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Book Review - "The Perfect Puppy" by Gwen Bailey

If you’re planning to introduce a puppy into your home, there’s a lot of information you will need in advance. Near the top of the list is how to get started with the training and socialisation. The Perfect Puppy is an excellent introduction to everything you will need to know to prepare for your new family member.

Author: Gwen Bailey

Publisher: Hamlyn, London, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-600-61722-8

Pages: 208

Price: £12.99

Classic Quote

“Planning in advance and getting things right first time around are quicker, in the long run, than having to sort out problems later.”

About the Author

Gwen Bailey is a canine behaviourist and founder of Puppy School, based in Oxfordshire. The first edition of this book, published in 1995, was the UK’s best-selling puppy book until the publication of this, the second edition.

Structure of the Book

The book is divided into 16 chapters with sections at the end for further reading, a suggested socialisation programme, and a few contact addresses such as the Kennel Club and the author’s own Puppy School. The chapters cover the full range of puppy ownership:

Chapter 1 - The raw material

Chapter 2 - A puppy’s view of the world

Chapter 3 - The new family

Chapter 4 - Developmental stages

Chapter 5 - Life with a new puppy

Chapter 6 - Socialisation

Chapter 7 - House training

Chapter 8 - Behaviour control and leadership

Chapter 9 - Toys and games

Chapter 10 - Preventing biting and aggression

Chapter 11 - Chewing

Chapter 12 - Handling and grooming

Chapter 13 - Good manners

Chapter 14 - Learning to be alone

Chapter 15 - Training your puppy

Chapter 16 - Adolescence and beyond

What is Great About This Book

This is possibly the best illustrated puppy book I’ve ever seen. There are large, full-colour photos on just about every page and each photo shows the topic being discussed. This is particularly useful in the sections on body language in chapters 2 and 10 where the photos clearly show what a “shy” puppy looks like and what “stiff tail” means when ”nervous” dogs are greeting each other.

The book definitely covers everything you need to know about training your puppy and it doesn’t gloss over some of the more challenging topics such as being the pack leader and controlling the behaviour of more ambitious puppies who try to take charge. This is the major difference between this edition and the original book. Chapter 10 on preventing biting and aggression is particularly good, explaining not only how to deal with puppy biting but also why the puppy bites in the first place and how aggression can develop, hence how to avoid it. This chapter also covers dominance and food or toy guarding.

The best thing about this book is that at every stage the author is thinking about how the puppy will fit into the family unit, especially including children. There is not one discrete part of the book labelled ‘puppies and children’, rather this relationship is woven throughout every topic, from the best way to introduce the puppy to children to the appropriate (and inappropriate) way for them to play together.

What’s Not So Great

There’s very little I have to criticise in this book. The weaknesses in the original edition have been addressed in this new edition, and it really does cover the whole puppy experience from how to choose a puppy to how to survive the adolescent phase that comes at the end of puppyhood.

The only thing I would say is that although it’s well written and divided into sensible chapters and sections, the layout is entirely conversational, flowing paragraph by paragraph. My personal preference is for a style that includes at least some lists of things to do, and in what order, rather than endless descriptive text. This layout and writing style does make it somewhat difficult to browse the book or pick it up and dip in. It's designed to be read cover to cover or not at all. Having said that, there is an index at the back to aid navigation.

Worth Reading?

Yes, especially if you like looking at lots of photos of cute puppies. I judge all puppy books against Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy, which to me is the ultimate. I always say that if you’re going to have only one puppy book, then that is the one to have. However, I also think that it’s helpful to read at least two or three for the different styles and approaches that may appeal to different individuals and work with individual puppies. After all, the more varying ways you have to come at a problem, the more likely you are to achieve a solution. While it does not surpass Dunbar’s book, The Perfect Puppy does sit alongside it very nicely.


Round Up: Beautifully illustrated how-to book covering the whole puppy experience

Best For: Everyone, especially families with children

Woofs: 4.5/5


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