrowed it down and found that he had sensitivity to something in his food, which ended up being wheat. We changed his food and everything was better. If I had taken him to the vet, it would have cost money and probably would have prescribed medicine that wouldn’t have solved the problem.