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Weiner & Davilman – How to Raise a Jewish Dog review

A light-hearted comic look at ensuring your canine develops a Jewish psyche.

How to Raise a Jewish Dog

The Rabbis of the Boca Raton Theological Seminary use their many years of dog training to bring you this essential guide: How to Raise a Jewish Dog. You only have to read a few pages of this training manual to realise the manifold extra considerations that go in to owning a Jewish dog as compared to an ordinary mutt.

The tome is, of course, a spoof, written tongue-in-cheek; and the authors are Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman. The Boca Raton Theological Seminary is a product of their wicked sense of humour. If Jewish humour tickles you (and with their extensive and thorough use of irony – it ought to where most UK-based readers are concerned) then you’re likely to laugh out loud many times as you read through.

How to Raise a Jewish Dog is essentially an ironic look at typical Jewish parenting, extended to dog ownership, as well as being a gentle mockery of the Jewish psyche. “When it comes to raising a Jewish dog,” the authors advise, “remember that it is always better to imagine the worst, and then panic, and then realize you’re being silly, and then plan for the worst, than to do nothing or, indeed, anything else.”

That gives you a flavour of the book’s advice. We especially enjoyed the self-contradictory ‘four essential messages’ and the ‘ten-point cycle of incipient hysteria’. Dog owners will likely recognise themselves throughout the book. There’s a glorious absurdity to talking to your dog with subtext – but we all do it! Just was we all use situational martyrdom in an effort to guilt-trip our dogs into behaving (how to achieve this and its desired results is discussed in some detail). You’ll learn the necessity of placing “so” at the start of every sentence you say to your dog. Some glorious puns (you know you love them!) in ‘designer dog’ crossbreeds also gave us hearty belly-laughs. What do you get if you cross a Standard Schnauzer, a Chart Polski, French Bulldog and a Shih Tzu? Why a Standard Polski bullshih’t, of course…

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This reviewer may not be Jewish (you don’t have to be to get the most out of this book) but he recognises the over-anxiety  he suffers around journeys – leaving extra time for everything to go wrong and arriving four hours early – plenty of time for added worrying: thus the section on travelling with your dog rang hysterically and painfully true.

The book is illustrated throughout with black and white photographs of dogs and their ‘Rabbis’ in various situations alluded to in the text, often with witty captions that underpin the humour. It’s split into easy-to-digest sections including training and obedience, socialising your dog (teaching them that you judge other people so that they will learn to be neurotic and presume they are constantly judged), diet and exercise and what to do when your dog gets older.

A section on choosing the right vet is a hoot. After assuring your vet you’re not the type of person to rush the dog in every time there’s the slightest problem (you are), you learn to look for similar owners bringing up Jewish dogs as you’ll have a lot to talk about. “Neither of you will listen to the other, but it will pass the time until the vet is ready to see you. And, if necessary, your dog.”

How to Raise a Jewish Dog is essentially one long joke: but it’s a very funny one! At only 162 pages it doesn’t outstay its welcome. The prose is well-written with a great sense of comic timing, which is why it comes recommended. Just remember: if you read it on public transport you’re likely to attract attention with your chuckling.

The book will appeal to anyone who owns and loves a dog and often worries excessively about their beloved pet, especially the concern that they (the owners, that is) aren’t good enough for their animal. Neurotic types will find themselves charmingly parodied throughout. It’s also a joyous celebration of dog ownership and our relationship with man’s best friend. Brash, self-assured cat owners may not spot the humour and accidentally mistake How to Raise a Jewish Dog for a serious tome about canine behaviourism.

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