Stilwell, Victoria: It’s Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet

A little more than five years ago we bought a Bichon Havanais, who has ended up being called Angie. She is a lovely little creature: shy, playful, cuddly, and very aware of her size.

Out choosing our new puppy Angie


I readily admit it. I am caught in the web of their loveable natures. It happened when we went to the breeder and the whole gang of Havanaises came running towards us begging to be petted.Anyways. Before we got our Angie, we read up on what it took to be a dog-owner. At the time we had six guinea pigs and adored them, but we were not satisfied with that. But we figured it would take a whole lot more to have a dog – as anyone would guess. We had watched TV-series on the subject and my favorite one ended up being Victoria Stilwell’s It’s Me Or The Dog.

I think the reason I preferred Victoria’s television series is because of the respect she showed the dogs while all the time being the one in charge. This is pretty much how I have raised my children and raising dogs has turned out to be pretty similar to that.


I bought her book on the subject – with the same title as the show – It’s Me Or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet.

The trick for me with both children and pets has been learning patience. I’m terrible at it. But with the tips from Victoria, it becomes a whole lot easier. One of the reasons for that is that she explains why the dog does what it does. And I have also come to understand that most dogs tend to see me as a leader simply because of the way I carry myself. Fool the world, fool the dog.


I disagree on one of her points in the book, although it probably is good advice for some breeds. The Havanais knows very well which rule it can get away with breaking with whom. Our Angie knows very well that she cannot bark when I walk through our entrance, but she certainly barks when my oldest does. In fact, he encourages her to be like that. She knows the same thing when it comes to begging and doing tricks. But if you want an obedient-every-time dog, you are out of luck with the Havanais.


My parents had a Weimaraner. Before that they had a mixed breed dog. Both were the kind of dogs that would have benefitted from us learning the tricks in Stilwell’s book. They were super-gentle and loving dogs, but not very obedient and we were not very patient with them. Silly us. But we did train them to accept anything from us and they were serious cuddle-dogs. And you know, I think that is the most important message Victoria Stilwell shares with the world. Happy dogs are cuddly dogs. Give them exercise, lots of patience and a firm attitude and your dog will be happy. And there is nothing quite as wonderful as a happy dog – there really isn’t.

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