Review: The Focused Puppy

The Focused Puppy: A Training System for Raising a Great Companion & Performance DogThe Focused Puppy: A Training System for Raising a Great Companion & Performance Dog (Deborah Jones, Ph.D. & Judy Keller (2010, Clean Run Productions)

The book is well written, well edited, and well presented. I’ve included a few thumbnails showing how the pages are laid out. There are plenty of photos and “real-life boxes” scattered throughout discussing real examples. It’s paperback and not so large that it can’t be taken places in a bag or in the car.

As might already be apparent, I really liked this book. It’s a very general, all-purpose guide to choosing a pup, bringing it home, and raising it for the first 12 months, but there is a lot of information in there that can equally be applied to older dogs, especially regarding shaping new tricks and impulse control.

One of the aspects I also liked is the FOCUS (an acronym for Fun, Obedience, Consistency and Unbelievable Success*) training system doesn’t feel over-structured, and there is a lot of scope for using your own experience and personal ideas on training without being bound to a set of strict rules. A lot of ‘training systems’ often seem to say that if one rule isn’t followed, all of the work is pointless/ruined/etc. The FOCUS system is more about simply using games, play, positive reinforcement and clicker training to make a happy and confident pup.

As a result, the authors are obviously very big on positive training methods, especially clicker training, and this is all outlined and explained at the start of the book. This ‘explaining why’ type content is actually prevalent throughout, so this isn’t the book for someone who just wants a how-to guide. That works for me, as I like having an explanation; I want to know why I’m doing something, and equally, why puppy is.

I do have a few criticisms. The Temperament Testing section feels somewhat irrelevant for UK readers. I don’t actually know of any breeders in the UK who run temperament tests in the official exam-situation way outlined in the book (which seems fairly commonplace in the US?). It’s also not something I’m convinced by personally, but it did make for interesting reading. I’m not convinced the authors are fully committed to it either, as the rest of the book does address puppies of all personality types rather than assuming you have chosen the “ideal puppy” they suggest in the Temperament Testing chapter.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not a book which really delves into how to train an agility** dog. It’s about developing a relationship with your pup which will encourage them to be enthusiastic and thoughtful about learning, which will obviously help when it comes to working on agility training in the future.

All in all, a good book and a good read. For people getting their first ever puppy, it’s a very clear, explanatory guidebook. For more experienced owners, it’s going to be a very useful reference guide.

*yes, this seems stretching things to make an acronym to me too!
**I’m saying agility, but it’s equally applicable to any sport. The authors state that this method has been used to raise herding dogs, flyball dogs, obedience dogs, etc etc, and there is very little specific to agility or any of those other sports.