Book Review: Life on the Leash

By By Victoria Schade
Reviewed by Pat Miller, May 2019, Updated June 2021

You might think that the life of a dog trainer is all fun and games and puppy kisses. Not so. Every dog-training and behavior professional knows that the biggest challenges often come from the human clients, not the canines. This lighthearted, engaging first novel from dog trainer/ author Victoria Schade invites you into the world of Cora Bellamy, owner of a successful force-free dog training business in our nation’s busy capital.

Bellamy navigates the streets of Washington, D.C., far more easily than she juggles the ethical dilemmas she encounters while striving to educate her upscale clients on the benefits of science-based positive-reinforcement training. Her mission is complicated by the popularity of television personality Boris Ershovich, the “Doggie Dictator,” whose heavy-handed techniques encourage dog owners to coerce and punish their dogs into submission.

Then a client emails her about auditions for a new dog-training show that promises to showcase dog-friendly training methods. As confident as Cora is in her professional skills, she is filled with self-doubt about her potential as a television star. Should she even attempt to audition?

Meanwhile, she struggles with other challenges in her professional and personal life: What do you do when you realize a client dislikes her boyfriend’s new Boxer puppy? How do you handle your feelings when you find yourself attracted to a client who is already in a relationship—and who clearly reciprocates your interest? What action do you take when you realize that a client’s two German Shorthaired Pointers are being mistreated? As Cora seeks to resolve these issues (and more), Fritz, her faithful rescued Pit Bull, is always by her side for support. As a bonus, tidbits of solid positive-dog-training and behavior information are sprinkled throughout the story.

You may not always agree with Cora’s choices, but she’ll keep you turning pages to the very end of the book, and leave you hoping for a sequel.

Image courtesy of the publisher

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 97: Spring 2019

Pat Miller is a certified dog behavior consultant, dog trainer and author of six books on dog training and behavior, and presents seminars worldwide.