By Joe Garden, Janet Ginsburg, Chris Pauls, Anita Serwacki & Scott Sherman (aka Rex and Sparky)

As you may be able to tell by the authors' names, who are canine scribes, reality must be suspended when you read this completely tongue-in-cheek 'How to' book for dogs.

It is a parody of the hugely successful The Dangerous Book for Boys and offers an apology on its front cover to that effect. So, before you attempt to turn a page of this book be warned that you will probably really only enjoy it if you have four legs, a wagging tail, and a bark - for it really is a shaggy dog story.

It is written as a guidebook for dogs and focuses much of its advice on how they can 'get one over' on their idiot owners.  Yet, it does list useful information for hounds such as the rules to be followed and skills needed to chase Frisbees,  balls, your tail and cars (although it is noted that car chasing is for advanced chasers only!). It also offers guidance on how to beg successfully, escape humiliating costumes, and ruin the perfect dinner party. A successful dinner party, from a dogs point of view, apparently includes flatulence, rubbing against women wearing velvet so they get full of fur, and making off with the main course and eating it on top of the guests' coats that were placed on the bed for safe-keeping. 

A number of chapters are dedicated to topics such as Great Dog Battles, Landmark Canine Performances in Cinema and  Courageous Dogs in History.  In one such story Lou, a four-year-old Border Collie, saved the day when he stopped a school bus that was about to crash as the driver had had a heart-attack.  Lou managed to steer the careering bus to safety, bring the bus driver to hospital, and buy pizza and margaritas for all the kids on board! Clearly these chapters have a sense of 'Forrest Gump' about them with dogs playing an exaggerated, pivotal role in events.  But they just don't quite hit the mark in the humour stakes.

Of course, if you own a dog you will find some amusement in the descriptions because they do accurately paint a picture of how dogs act at times. Particularly vivid for me is the description of how a dog can get what they want, usually food, by feigning an injury or illness. It reminded me of when I substituted one of my dog's foods with a low-fat variety. He was not pleased.  He spit out the food, refused to eat it, and retired to his bed for the day, and moped.  His behaviour was so concerning that I gave in and replaced his diet-doggy food with the regular stuff. He hopped out of his bed and happily wolfed it down. I could almost see him smile as he licked his lips when he had had his fill. Or maybe I'm just barking mad! 

But generally this spoof just doesn't entertain beyond a very limited level.  It will not be dog-eared by me as it will stay firmly on the book shelf unlikely to ever be opened again.  Unfortunately for Rex and Sparky, in the dog-eat-dog world of literature, I think they are destined to remain true underdogs.

Fiona Hearst