Pukka’s Promise Book Review

When people have kids they generally read book after book.  There are books broken down by age, books about vaccines, books about nutrition, books about socialization, etc.  But when people get a dog many people do not read any books about their new family member.  Maybe it is because they have had dogs before, found the dog on the road, think how hard could this be or they have friends and family who have dogs and make it look easy.  After a few weeks they generally consult with a veterinarian and/or trainer and this is the best case scenario.  Some do neither and some of those do okay and others end up as shelter pups becoming an ever increasing statistic.

My background includes showing German Shepherds, helping my Grandpa with dogs at his veterinary practice and working as a veterinary assistant for a traditional and holistic vet for 6 years.  I have mentored with brilliant dog trainers, attended many seminars and conferences in all things dog and worked with behavioral issues ranging from the basics to dog to dog aggression.  I have watched dogs fight Cancer, some losing and some winning.  Some my own and some those of my friends, clients, etc.  I have owned a dog with an autoimmune issue (Lupus) caused by exposure to Ivermectin at a very young age.  This dog later died from immune mediated hemolytic immunity.  I have owned a dog with Cushings Disease and when traditional medicine almost took her life I turned to Holistic and was lucky enough to have 2 more good years with her.  We have cooked for our allergy dogs.  We feed everyone else grain free diets and treats.  My pets have received laser therapy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and homeopathic remedies to treat their ailments. I follow a minimum vaccine protocol with my dogs and cats and follow Jean Dodd’s research very closely.  I use flea and heartworm preventative on an as needed basis.   Heartworm medication for example clears out anything your dog was exposed to within the last 30 days so since we do not live in a high risk area I only give it to my dogs immediately after entering a high risk area. In Ted’s book on page 90 he discusses a modified protocol for those living in high risk areas.  I socialize my dogs on a routine basis.  I hike with them, run with them and utilize the Nothing for free training method each and every day.

I have evolved from the use of choke and pinch collars to more humane and positive training methods, because they work.  I have experienced dog agility, dock diving, freestyle dance and trick classes.  I have worked with show dogs.  I continually read everything that I can get my hands on related to dogs.  I read books written from every angle of training to broaden my perspective.  I subscribe to the Whole Dog Journal.  You are probably thinking well of course you do that you are a dog trainer.  Yes, you are correct but I also do it because I want to know how I can make my dogs lives on this earth amazing and how I can make them live longer.  Dogs give us so much but ask for nothing in return.  The least I can do is soak in everything dog like a sponge, evaluate it and share it with my clients to increase longevity and special times for each and every dog that is loved by a human.  That is why I started reading “Pukka’s Promise” by Ted Kerasote.

I’ll be honest the first few chapters I had a really hard time with and almost put the book into my discard pile several times and then it got interesting.  In Chapter 5 Ted discusses breed changes complete with pictures of what certain breeds of dogs used to look like and what they look like now.  I have always grown up with Shepherds and overtime our Shepherds went from the level spine to the sloping rear ends causing  hip dysplasia in an already compromised dog.  Now we have pugs who can’t breathe and our prone to heat stroke.  Many breeds have been affected by these changes and none of them for the good.  I was glad to read about a local Chow breeder Kathy Beliew of Imagine Kennels in San Bernardino, California who has rebelled against this trend and instead has tried to restore the health of her dogs through selective breeding.  Along with the skeletal changes came disease.  In the United States 61.4 percent of Golden Retrievers die of Cancer (Pukka’s Promise pg 56).  We lost every one of our Shepherds and Goldens to Cancer. Yet the AKC refuses to revise such dysfunctional breed standards, even though they are literally killing our dogs.  In 2012 the British Kennel Club took a historic step by requiring veterinary checks for all “Best of Breed” dogs, many dogs failed and were stripped of their wins.  This hopefully means that these dogs were not massively bred since they no longer had a title.  Also, in 2012 the United Kennel Club revised all breed standards and called the endeavor “our moral duty to the canine world”.  German Shepherds with low slung backs would no longer be permitted.  Kudos to them for stepping up.

In Chapter 6 Ted discusses some very good points on getting your dog.  I hear from clients many times that they never saw the mom or dad on the property.  I’ve heard “well they had lots of land” and then the dog pees and poops in the crate and in the house indicating that the dog was kept in a confined area that was most likely not maintained on a regular basis.  Every potential puppy buyer MUST visit the place where the dog was bred, and ideally you will be shown around and see both parents.  The puppies should be handled every day, meet dozens of people and children, hear all sorts of noises, meet other dogs and all by 7 weeks of age.  If you are going through a breeder do your research do not impulse buy.  Also, never buy from a pet store, pet store dogs are puppy mill dogs.  If you buy that dog you are allowing the cycle to continue for that puppy mill by funding them.  Do not do it.

In Chapter 7 Ted discusses vaccinations.  This is a must read.  Our dogs are on a minimal vaccine schedule because annual vaccines are not only unnecessary for your dogs they are dangerous to their health and well being. For example when Pennsylvania required that all cats be vaccinated for rabies vets begin noticing sarcomas growing at the injection sites.  As a vet assistant I saw many of these vaccine induced sarcomas.  Something that was meant to save your pet was now killing them through Cancers and autoimmune diseases just to name a few.  On page 82 Ted discusses the findings of Dr. Ronald Schultz immunologist.   The immunity for the following vaccines was found to be as follows: Distemper 9-15 years; Parvovirus 7 years; adenovirus 7-9 years; Rabies 7 years.  Dr. Dodds is working on the Rabies challenge and if successful in 2014 we should be changing to a 7 year protocol for Rabies vaccinations.

Then Ted finally finds his dog after searching for several years.  His tales of bringing the pup home is heartwarming. Ted talks to his dog, he socializes his dog and he lets his new pup figure out the world this is what dog ownership should be all about.

In Chapter 10 Ted discusses chemicals and it is definitely a chapter worth reading.  Remember our dogs have their noses to the grounds we want to be very careful what we expose them too.  Ted also offers some great advice on things you can do to minimize exposure to your own dogs.  For example he mentions Planet Dog Toys as having no chemical in their dog toys when tested.   We do not allow our gardener to put anything down in our backyard where our dogs reside.  I had a dog who developed an autoimmune issue from exposure to weed killer now I take every precaution necessary to ensure that does not happen again.

Does your dog bark and bark and bark?  Then Chapter 11 is for you. Ted utilized a remedy that never would have occurred to me as a trainer and it worked.  I think I have another tool in my toolbox.

Chapter 12-15 delves into nutrition.  Did you know that dog food companies provide scholarships, free dog food, back packs, lab coats and other goodies to students at veterinary training colleges?  Did you know pet nutrition courses offered at veterinary schools are often taught by veterinarians that are often employed by major dog food companies?  Ted states “The lack of separation between the veterinary profession and the pet food industry has now influenced how tens of millions of dogs have been fed including shelter dogs” (184).  These Chapters are very fascinating, Ted did his research.  While doing his research he was denied access to the Purina and Hills dog food plants. Purina also failed to respond to emails regarding the content and quality of their food.  For me personally that raises a red flag.  The pet food industry has not run any studies proving that kibble with grain is ideal for our dogs and they have zero incentive to run a study that might show that these foods are not in fact ideal for our dogs.  But where does that leave us?  We have a Coonhound that suffers from severe allergies and I priced Prepared Raw Diets for him and the cost ranged from about $200 – $275 per month for a 55lb dog. We cannot afford that nor can the average person.  Grain free diets range in price from $45 – $120 a month for a 30lb bag which is much more reasonable.  Also there is an accumulation of scientific evidence according to Ted that a low carbohydrate diet reduces insulin spikes, protein improves performance, and vegetable are cancer-protective (209). One plant that produces grain free diets allowed Ted to see the day to day operation of the plant and Ted was impressed.  This company was Natura Pet Products who produce EVO grain free food.  All of the ingredients are human grade and of US origins.  EVO ranges in price from $65- $120 for a 30lbs bag.  We currently feed Taste of the Wild and our hound gets California Naturals to help with his allergy issues which are probably not related to food at all since food related allergies in dogs are rare according to Jean Dodds (222).

The public has the influence.  If we demand higher qualities in our pet food we will get it.  If we settle and don’t question what we are feeding our dogs and how it is affecting their longevity we will continue to get food that is subpar and foods that gets recalled because of ingredients that do not come from the US.

Chapter 16 delves into the word we all dread “Cancer”.  Many veterinarians claim that Cancer is increasing in dogs and it is affecting many dogs at much younger ages just as the incidence of cancer in children has been increasing in the last few decades.  The suspected culprit: environmental exposures.  This is a heart breaking chapter which explores several specific cases and information on different treatment options.  Since the Morris Animal Foundation survey in 1998 reported that 47% of people stated that their dog died of Cancer this is a very important chapter of this book to read.  The sad news is that even with treatment survival time still remained at about 1 year in most cases.  30% of those with bone marrow transplants can survive more than two years, this procedure costs about $15,500 combined with radiation and chemotherapy which costs around $10,000.  There is a website called Vet Cancer Trials which has a search engine so that the public can look for clinical trials in their area to help offset some of these costs.  The key to this chapter is know your dog, feel your dog and respond immediately if you feel anything out of the ordinary.  Survival rates increase dramatically when Cancer is caught early before it has a chance to spread to vital organs.

Chapter 17 delves into training philosophy.  My opinion of this chapter is that it should not have been written by the author.  He seems to be lacking education in dog training theories.  This chapter is filled with contradictions including the quote “No scientist has yet done a controlled study showing that dogs who have jobs – herding, hunting, guiding, therapy, search and rescue – or who get to play, explore, and make decisions on their own while off- leash live longer lives than those who don’t.”  Yet he spent page after page trying to convince dog owners that keeping your dog in a yard or using a leash was a prison sentence for your dog and that they would never be happy.  I strongly disagree as I work on a daily basis with many very happy dogs who go on walk while on leash and enjoy large fenced in areas to play, frolic and explore.  Since I am a positive trainer I also disagreed with his reasoning for the use of force with dogs.  Recently Psychology Today published an article on this topic and I think they can explain it better than I.  To check out the article click here.  I came very close to putting this book down after this chapter.  However, I came to the conclusion that although Ted and I would never be able to sit down without having many heated discussions he overall has written an excellent book and since it is his book he is entitled to his opinion just as I am entitled to mine so I continued reading.

Chapter 18 – Chapter 20 discusses shelters the good, bad and the ugly.  Statistics from the Humane Society of the United States show that the number of dogs and cats killed in North American shelters has fallen from about 23 million in 1970 to between 3 million and 4 million today (302).  The key to getting more animals adopted according to people that Ted spoke to is a good marketing plan and a compassionate director.  We see that every day the shelters who can afford to have clean areas, meet and greet sites away from all the barking and compassionate dedicated volunteers are the ones with the highest adoption rates.  A trend that I see that breaks my heart is volunteers being attacked for their good deeds.  Often a misunderstanding occurs and the hard working volunteer is wrongfully accused of harming the animals that they are helping.  These attacks need to stop if more animals are to be saved.

Chapter 21 addresses the flip side of Spay/Neuter.  This is a very interesting chapter and a must read.  Are some of the major health problems our dogs are faced with today a result of spaying and neutering vs less invasive methods of sterilization?  Why aren’t less invasive methods which generally cost less being offered?  Check out this chapter with an open mind, I promise you will not regret it.

The last two chapters meander into longevity and enjoying every moment with your canine companion.

Overall I find that “Pukka’s Promise” was a very eye opening book.  There are parts that will make you laugh, parts that will make you cry and parts that will make you want to do further research.  I did notice a lot of contradictions throughout the book so read this book and then do your own research into the areas that interest you.


Runaway Husky


Siberian Huskies are a challenging breed when it comes to developing a reliable recall.  I remember as a young child chasing our Siberian every time she got loose not realizing that I was making the problem worse by chasing her and turning the whole scenario into a fun game.  Years later I’ve learned a thing or two about my favorite breed.  Yes, I can teach a recall to a husky however I can NEVER become too confident with my dogs, any of them no matter what the breed.  There is a very fine line between relaxing and becoming dangerously confident.  I have watched dogs with amazing recalls fail in certain situations.  Would you come if someone was tempting you with a red velvet cake across the field?  Well then you can’t expect your dog to always be reliable.  I always tell my clients to consider the unexpected and be prepared for it.

I bring this topic up because I’ve had Alusia our current husky for 3 ½ years now.  We got her from a rescue when she was 2 years old.  We brought her home with our other two dogs and put her out in our escape proof backyard and she disappeared.  We looked out front and found one of our neighbors walking her back up the street.  So we put her back into the yard and watched her as she balanced on the retaining wall and made an amazing leap over our fence with a quite a drop on the opposite side.  Of course this time we knew she was out and she played a fun game of chase with us.  So we fixed the husky escape route and I began working with her on basic commands including building a reliable recall good enough for a husky.  Last night I came home from teaching Basic Obedience Class and my daughter had left the door open in our garage so I was met by a Husky and a Coonhound when I opened the garage.  The Coonhound has a great recall and came right to me, Alusia looked at me and said see ya later Mom.  So I calmly got back in my car and drove up the street where she was checking out the local sites.  I got out of the car and squatted down and in my happiest tone, with a car coming our way called to Alusia.  She came running and jumped into my arms.  I was thrilled but yet still cautious.  Alusia knows her recall but whether it will always be reliable depends on the scenario and that is something that every dog owner should always keep in mind.