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Welcome to the Dogs Monthly Book Club. Each month we review our pick of the latest releases, with an opportunity to win for lucky readers! If you would like to enter the prize draw, please email competition@dogsmonthly.co.uk with the name of the book you would like to receive in the subject line. Please remember to include your name and full address. Entries close 7 December 2018.

Canine Aggression – Rehabilitating An Aggressive Dog With Kindness And Compassion

Tracey McLennan

Reviewed by Grace Clarke

Anyone who has ever struggled with a dog exhibiting aggressive behavioural tendencies towards other dogs will be able to identify and empathise with the plight of author Tracey McLennan.

Canine Aggression – Rehabilitating an Aggressive Dog with Kindness and Compassion tells the story of Calgacus, a brindle Bullmastiff, who shows signs of behavioural problems from an early age. First-time dog owner Tracey finds herself lumbered with a deer-chasing, slobbery, over-enthusiastic and spaniel-hating ‘bully’, and although at times it would undoubtedly have been very tempting to throw in the drool-soaked towel, instead Tracey and Calgacus embark on a learning journey together.

It is emphasised throughout the book that Tracey struggled not only with Calgacus’s behavioural issues, but also with sourcing accurate information about how to deal with these problems. She notes that the UK dog training industry is unregulated and touches on the concept of dominance theory, which is now widely regarded as outdated. What’s refreshing about the book is that Tracey is not ashamed to admit that she herself often got it wrong due to her own lack of experience.

However, there is no questioning her commitment to saving Calgacus from euthanasia, and it is surely a testament to their bond that Calgacus was transformed from a troubled Bullmastiff who could not be in the same room as other dogs to one who happily performed heelwork to music routines and passed with an A grade in gundog-style retrieving. Arguably, the book may have benefited from an alternative title, such as ‘Saving Calgacus’.

Overall, the book offers a touching and often very personal insight into Tracey and Calgacus’s journey, which prompts the reader to consider our often unrealistic expectations of dogs and the importance of treating them as individuals, and appreciate that helping a troubled animal sometimes requires a little creativity.

Backyard Follies

Marcus Van Der Heyden

Reviewed by Jayde Davey

Backyard Follies is a fantastic, thrilling read that tells the tale of a series of dramatic events that take place when Malcolm Massicotte stumbles across a dog that quickly becomes a much-loved member of his family.

The content of the story and the language used means the book is not suitable for younger readers, but it is a highly recommended read for older ones! The way in which the book is written makes it incredibly easy to pick up and get straight into the story; the author is great at holding the attention of the reader to the point that I struggled to put it down once I started reading.

The first half of the story focuses on the relationship development between the family and the dog they have decided to take in, but the second half of the story takes a dramatic twist when the family realise that both of their daughters have strangely disappeared. When the dog returns without them, but suffering a major injury, the reader is thrown straight into a thrilling mystery with lots of ups and downs that encourages them to keep reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I would definitely pick up another of the author’s books.

Dogs And Cats Have Souls Too

Jenny Smedley

Reviewed by Liz Laker

Jenny Smedley is an ‘angel expert’ and has written over 20 books. She has a strong affinity with animals, and this book is a collection of true stories from all over the world, featuring dogs and cats, both alive and ones who have sadly departed.

I have a strong interest in connecting with animals and also the spirit world, and as an owner of dogs and cats, I was very much looking forward to reading this book.

All the stories are amazing – what a feat by Jenny to have collected them from all around the world. Some of the stories left me tearful and many left me with the ‘wow, just wow’ feeling, in particular, Lynda’s story of Bogart the dog, finding his beloved owner’s grave at a huge cemetery – he just shot out of the car and ran straight to the plot without having visited there before! There are stories of animals protecting their owners, some appeared in dreams and some just had the most amazing ways of alerting their owners to dangers. There are also stories of pets being reincarnated.

At the end of the book, there is a chapter devoted to a more light-hearted matter – a very amusing horoscope for pets. One of my dogs is a Scorpio and according to the book, “is as intelligent as they are fun”. That is absolutely spot on with my girl.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves cats, dogs or has an interest in spiritual things. It has certainly made me try to tune in with my own pets a lot more, and I am now looking for clues that my departed dog may still be around in spirit form.

Ursu: Never Give Up On A Dog

Sarah Napier

Reviewed by Julia J

This is the ‘rags to riches’ tale of a streetwise Romanian dog, told by the lady who, with her husband, gave him a home and undertook his rehabilitation. Ursu was already around seven when his photo online caught Sarah’s eye. Traumatised by human brutality, it took a lot of persuading before Sarah was allowed to bring Ursu home to Yorkshire, and a lot more patience to transform his life.

I am sceptical of the claims for such stories (of which there are many) to be ‘poignant and touching’, but I was delighted to find that the book far outshines the platitudes on the cover.

The style is natural and draws the reader in. The diary format is accessible and charts Ursu’s progress, recording the methods used to overcome his fears and documenting their successes and setbacks, with anecdotes that are sometimes amusing and always uplifting.

The author’s intelligent approach, backed up by lots of research and carried out with thoughtfulness, perseverance and dedication, is not only fascinating and admirable but also inspiring. There is enough detail for this book to be of considerable practical use to others who are undertaking a challenging rehabilitation, especially in the early days, and I shall be recommending the book to my colleagues at the dogs’ home where I work.

The book highlights the responsible and careful attitude of Monica’s Romanian Rescue throughout the adoption process and beyond, and is sold to raise awareness and funds, which are shown to be well deserved.

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