I have been following Kari Neumeyer's blog since starting my own almost a year ago, and was honored to receive a copy of her new reactive dog memoir, Bark and Lunge, for review. The memoir's subtitle is 'Saving My Dog From Training Mistakes' and chronicles Kari's experience with her dog Isis, a German shepherd from protection/security dog lines.
As the guardian of a reactive dog, I could relate to Kari's struggles with Isis, and I appreciated the honesty with which she describes her journey through several different trainers and methods. Isis was an especially challenging case, exhibiting leash aggression toward dogs and a dangerously unpredictable reactivity toward people, resulting in several instances of biting. (I'm not giving anything away since the back cover asks "How do make sure the dog you love never bites anyone (again)?.") This is one of a dog owner's worse fears, one that often results in a dog being given up, and one that requires immediate attention
I applaud Kari for the lengths she went to in finding a training solution for Isis that did not exacerbate her stress and anxiety, evolving from an early start with an old-school trainer who pushed prong collars, to a positive reinforcement trainer who helped to rehabilitate her. I also appreciate the variety of training methods described, the assertion that force-free trainers make mistakes too, and that not only do you need to seek out the training method that works best for your dog, but the individual trainer.
There were a few parts of the book that didn't hold my interest as much, such as the lengthy description of Isis's favorite toy, but as a pet blogger who photographs and documents every move the ginger sisters make I can understand the desire to remember every last detail in tribute to a beloved dog. The introduction of her second dog, Leo, was when the story became most riveting, as Kari makes admirable and creative accommodations to maintain their multi-dog household.
Kari's love for and dedication to Isis are apparent on every page, and although she fully admits her early mistakes I think many of us stumbled through training and relationship with our first dog(s). I read this book in a weekend, cheering on Isis's progress and holding my breath in those tense moments of reactive outburst that I know all too well. The most affecting lesson of this book is one that Kari quotes from Maya Angelou:
You did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.
I recommend this book to anyone who has loved a difficult dog, wants to read a heartfelt dog story, or is interested in the benefits of force-free training. Enter below to win a copy of your own!
(Open to U.S. residents only, winner must respond to notification by email within 72 hours)
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Bark and Lunge in exchange for my honest review.