Dog Training-Brian Kilcommons’ Good Owners, Great Dogs


The subtitle of this classic book is “A Training Manual for Humans and Their Canine Counterparts”. Any instructional text in dog training must train the owner first. It is up to us to learn how a dog’s mind works, and up to the dog to learn what we expect from them. Dogs can learn based on their instincts. Good Owners, Great Dogs teaches us how to use the right techniques based on the book’s teachings of a dog’s thought processes.

The author, Brian Kilcommons, trained under the late legend Barbara Woodhouse. She had a reputation for her proven techniques.

Good Owners, Great Dogs offers excellent advice on choosing the right dog for you and your family, and choosing the right place to obtain a new dog. Just as importantly, it is a reference text you will want for training now and for solving problems later.

My original hardback copy of this informative book is still in use after ten years. I’ve read it six times, and every time I read it I pick up another tip I missed the first time.

In Part 1, he lays the groundwork, and explains the reasoning behind the training methods he employs. It is important to read these 26 pages first, before trying to start training methods. I know you’re eager, but understanding the “system” is crucial.

Part 2 describes training in puppyhood, and these next fifty pages are intense. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself needing to read it several times.

Part 3 describes care of the adult dog and Part 4 gives 84 pages of simple but effective methods of solving problems.

His methods are as simple as the smiley face and you find yourself saying repeatedly, “Why didn’t I think of that?” For example, Kilcommons points out that dogs respond to three tones of voice:

  1. their whine corresponds to our “praise” tone of voice;
  2. their bark corresponds to our “command” tone of voice
  3. and their growl corresponds to a “correction” tone of voice from humans.

In explaining the pack mentality of dogs, Kilcommons describes how to use “Structure and Direction” to show your dog who is in charge using gentle but firm techniques. Found on page 116, this may be the most important page in the entire book. He writes, “Dogs adore and respect a leader who is decisive and fair.”

While he shows you the basics of training at home, the author encourages obedience classes for their additional guidance and socialization with other people and animals.

An important part of his methodology involves “Action vs. Reaction”. Instead of correcting a dog after he has done a bad thing, anticipate it, or even set up a “sting” operation. Then you can correct the bad behavior between the thinking stage and the acting stage. That way the correction is connected to the very concept of thinking of improper behavior.

Kilcommons may sometimes shock you with his frankness, but many dog owners need that shock to understand the fallout of living with an unruly dog.

Thus the importance of this book for parents, especially parents of very young children. Not only will you enjoy your pet more if he’s under voice control, a pet that’s been trained in the basics of obedience knows his place in the family, is more likely to want to be a member of the dog lover’s team, and less likely to try to establish himself as the leader, or use aggression to get his way.

Originally priced at $21.95 Good Owners, Great Dogs is now $14.17 through Amazon. Brian Kilcommons has produced a reference text that every dog owner must have.

Considering how much more you will enjoy your dog if he is trained than if he is out of control, these 300 pages would be a bargain for pet lovers at twice the price.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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