Review of OH MY DOG: HOW TO CHOOSE, TRAIN, GROOM, NURTURE, FEED, AND CARE FOR YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND by BETH OSTROSKY STERN, with KRISTINA GRISH
I don’t want children; I want dogs. I want a pack. And I’m planning to adopt my first pack member soon. I’m an experienced dog trainer, but it’s been several years since I worked in that field, so I’m brushing up as I always do: by reading, specifically numerous guides on raising and training dogs.
Stern’s hefty book is thorough, to say the least. She covers every aspect of dog care that you can imagine and probably plenty that hadn’t occurred to you. A lot of it’s in the long subtitle: everything from grooming to feeding and lots in between. She goes in depth on each topic. The section on nutrition will help readers decode seemingly arbitrary marking adjectives like “ultra premium” versus “super premium.” The section on grooming gives clear specifics regarding supplies and technique. The section on bonding lists some common human impulses and why they may not always be appreciated by our dogs.
While I would recommend this book, especially to those completely new to dog ownership, that recommendation comes with two caveats. First, the content is clearly geared towards the wealthy. If Stern makes owning a dog sound impossibly expensive, don’t despair; a lot of what she pushes as essential is really optional. You don’t need a whole hired team of specialists to raise a dog and you don’t need to buy every pricey “pet-must-have” product on the market. While advice from professionals is very important and you should always consider what’s best for your pet, you can easily train and groom your dog yourself. Above all, what your dog most needs from you is attention, in the form of both love and care.
Second, I found the book a little alarmist and I’d be hesitant to recommend it to anyone with anxiety issues. Stern spends far more time discussing unlikely scenarios than the likely ones. For example, she focuses more on emergencies—from rare health issues to car accidents to natural disasters—than on basic training. I believe this is because Stern’s primary training advice is to hire a professional trainer. So, while I would still recommend this book as in-depth situational care and emergency guide, I would suggest reading further materials on training, which I consider one of the most essential aspects of owning a dog.
While I would recommend OH MY DOG as a starting book for first time dog owners—ideally paired with more detailed training guides—this thick book is a thorough reference for both basic aspects of dog care as well as worst-case-scenario planning.