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Pet books teach owners new tricks

April 23, 2008

5 Min Read
Pet books teach owners new tricks

You want to be a one-stop-shopping place for your regular customers? Then you already know you have to sell pet food and pet treats, because if you don't, you're going to send your customers running to the conventional store with the big pet aisle, where they might end up buying some of their people groceries, too. But you don't have acres of space to devote to family pets, and those hefty pet food bags take up most of the limited space you can spare. Once you add a few collars, maybe a pet toy, you've got, what? All of 10 inches left for pet care books?

But it's smart to carry them, too. And with limited space, your customers will appreciate it if you do the research and stock the best holistic pet-care books in print.

Which few pet-care books should naturals retailers carry? Two holistic veterinarians and one owner of a thriving pet store agree: Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn (Rodale Books, 1995) should be on everyone's shelves.

"Dr. Pitcairn is the father of natural medicine for dogs and cats in the [United States]," says Diane Dietrich, owner of Blue Hills Dog and Cat Shoppe in Longmont, Colo. The book is a great general health care and nutrition book for your pet, she says.

Linda Faris of Acupuncture and Herbs for Pets veterinary clinic in Overland Park, Kan., and Nancy Scanlan of Sherman Oaks Veterinary Group in Sherman Oaks, Calif., also tout the book as the most helpful holistic guide for pet owners. Both women are holistic veterinarians and members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

"This classic, natural pet-care book … offers valuable natural and holistic advice on a host of pet topics, including diet, exercise, environment, coping with a pet's death and how to care for a sick animal," reports With an emphasis on homeopathic, herbal and nutritional remedies, the book also contains a helpful quick-reference section on illnesses, and a section on handling medical emergencies. Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (Rodale Books, 2005) is also available, an update of the original guide with more recipes for pet food and treats, and information about pollutants, mad cow disease, Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Both are available in paperback.

Another general health book that appeared on both veterinarians' list of recommendations: Four Paws Five Directions by veterinarian Cheryl Schwartz (Celestial Arts, 1996). This guide to Chinese medicine for pets teaches owners how to apply acupressure and use herbs for their pets' health issues and overall well-being. Both Scanlan and Faris say the book is a practical guide for the pet owner who has zero training in Chinese medical techniques.

In addition to the general-care books, Dietrich also recommends How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With by Clarice Rutherford and David Neil (Alpine Publications, 1999) for an easy-to-use training method that people of all ages can effectively use for puppies and older dogs. The book explains the clicker method of training, and covers all topics from discipline and barking problems to housebreaking.

Scanlan recommends The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training by Paul Owens and Norma Eckroate (Adams Media Corp., 1999). The Library Journal reports that the book teaches owners how to reward "successive approximations of correction behavior." Dogs are rewarded with food and games, and incorrect behavior is met with "oh, ohs," rather than anything harsh. The book includes chapters on clicker training, training gear and the nine ingredients of canine optimum health: high-quality diet, play, socialization, quiet time, exercise, employment, rest, training and health care.

Scanlan issues one warning to naturals retailers who are considering stocking a dog-training book: Stay away from anything that mentions the "alpha roll," which is not to be confused with the "alpha role." "The alpha role is fine," Scanlan says. "This is the role you should play, as alpha, or mostly alpha, to your dog. The ?alpha roll' is where you forcibly roll your dog on its back as a dominance gesture. … It's a good way to further frighten dogs that are already extremely timid. It's a good way to get bitten by dogs that are extremely aggressive."

If you have a little more room on that pet care shelf, other books that received recommendations are:

  • Martin Goldstein's The Nature of Animal Healing: The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for Your Dog and Cat (Ballantine Books, 2000). This guide uses several healing modalities, including conventional, homeopathic, chiropractic and herbal treatments, to deal with problems as mundane as fleas and worms and as complex as diabetes and cancer.

  • Anitra Frazier and Norma Eckroate's The New Natural Cat (Dutton Adult, 1990). The book covers all aspects of caring for a cat, advocating natural foods, deploring declawing and advising on simple matters such as litter-box cleaning and grooming.

  • Donald Strombeck's Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets (Iowa State Press, 1999). For pet owners wary of commercial pet food, Strombeck offers more than 200 recipes, and gives nutritional advice about pets' special needs.

  • Kate Solisti-Mattelon and Patrice Mattelon's The Holistic Animal Handbook (Beyond Words Publishing, 2000). Solisti-Mattelon, a renowned professional animal communicator, helps solve pets' behavioral problems and health issues, addressing the healing of past traumas and fostering greater interspecies understanding.

Incidentally, if you're wondering what customers—rather than experts—think of these books, they all received high customer ratings on

Amy Bernard Satterfield is a Fort Collins, Colo.-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 84, 88

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