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Retriever Pups: The Formative First Year    by Bill Tarrant Amazon.com order for
Retriever Pups
by Bill Tarrant
Order:  USA  Can
Voyageur Press, 2003 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This book is about 'Sensing the whole of nature'; 'Bringing the dog to master craftsmanship by hunting, not by training. Being the dog's helpmate and his buddy, not his trainer, and, mighty seldom, his disciplinarian.' So starts Retriever Pups by the late Bill Tarrant, who was nationally recognized as the pioneer in humane gun dog training.

Groucho Marx once said, 'Outside a dog a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog it's too dark to read'. Tarrant agrees with this statement but goes further. This is 'the one time we've got to get both inside the book and inside the dog. What is he? How did he become to be? What makes him tick? How's the best way to raise and train him? In other words, just what is a dog?' Tarrant gives us the word neotany 'defined as a wolf that never matures. Thus the eternal puppy becomes a domesticated dog, primarily because he can transfer his pack instinct and submissiveness to the human partner, who he accepts as the Alpha, or dominant, male.'

Retriever Pups moves on to The Glory of a New Pup. And then to House Fit for a Dog. The author says the best house for your dog is the one you live in. The dog shares its house with you. In Chapter 4, 'Training Pup from Womb to One Year', Tarrant declares it is possible to communicate with the fetal pup. A human voice can cause a slight rise in the rate of a pup's fetal heartbeat 'while at the same time, the pup's mother's voice will slow down that rate. This perhaps offers to clarify why women make the best puppy trainers.' The Power of Bonding was especially interesting for me having had dogs in my long lifetime and knowing the feeling of bonding with a canine.

Retriever Pups continues to share vast expert knowledge on the best way to train your pup in order to maximize joy for both the dog and its human. The excellent accompanying photographs tie the text together with the message that humane treatment, and proper bonding and working with your dog, will produce a fine companion. The book makes a wonderful gift for a retriever owner.

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