What with jobs, family, housework, hobbies and a million and four other demands, who has time to train a dog?
That's what Carol Lea Benjamin says, anyway, and she has both the background and the book to help you. "Dog Training in 10 Minutes" ($14.95; Howell Book House/Macmillan General Reference) is the eighth entry in her top-selling series of dog-training books, which she not only writes but also illustrates.
"You can't give a dog just 10 minutes of attention a day," she said, "but you certainly can train him in 10-minute chunks."
These days, said Benjamin, that's all many people can manage at any given time.
"Lives have gotten more stressful," she said. "People are working with their dogs in ways that add stress, and a pet should never add to your stress."
Benjamin's solution is to skip the old idea of stopping everything in your life to train your dog a half-hour a day. Instead, she suggests integrating dog training into your everyday routine -- a few minutes here, a few minutes there -- as a way to build the relationship you want with your dog.
"It's about setting an accessible goal," she said. "Everyone has a minute or two. While you're waiting for the coffee to brew, for example, you work on 'sits.'
"When you set an accessible goal and meet that goal you feel terrific. And so does your dog."
The first goal to set would have to be reading the book, but Benjamin makes that easy. The trade paperback crams the author's 25 years of dog-training experience into a highly readable format, with Benjamin's bright writing and highly original color artwork helping readers pick up the important points quickly.
Her chapters on understanding a dog's body language and solving problem behaviors are lively and succinct. Her theory of dog-training, based on respect and praise, sets the tone for the book.
"There are people who think it takes something away when you train a dog, but you're really sharpening what's there," she said. "The only things you take away are bad behaviors. It's cruel NOT to address a dog's mind."
Or a dog's body, because Benjamin adds that while you can train a dog in 10 minutes, you certainly can't exercise him that way. Bored dogs with energy to burn have more than their share of behavior problems, she says. Still, for those occasional days when you simply can't manage a longer, more intense outing, the trainer offers 10-minute workouts that will help you and your dog cope.
That Carol Lea Benjamin manages to cope herself is testament to her skills as a trainer and her love for dogs. She and her husband live in New York City with two dogs, Dexter, a playful 6-year-old pit-bull mix, and Flash, a year-old border collie with the energy of three dogs. The pair would be a challenge in any environment, but to train and exercise them in Manhattan is even harder. Yet the two dogs glow with good health, good humor and good manners.
"Dog Training in 10 Minutes" was one of two books by Benjamin that came out in the early part of the year. She also made her mystery debut, with "This Dog for Hire" (Walker and Company). The second mystery, "The Dog Who Knew Too Much," is coming out in the fall, and she's writing the third in the series now. After that, she won't say whether she'll be writing a mystery or a training book next.
"I don't do anything without dogs," she said. "Fiction or nonfiction, the only thing I'm sure of is I'm not going to write a book without dogs in it."
CYBERLINKS: Cindy Tittle Moore's rec.pet.dogs home page (http://www.zmall.com/pet/dog-faqs/) is the best place to start searching the Web for information about dog training and behavior. The rec.pet.dogs.behavior newsgroup offers a place to discuss training and behavior problems, although because it's unmoderated, the quality of advice varies. For information on e-mail lists for trainers, check out "The Complete List of Dog-Related E-mail Lists" (www.zmall.com/pet/dog-faqs/lists/email-list.html). If you'd like to watch the best-trained dogs in action, the American Kennel Club's Web site (www.akc.org) offers a calendar of upcoming AKC-sanctioned obedience trials.
Gina Spadafori, the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," is affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international on-line service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Giori(at)aol.com.
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600